If one gives a sympathetic reading to this memoir by the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa in the Reagan years, it is an engaging and impressive story of restraint, logic and dogged persistence in the pursuit of a negotiated peace in Angola and Namibia in the 1980s. Though repeatedly frustrated by the obstruction of political opponents (Russians, Democrats, ultraconservatives) and the wrongheadedness of slow learners (Angolans, President Reagan), virtue and intelligent diplomacy prevailed to produce a remarkable success for American policy and a "no losers" outcome for the parties in conflict. Skeptics, however, may find Crocker's account a touch Orwellian. Does it describe an eight-year process of peacemaking, or a period when conservative governments in the United States and Britain demurred as hard-line militarists in South Africa pursued increasingly brutal wars of destabilization against neighboring states? When the climate finally ripened for a settlement within the framework of "linkage" (tying Namibian independence to Cuban withdrawal from Angola), seven years behind the optimistic schedule of Crocker's initial scenario, should the weight of explanation fall on inspired diplomacy? Or should it fall on the geopolitical turnabout in Soviet thinking and the reassessment forced on Pretoria by this and by its own deepening economic and political crises? Crocker often mentions the diplomatic skill required to put a good face on controversial policies, and no doubt some readers will see this book as the best evidence yet of its author's mastery of the art of spin.
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