Very good for comparative opinions purposes on the subject
Lots of well researched and easily readable information.
Excellent book. Fast delivery.
A useful, but cursory analysis of the Cuito Cuanavale war. Scholtz has tried “a tactical and strategic analysis” of the 1987-88 SADF-FAPLA armed clashes, with varying success. He’s drawn much on archival documents and personal interviews, which is always preferred—giving “his context” in pursuit of objectivity, he claims—but also much from his previous publications. His book does lend credibility to a basically sound review of the military component of the Cuito Cuanavale saga, thanks to his sources. But his research and “objective” analysis can’t answer the illusive question: “Did the SADF intend to occupy Cuito Cuanavale (CC)?”
The three-versus-three “battles” (Lomba versus Tumpo) approach to justify a hypothesis about compliance or non-compliance to the principles of war, is a handy way to analyse CC, but I hardly think it would meet the criteria of a detailed operational-tactical scrutiny of each attack. Granted, the author acknowledges the lack of FAPLA source documents, and true, “we don’t know what was in the mind of FAPLA commanders.” So, assigning values to the principles is a bit random (the author agrees that others would make a different assessment), and of little help to the military student. Rather, where a principle is objectively qualified in the text, eg, “the South Africans attacked when the Angolans were on the run,” thus demonstrating the principle of surprise, it needs no arbitrary value—it has been proved! The discussion of other principles vis-á-vis the three Lomba attacks is sometimes scarcely qualified, yet always a high quantitative value is assigned. Scholtz tried a similar exercise of metrics in his “Cuito Cuanavale - Wie het werklik Gewen? 'n Strategiese en Operasionele Ontleding,” in the South African Journal of Military Studies, 1998. South Africa, Cuba and FAPLA were awarded points for their military actions based on Liddell Hart’s nine principles. Sometimes in war, some principles may be sorely neglected by an attacker, yet there is great military success because of the opponent’s greater deficiencies. But I wouldn’t take away anything from the SADF’s successes at the Lomba, which Scholtz correctly highlights.
Rightly, there is sufficient and justifiable criticism of the generals’ role—sadly they fell woefully short of the tactical, operational, and even strategic intelligence that the CC war demanded of them, and which contrariwise, the brigade and combat group commanders consistently manifested. Some very unkind and misplaced criticism was meted out to brig-gen Junior Botha, because he had no “military acumen.” Eina! Was the war drawn out for six months, unnecessary losses sustained and the achievable “taking of Cuito Cuanavale” forfeited because of the micro-management of the generals?
Scholtz purports that the analyses in his book are distinct from that of other authors, in being independent and “giving context to all documents,” whereas others (eg, Heitman, Brigland, Oosthuizen, Botha) had a South African or SADF bent. Really? And rightly so, miserable research-writers like Saney, Campbell, and others, are dismissed. But Scholtz relies heavily on the Deon Ferreira-Roland de Vries narrative in his open admiration for them (no offence to these fine tacticians), and almost sets them as the gold standard (yes, they did draw on Liddell Hart, et al), but this over-emphasis is too stark. Major Michael Morris (USMC) in his analysis of 20 Bde in Angola (in “Flying Columns in Small Wars”) gives a more balanced view in exploring the tactical details of the CC clashes, but does rightly allude to Roland de Vries.
And then, disappointingly, an epic battle (attack) as case for a tactical analysis, was virtually omitted from the book. The SADF's deliberate attack in the closest proximity to CC, and which exerted the greatest influence on FAPLA/Cuban forces (and the town; also in the assessment of Fidel Castro a massive threat), was that of 14 February 1988. With three FAPLA brigades routed, incurring heavy losses, with masses of fleeing troops cramped into Tumpo, and the defence line shifted far back, a more conclusive outcome for the SADF had not arrived, but this is neglected in the book, leaving a gaping hole in the analysis.
Otherwise, it’s a necessary and pretty well-researched contribution to the continual stream of literature on CC, and should be a useful aid for the serious, and discerning military student and researcher.