Courtesy Reuters

The Angola Decision of 1975: A Personal Memoir

International competition and political action sometimes appear to be channeled between frail dikes. To put the thought another way, it is as if the seething mass of ambition and potential violence so characteristic of international relationships is contained in quieter times behind a thin shell of a veneer. Once the shell of constraint is broken, subsequent adventures become easier to contemplate. It is for some of these reasons that we should, perhaps, examine how the confines of restraint in Angola were broken through, and whether a different American policy in the period before the Soviet/Cuban intervention in 1975 might have produce a different result.

I served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the spring and summer of 1975, and this is essentially an account of my role during that time. In the January-February 1975 issue of Africa Report, Bruce Oudes wrote that "Davis reportedly was reluctant to assume the new position." He was right. I asked more than once that the appointment not be made. Although my African experience was greater than Mr. Oudes recognized in his article, a regional Assistant Secretary should have very impressive credentials in his geographic area of responsibility. Moreover, I knew that my service from October 1971 to October 1973 as U.S. Ambassador to Chile would complicate matters.1 Lastly, it was clear that the replacement of Donald B. Easum as Assistant Secretary would be widely interpreted as a U.S. withdrawal from Ambassador Easum's commitment to black African aspirations. I pointed out to Secretary of State Kissinger that I had sympathy for a number of Mr. Easum's views as I understood them, and was not confident that I could satisfy him where Easum apparently had not. The Secretary happened to be out of Washington when the question came to a head, and I telegraphed him, saying that the African Bureau was not a responsibility I would seek under the circumstances. However, Foreign Service officers are bound to accept discipline in assignments. In my telegram to the

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