Institutional Analysis of Portugal’s Involvement in Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique (1961-1974)


Par Pierre Pahlavi
Canadian Military Journal, vol. 12, n°2, 2013.

The study of Portugal’s involvement in Angola, Guinea Bissau, and Mozambique offers a unique perspective to examine the adaptation of a Western army to irregular warfare. First, it is a case still conspicuously ignored by academic experts in this domain, the bulk of their attention being devoted to the study of the British in Malaya, the French in Algeria, or the Americans in Vietnam or Iraq. However, Portugal’s COIN operations in Africa offer an exceptional illustration of a successful adaptation of a Western army to irregular warfare. As this type of war requires, by definition, a degree of adjustment, success in defeating the adversary is largely dependent upon the friendly forces’ capability to adapt to a new context. Organizational adaptation, however, is not simply a matter of reorganizing structures, or modifying ‘command & control’ (C2) and doctrine. It also requires dealing with deep and oftentimes very subtle institutional forces that facilitate or prevent effective shifts from taking place.

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