Partner to History: The U.S. Role in South Africa's Transition to Democracy

In This Review

Partner to History: The U.S. Role in South Africa's Transition to Democracy

By Princeton N. Lyman
U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2002
359 pp. $19.95

As ambassador to South Africa from 1992 to 1995, Lyman improved U.S.-South African relations markedly while conducting "facilitative diplomacy" to support the country's negotiated passage to majority rule. The presence of talented South African negotiators of all races made outside mediators unnecessary, but Lyman found ways to help both sides mobilize international backing, dissuade spoilers, and marshal resources for a successful transitional election in 1994. One chapter summarizes policy issues affecting relations between the United States and Pretoria since 1994. Although valuable in offering the perspective of an important diplomatic player, the book is not an accurate guide to the details of South African history before 1992 and misspells many South African names. Lyman also does himself and history a disservice by puffing the southern Africa policies of the Reagan administration as correct, albeit "misunderstood." He concedes that Washington offered the apartheid government a "respite" in the 1980s but omits that this respite gave Pretoria carte blanche to slaughter thousands and impoverish millions in Angola and Mozambique as a means of curbing guerrilla incursions by the African National Congress.

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