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British Generals in Blair's Wars. Edited by Jonathan Bailey, Richard Iron and Hew Strachan

British Generals in Blair's Wars is based on a series of high profile seminars held in Oxford in which senior British officers, predominantly from the army, reflect on their experience of campaigning. The chapters embrace all the UK's major operations since the end of the Cold War, but they focus particularly on Iraq and Afghanistan. As personal testimonies, they capture the immediacy of the authors' thoughts at the time, and show how the ideas of a generation of senior British officers developed in a period of rapid change, against a background of intense political controversy and some popular unease. The armed forces were struggling to revise their Cold War concepts and doctrines, and to find the best ways to meet the demands placed upon them by their political leaders in what was seen to be a 'New World Order'. It was a time when relations between the Government of the day and the armed services came under close scrutiny, and when the affection of the British public for its forces seemed to grow with the difficulty of their operational tasks. This is a truly unique and invaluable book. For the first time, we are offered first-hand testimony about Britain's involvement in recent campaigns by senior participants. In addition to touching on themes like civilian-military relations, the operational direction of war and relationships with allies, these eyewitness accounts give a real sense of how the character of a war changes even as it is being fought. It will be essential reading for those in military academies and staff colleges, not only in Britain but throughout NATO, and especially in the USA. It also has profound policy implications, as both the UK and NATO more generally reassess their strategies and the value of intervention operations. It will also become a primary source for historians and students of the wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Part I Setting the Scene: The political context: why we went to war and the mismatch of ends, ways and means, Jonathan Bailey; The Northern Ireland campaign: the challenges of command, Alistair Irwin; Command of Kosovo Force 1999, Mike Jackson; Sierra Leone 2000: pregnant with lessons, David Richards. Part II Hard Lessons: Rebuilding Iraq 2003: humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, Tim Cross; Southern Iraq 2003-2004: multinational command, Andrew Stewart; Great expectations: broadening the military role to include nation building, Barney White-Spunner; Iraq 2004: the view from Baghdad, Andrew Graham; Modern campaigning from a practitioner's perspective, John McColl; The British Army and thinking about the operational level, John Kiszely; 21st-century operational leadership: Sierra Leone, Baghdad and Northern Ireland, Nick Parker. Part III Iraq 2006-2009: Success of a Sort: On generals and generalship, Graeme Lamb; 'Best effort': Operation Sinbad and the Iraq campaign, Justin Maciejewski; Basra 2007: the requirements of a modern major general, Jonathan Shaw; Campaigning and generalship: Iraq 2008, Bill Rollo; Basra 2008: Operation Charge of the Knights, Richard Iron; The psychological impact of operations in Iraq: what has it been, and what can we expect in the future?, Simon Wessely. Part IV Improving in Afghanistan: Multinational command in Afghanistan - 2006: NATO at the cross-roads, Chris Brown; Southern Afghanistan 2006-2008: the challenges to a comprehensive approach to counter-insurgency, Nick Pounds; NATO operations in Afghanistan 2008-2009: a theatre-level view, Jon Riley; Helmand 2007-2008: behavioural conflict - from general to strategic corporal, Andrew Mackay; Campaigning: an air force perspective, Iain McNicoll. Part V What Have We Learnt?: The political-military relationship on operations, Desmond Bowen; Too busy to learn: personal observations on British campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, Alexander Alderson

About the Author

Jonathan Bailey's last appointment in the British Army before he retired in 2005 was Director General Development and Doctrine. He served in Northern Ireland, commanded Assembly Place ROMEO in Rhodesia in 1979-80; was Operations Officer 4th Field Regiment RA during the Falklands War; and in 1999 was KFOR's Chief Liaison Officer to the Yugoslav General Staff and to the Kosovo Liberation Army. He has written several books and articles on defence and strategic themes. Since 2005 he has worked in the defence industry, and led the seminar series on Campaigning and Generalship, at the University of Oxford. Richard Iron left the British Army in 2012 and is a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford. He has served in the Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces and several tours in Northern Ireland. He commanded 1st Battalion the King's Own Royal Border Regiment in the Balkans. He was subsequently responsible for British and NATO land doctrine. He was a prosecution expert witness in the Sierra Leone War Crimes trials and from 2007 to 2008 was chief mentor to the Iraqi commander in Basra, including Operation Charge of the Knights. Sir Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and was Director of the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War from its inception in 2004 until 2012. He is the author of several highly acclaimed books on military history, including European Armies and the Conduct of War (1983), The Politics of the British Army (1997), and The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms (2001). He is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the World War I Centenary Advisory Board. He has also written extensively on strategy, and is a member of the Chief of Defence Staff's Strategic Advisory Panel. Jonathan Bailey, Alistair Irwin, Mike Jackson, David Richards, Tim Cross, Andrew Stewart, Barney White-Spunner, Andrew Graham, John McColl, John Kiszely, Nick Parker, Graeme Lamb, Justin Maciejewski, Jonathan Shaw, Bill Rollo, Richard Iron, Simon Wessely, Chris Brown, Nick Pounds, Jon Riley, Andrew Mackay, Iain McNicoll, Desmond Bowen, Alexander Alderson, Paul Newton, Hew Strachan.


