Compared to its regional counterparts, South Africa is a wealthy country. It has a strong economy and a solid industrial base. It has the potential to become a regional leader and assert influence over all of southern Africa. And yet, South Africa today is focused almost entirely inward, its ability to project power constrained by competition between numerous factions.
This wasn’t always the case. During apartheid, the country was ruled by an autocratic regime that was able to develop a coherent – albeit extremely exclusive – national identity that revolved around the white Afrikaners who controlled the regime. By institutionalizing segregation, it was able to ignore the interests of the majority and pursue its security imperatives. And so, during the Cold War, South Africa projected power throughout southern and central Africa; the military conducted operations as far north as Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and collaborated with the U.S. in an