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Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 Paperback – February 24, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0807854648 ISBN-10: 0807854646 Edition: New edition
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Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 + Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991 (The New Cold War History)
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Gleijeses (Sch. of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins Univ.; Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954) offers a Cold War study not of two superpowers but of Third World policy in Third World countries. This book looks at U.S. and Cuban foreign policies in Africa, a continent generally ignored by American foreign policymakers but highly important to Castro's Cuba. In examining small engagements in Algeria and Guinea-Bissau, as well as larger engagements in Zaire and Angola, Gleijeses argues that, contrary to American belief, Cuba did not merely act as a Soviet pawn in Africa but pursued its own interests. Castro viewed Africa as an important battleground to combat "capitalist imperialism," usually contrary to Soviet policies. Gleijeses conducted extensive research in writing this book, including gaining unprecedented access to Cuban archival material and oral histories. There is little material available on Cuban-African relations, and nothing this comprehensive. Recommended for academic libraries. Mike Miller, Dallas P.L.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Probably the most comprehensive, well researched work on the role of Cubans in the liberation wars in South Africa.--Dissident Voice

Visions of Freedom should stand as a standard reference for any examination of the hot wars in Africa.--Hispanic American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • Series: Envisioning Cuba
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; New edition edition (February 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807854646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807854648
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By on May 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Before going into greater detail about this fascinating history of Cuban-African relations, let's start off by noting the dimensions of Gleijeses' research. His work uses the archives of six pages, including unprecedented access to the Cuban ones, and he studied more than forty sets of papers in the American ones. (This is espeically impressive since many papers from that time have yet to be fully declassified.) He looked at the newspapers from thirty countries and he conducted well over a hundred interviews. The result is an impressive work of research, and while not as thorough or as revelatory as Gleijeses's book on the Guatamelan Revolution, is still the most useful work on the subject and is now the book one will look at to understand the 1975 Angolan crisis.
Gleijeses' thesis is rather simple. Castro's Cuba was sincerely motivated to encourage revolution in Africa, and from the early sixties onward sought to encourage it by sending advisors, soldiers, desparately needed doctors and other assistance. In doing so Cuba acted out of its own concerns and not as a puppet of the Soviet Union. The first major action was when Cuba helped Algeria ward off Moroccan aggression in 1963. A larger intervention was to assist rebels in Congo/Zaire against the corrupt Tshombe and Mobutu governments. Although not very skillful themselves the Simba rebels were able to repel the hopelessly demoralized army. As it happened the United States secretly arranged for white mercenaries to buck up the Congolese. By the time that Che Guevera went over personally to assist the rebels in 1965, the mercenaries' brutal actions had essentially won the war.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Thomas on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
I didn't have the taste to finish this book, but I did read parts and I plan to keep it around as a nice reference. That is because while it is interesting and pretty well researched it is biased to the point of distortion. Facts become selective, motivations imagined, omissions crucial.

On the other hand, the pro-Cuba bias in this book, while often heard on the internet and among certain pseudo-intellectual circles, is rarely presented in such a readable scholarly fashion. Also, the rare access that the author had makes the book valuable for just that point.

In short, the book is very well made, but restrained by its status as a pro-Cuba polemic. Still even those without the pro-Cuba view (such as myself) can find it very interesting and useful, even if not worth reading end to end.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jane Risker on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
CONFLICTING MISSIONS is a brilliant, impressive, and important book. It not only teaches us about the dramatic differences between US and Cuban policies in Africa during the Cold War (until 1976), but it also stretches our minds to see the Cold War "from below." Virtually all Cold War history has been written from the US (or Western)perspective, based on US archives. Gleijeses is the only scholar to have gained access to the Cuban archives; the result is that CONFLICTING MISSIONS contains not only new information but also a new perspective. Gleijeses challenges the reader to reconsider established truths. In his narrative -- which is voluminously supported by research not only in Cuba but also in US, Belgian, West German, East German, and British archives, as well as almost 200 interviews -- Fidel Castro, not the Americans, is shown to be the leader pursuing an idealistic foreign policy.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mike V. on April 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Conflicting Missions takes a detailed and academic (and make no mistake this is an academic book) look at Cuba's decision-making process and actions in intervening in Africa. It begins with it's assistance to newly liberated Algeria and moves on from there to a look at the Simba Uprising in the Congo, Cuba's aid to the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau and finally their armed intervention in Angola in 1975-76.

As others have noted, the author draws on a number of Cuban and American documents as well as newspaper articles and second-hand sources. He provides a typical level of citations and quotations in the book to back up his points, and there can be little mistake about how much effort he put into researching this book. For the most part it is engagingly written and interesting to read, particularly where it discusses Cuba's dispatch of doctors to revolutionary movements, and their influx of scholarship money, weapons, and other items at no cost to the rebels is indeed a testament to Cuba's revolutionary fervor - particularly in light of its small size and economic weakness.

The issues that I have are two-fold, however. Firstly, Gleijeses tends to get a bit bogged down in the minutae of proving some of his points as to who said what or what really happened on relatively minor points. These asides can go on for pages and tend to make the reader forget the point he was trying to make in the first place. Secondly, he spends a lot of time discussing the US and Cuba's butting of heads in other parts of the world leaving some chapters a bit light on actual discussion about events in Africa. A notable exception to this is the Guinea-Bissau and Angola chapters.

My second issue, though, is his analysis.
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