'Generals may talk, but rarely write self-critically: this collection of essays is a remarkable exception. Jonathan Bailey - himself an exceptional soldier-scholar - along with Hew Strachan and Richard Iron have assembled an extraordinary array of senior officers (and one or two civilians) who reflect on Britain's last decade of war. The resulting essays are often excoriating - of politicians, but also of the military institutions from which these soldiers have sprung. A British audience will find the generals' self-examination sobering, even disturbing; Americans will take away insights into our most important ally; students of military affairs more generally will wish to ponder carefully these reflections on generalship in the twenty-first century.' Eliot A. Cohen, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, USA 'This excellent book contains a revealing collection of papers, written by senior officers and officials charged with the command and direction of British forces in the last decade. They record the efforts and decisions made within circumstances of: controversial and ambivalent political direction, uncertain popular support, scarce resource, unsatisfied planning assumptions and unrealisable expectations; complicated by the nature of coalition operations. This book is recommended to all who wish to understand the atrophy of Britain's strategic faculties.' General Sir Rupert Smith KCB DSO OBE QGM 'This collection must be almost unique in military history. Seldom if ever have senior military commanders discussed so frankly the difficulties they have faced in translating the strategic demands made by their political masters into operational realities. The problems posed by their enemies were minor compared with those presented by corrupt local auxiliaries, remote bureaucratic masters, and civilian colleagues pursuing their own agendas. Our political leaders should study it very carefully before they ever make such demands on our armed forces again.' Sir Michael Howard, formerly Regius Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford, UK 'How military forces adapt to changes in the international environment and the tasks it sets for them is a significant factor in whether wars are won or lost. In this long-overdue book, a number of prominent British practitioners and thinkers on war take a hard-eyed look at how well Britain has adapted to the wars of the past decade. The answers are not always pleasant, but capturing and learning them now is a blood debt owed to those who have fought so fiercely in Iraq and Afghanistan.' John Nagl, Center for a New American Security, USA 'The book describes the growing frustration among military commanders about inter-departmental rows within Whitehall and inadequate co-operation with the Foreign Office and Department for International Development. The much-mooted "comprehensive" approach - co-operation on conflict prevention, peacemaking, and peacekeeping - has not materialised. Tim Cross, the senior British officer in the US-led post-invasion reconstruction office in Iraq, writes: "We do need to have a fairly radical shakeup, both in the [defence] ministry but also pan-government".' The Guardian 'With some of the personal testimonies of senior level commanders drawn from a series of seminars delivered as part of the Changing Character of War lecture series at the University of Oxford between 2005 and 2011; the book provides a unique and penetrating insight into higher command decision making, the evolving nature of the campaigns, the political-military relationship, and role of the British military and the subsequent challenges for adaptation in the post-cold war expeditionary era.' Professional Reading Bulletin 'This book emphasises the intelligence and imagination of senior officers who recognise that Blair's wars have given them "no end of a lesson", some of the reasons for which were their own fault. It will be a bad day indeed if the next time politicians want to take Britain to war the soldiers who must do the business are prevented from telling them - and us - home truths before we are waist deep in mud, rather than afterwards.' Sunday Times '... a remarkable edited volume with accounts by 26 (mostly) retired British military officers, most of them generals. There's a chapter on Northern Ireland, one on Kosovo, and one on Sierra Leone, but justifiably most of the book deals with Iraq and Afghanistan. Inadequate money, numbers of men, and equipment, and a deep sourness in civil-military relations, are the four dark threads running through every chapter, creating a grim account of contemporary British military history.' War on the Rocks '... a fascinating volume, one of the most interesting I've read this year... The views are remarkably diverse.' Tom Ricks in Foreign Policy '... il convient de souligner l'impressionnante liberte de ton des officiers interroges. Ceux-ci n'hesitent pas a critiquer les decisions politiques, certains des leurs collegues ou allies, et l'ensemble donne une impression d'honnetete et de franchise dans la critique qu'il serait difficile a imaginer pour un militaire francais. Le fait que le ministere de la Defense britannique ait tente de censurer l'ouvrage est une preuve de la sensibilite de certains des temoignages ... l'ensemble constitue un document exceptionnel, car la plupart des propos ont ete recueillis juste apres le deploiement operationnel des officiers concernes ... les riches temoignages sont une source exceptionnelle pour comprendre l'armee britannique contemporaine.' [... it is worth noting how impressively outspoken the officers interviewed are. They do not hesitate to criticize political decisions, some of them made by colleagues and allies. This conveys an impression of honesty and frankness in their criticism which would be difficult to imagine for a French military man. The fact that the Ministry of Defence tried to censor the book is evidence of the sensitivity of some of the testimonies ... the book constitutes a unique document because most of the comments were collected just after the operational deployment of the officers concerned ... the rich testimonies are a unique source for understanding the contemporary British army.] War Studies Publications '... 