Book Review: The Namibian War of Independence, 1966-1989: Diplomatic, Economic and Military Campaigns


by Richard Dale

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Pp. xiv, 202. Maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $45.00 paper. ISBN: 0786496592

Fighting the Apartheid Regime

Southern Africa specialist Dale, the author of The United Nations and the Independence of Namibia, Botswana's Search for Autonomy in Southern Africa, and several other similar works, takes a look at the long Namibian war for independence.

In a short introduction Dale sketches the early, often brutal, history of what was once German Southwest Africa and how it came to be given as a “Mandate” to South Africa following the Great War, which was subsequently revoked by the United Nations.  He then addresses the three principal facets or “fronts” in the conflict against what was an illegal South African regime, with sections on the diplomatic, economic, and military aspects of the struggle, each of two chapters, and concludes with a section on how these shaped the final peacemaking process and the new nation that emerged from the war. 

While this approach may not satisfy those who prefer “drums and trumpets” history, Dale’s technique does give the reader some unique insights into the Namibian war. In the process, he also reminds us that while Africa’s many wars of liberation are still largely viewed in the U.S. through a Cold War lens, so that many Americans still believe that the insurgents were all Soviet-inspired, each struggle grew out of local political and social problems, and they were not all fought in the same way, again as a result of local concerns and conditions. 

Although not primarily a military history, Dale’s two chapters devoted to the military side of the struggle will prove valuable reading for anyone interested in insurgency, special operations, and the improvisation of armies, and the work as a whole offers some insights into the origins of what is one of the few successful democratic states in Africa. 

Note: The Namibian War of Independence is also available as an e-pub.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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