The Ford administration, Angola and the perception of Post-Vietnam US credibility, 1974-1976

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O'Sullivan, Steven
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University College Cork
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This thesis is a study of how the Gerald Ford administration struggled to address a perceived loss of US credibility after the collapse of Vietnam, with a focus on the role of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the formulation, implementation and subsequent defence of US Angolan policy. By examining the immediate post-Vietnam period, this thesis shows that Vietnam had a significant impact on Kissinger’s actions on Angola, which resulted in an ill conceived covert operation in another third world conflict. In 1974, Africa was a neglected region in Cold War US foreign policy, yet the effects of the Portuguese revolution led to a rapid decolonization of its African territories, of which Angola was to become the focus of superpower competition. After South Vietnam collapsed in April 1975, Kissinger became fixated on restoring the perceived loss of US prestige, Angola provided the first opportunity to address this. Despite objections from his advisors, Kissinger methodically engineered a covert program to assist two anti-Marxist guerrilla groups in Angola. As the crisis escalated, the media discovered the operation and the Congress decided to cease all funding. A period of heated tensions ensued, resulting in Kissinger creating a new African policy to outmanoeuvre his critics publicly, while privately castigating them to foreign leaders. This thesis argues that Kissinger’s dismissal of internal dissent and opposition from the Congress was influenced by what he perceived as bureaucrats being affected by the Vietnam syndrome, and his obsession with restoring US credibility. By looking at the private and public records – as expressed in government meetings and official reports, US newspaper and television coverage and diplomatic cables – this thesis addresses the question of how the lessons of Vietnam failed to influence Kissinger’s actions in Angola, but the lessons of Angola were heavily influential in the construction of a new US-African policy.
Henry Kissinger , Angola , Ford Administration , Nathaniel Davis , Angolan Civil War , US credibility , Congress , African Bureau , Sub-Saharan Africa , Decolonization , Vietnam syndrome , Clark amendment , Tunney amendment , US Post-Vietnam foreign policy
O'Sullivan, S. 2013. The Ford administration, Angola and the perception of Post-Vietnam US credibility, 1974-1976. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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