24 senior military and civilian practitioners give their unique personal perspective on Britain's recent wars, the better to educate those, faceless or not, who want to understand why and how these campaigns worked out the way they did ... These accounts were first given as a series of seminars at Oxford University between 2005 and 2011, and in some ways they reflect their origin. The best retain the immediacy and fluency which comes when an expert speaks to an attentive audience about something he knows and cares about. Some read as a sort of catharsis, the author struggling to make sense later of what was at the time a messy sequence of events ... there is much here of great value, including a masterly concluding essay by Hew Strachan.' International Affairs 'In this volume, two former British Army officers (Major General Jonathan Bailey and Colonel Richard Iron) and a military historian (Hew Strachan) have collected a series of essays from serving and veteran senior commanders, based on papers originally delivered at the 'Campaigning and Generalship' seminars held at the University of Oxford's Changing Character of War Programme between 2005 and 2012. These provide a professional analysis of the armed forces' performance - and that of the Army in particular - in 'Blair's Wars'. Collectively, they make for illuminating and sobering reading ... British Generals in Blair's Wars is a valuable contribution to the debate surrounding Britain's recent experiences of war, and on the future of both the UK's armed forces and its national strategy. It is required reading for historians and political scientists interested in the UK's politico-military relationships, and is also of relevance for comparative purposes for scholars interested in the foreign and defence policies of other states ...' The Round Table 'This book provides a highly thought-provoking insight not only into the contribution of key generals to Blair's wars, but into the execution of command and leadership, and the complexities of the military-political nexus. Further, it prompts important questions about the very nature and purpose of the British armed forces in the twenty-first century, as well as their relationship with other government departments. I highly recommend British Generals in Blair's Wars to anyone interested in the military, political or foreign policy dimensions of the UK's recent military interventions. More importantly, it should be compulsory reading for every prime minister, cabinet minister, Member of Parliament and senior military officer for the next two decades. For the American reader, this book holds up a mirror - perhaps an unwelcome mirror at times - to the actions of US political and military leaders in the recent wars that the UK has supported. The Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote: 'Oh would some Power the gift to give us, to see ourselves as others see us.' This book provides such a gift, though whether that gift will be welcomed is another matter.' LSE Review of Books 'This short review can do scant justice to this exceptionally interesting volume of 26 contributors, including first-hand accounts and commentaries, by a selection of those who held senior positions in the recent campaigns fought under the premiership of Tony Blair. ... Anyone reading this book cannot help but be impressed by the overall standard of articulation of analytical thought presented by this group of senior commanders. Clearly, at the most senior level, the desired transformation of British military thinking is already underway. It is unfortunate that there is no comparable institutionalised educational process for the politicians responsible for their deployment.' New Zealand International Review 'I cannot say this is the best book written on modern higher command. I can say that I have read none better. This candid, self-critical work is a product of British experience, mostly of Afghanistan and Iraq. The lessons identified are not exclusive to the British experience. Allies will say Amen to that. The work is inspirational. The idea of assembling experienced, recently retired Generals to say what they have with such openness and honesty has resulted in the identification of important lessons to be massaged into new doctrine.' Defense and Security Analysis 'The editors of this book, Bailey, Iron and Strachan made a true contribution to the history of this period of wars and to those who will interact with policy makers while crafting the campaigns of the future. This work reinforces the need for politically aware military advice from our Army's senior leaders rendered to our policy makers.' Kevin C.M. Benson, Ph.D, Colonel, US Army (ret) 'This selection of articles written, mainly, by commanders on the ground becomes even more important reading as we move towards the post-Afghanistan era of 2015 onwards. What can we find to guide the next generations of commanders? It is rare to find such self-critical analysis and frank assessment of the direction given from more senior military and political leadership. ... What does come across clearly, and almost unanimously, is that the commander on the ground must deal with the issues confronted daily and does not have the opportunity to measure things against a strategy, especially where that strategy is less than clearly articulated, be that by omission or commission.' War in History

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