The World: Mercenaries: 'A Bloody Shambles'

African mercenaries: the very term is redolent of Bondish machismo memories. "Mad Mike" Hoare and his swaggering Fifth Commando punishing the ragtag Congolese army during the 1965 Katanga rebellion. Or perhaps Frederick Forsyth's dirty dozen in The Dogs of War, liberating the fictional kingdom of Zangaro from a maniacal, Soviet-backed African dictator—for a price.

The image apparently lives on. Since the start of Angola's civil war, hundreds of men from Britain, France, Portugal, South Africa and the U.S. have signed on to serve with the pro-Western forces. As of last week, perhaps...