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African Wars

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African Wars: A Defense Intelligence Perspective

“I have never read anything quite like it: It is original in providing historical accounts from the perspective of the military and what an American analyst would consider important events in African wars. Comparable books would not have access to the kind of data or information [Thom] provided, hence it is a unique advancement of the literature on African wars generally.”

ERIN BAINES, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia

AFRICAN WARS: A DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE PERSPECTIVE by William G. Thom, former senior Africa specialist in the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, provides a concise summary of four decades of warfare in sub-Saharan Africa. An experienced, highly respected senior U.S. intelligence officer, Thom also offers a primer on how the intelligence business works. As a defense analyst and Africa specialist, he acquired unique and in-depth knowledge of conflict in the vast and troubled sub-Saharan region. The book is the 42nd volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series.

Ranging from the postcolonial insurgency in Rhodesia to ongoing strife in the Horn of Africa, from the horrors of Rwanda and the Congo to devastating civil wars in Angola, Mozambique, and Liberia, the book tracks seventeen different conflicts, many of which have a continuing influence on the continent’s political-military affairs. Thom complements his often gripping accounts of specific wars with wide ranging impressions, in particular the distorting impact of the Cold War on U.S. relations with Africa, the often surprising adaptability of combatant groups to their material and political environments, and the frustrating marginalization of Africa within security circles during this period.

In spite of Africa’s growing geopolitical importance as a resource base and an emerging factor in the U.S.-led “war on terror,” it remains one of the least understood regions. Thom criticizes the effect, in his view, of the paralyzing fear, bordering on racism, that the ignorance of Africa––even in high places within the government––has had on intelligence analysis and subsequent policymaking. He also brings a wealth of detail and personal insight to the story of his education and intelligence training, the difficulties and oddities of traveling in Africa, and his skirmishes with the intelligence bureaucracy.

WILLIAM G. THOM, an educator, consultant, and speaker on African issues, spent thirty-five years with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); from 1987 to 2002 he was Defense Intelligence Officer.