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Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan Paperback – 18 May 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (18 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300182740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300182743
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

".... a devastating, highly readable critique of why Britain's armed forces have fared so badly in two of the country's most recent and controversial conflicts: Iraq and Afghanistan." (Sean Rayment, The Daily Telegraph) ".... the author deserves applause for bluntly expressing the truths about our recent military failures that too many of those involved find it convenient to obscure." (Max Hastings, The Sunday Times) "... Losing Small Wars is a savage indictment of the military leadership that got British soldiers into one impossible situation after another in Iraq and Afghanistan." (Rodric Braithwaite, Financial Times) "Lieutenant Commander Frank Ledwidge, RNR (retired), has written one of the most upsetting books I have read about Britain's part in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anyone who wants to understand what happened should read it." (Sherard Cowper-Coles, New Statesman)"

About the Author

Frank Ledwidge is a former barrister and military intelligence officer. He has served in many conflict zones including Iraq, Helmand, and Libya.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 111 people found the following review helpful By M. Finn on 1 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Frank Ledwidge's timely new book excavates the intellectual hinterland of Britain's campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan to devastating effect. Ledwidge writes from a unique perspective; as a military intelligence officer he deployed operationally to Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq and served in Afghanistan in a civilian capacity. He has seen both the military and civil reconstruction efforts in these conflicts first-hand, and is well-placed to offer a critical judgement on the failures of counterinsurgency as implemented by the British in theatre. It is a book about the perils of self-delusion; about the intellectual culture of the British Armed Forces, and about the place of military intervention in the British national psyche. Most damning is Ledwidge's criticism of senior officers and the 'crack on' attitude within senior levels of the military - few senior officers were prepared to speak truth to power in the planning stages of these conflicts, despite whatever reservations they may have held about the potential success of new military ventures with unceratin objectives. Ledwidge's book is, to some degree, a plea for the common soldier whose bravery is never in doubt. Losing Small Wars is a book about a failure of leadership, on the part of both senior officers and politicians, which was pregnant with consequences both for military personnel and civilians in theatre. It is powerful, tightly-argued, and is essential reading for policymakers and public alike.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By MH on 30 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
It might be appear, at first glance, that this is a book for military historians, academics and armchair generals. It is, however, essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in current and recent world affairs. It is an incisive and compelling account of the arrogance and complacency at the heart of the military establishment, resulting in ramshackle decision-making and ill-conceived orders, at enormous and unnecessary cost in blood and revenue.

Ledwidge clearly knows his subject - having served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq in the fruitless search for WMDs and as Justice Advisor in Helmand. This book is a brilliantly written, often shocking, exposé of British involvement in those countries, reflecting his own experiences in theatre and in the context of other British military interventions (and, as such, is extremely well-researched). Ledwidge's style is fluid and highly readable, opening up the arcane world of the military, even for someone without a knowledge of army acronyms and practices.

The narrative at often humorous - one is reminded, at times, of M*A*S*H or Catch 22 - as it details the absurdity of many decisions and events. It is also reflective of the sang froid of the troops on the ground - whose bravery Ledwidge salutes throughout. An important book - we can only hope that it is read and reflected upon by those in the position to act upon it.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By G. Mc Keon on 14 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I read this book and think that this is a statement of Generals lack of concern for the modern soldier under their command. It suggests that in essence that the Generals are primarily only interested in their own careers and that each mission is their "ticket" to further promotion by way of enacting or conducting a signature event. This book will question where modern militaries are marching to in the next phase of military development.
It certainly begs many questions of politicians and on what were they thinking when they dispatched their military into the theatres mentioned, by not having any credible policy thus denying the Military the posibility of making a strategy to conduct the effort. Generals will have to question their masters more and simply can not rely on "crack on " as a strategy.
For any serious military commander, this is essential reading in order to ensure that the same dreadfull mistakes are not repeated and that there should be serious lessons learnt from the actions of the "crack on" brigade. As the finincial situation places ever more strains of the budgets of militaries, concepts etc will have to reflect this new reality, however in context Generals will also have to reconsider their methods and the new capacities/capabilities they command. Perhaps the "comprehensive approach" will in fact have to be just that, a comprehensive approach to the new threats that will present themselves as we head towards what might losely be termed 5th generation warfare.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By david brambell on 2 Aug. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very good book, but ... Ledwidge makes a very strong and well argued case that the British experience in Iraq and Afghanistan was characterised by strategic failure and that attempting to lay the blame for this at the feet of politicians is lazy and dishonest. Much of the responsibility, writes Ledwidge, goes to senior officers of all 3 armed services.

He paints numerous vivid pictures to illustrate this failure and none make for comfortable reading. Among the most compelling of them is the assertion that senior Army officers were determined to deploy to Afghanistan in order to ensure the continued life of, what they viewed, as crucial military capability (or, less charitably) the retention of particular infantry battalions. This behaviour has echoes in the frantic deployment of Typhoon aircraft for operations in Libya. This 'use it or loose it' mentality is illustrated by a quote to the effect that 'if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail'.

Having expertly described this trap, Ledwidge falls straight into it.. His 'hammer' is the argument of strategic failure due to poor generalship and he uses it with enthusiasm and determination to hit every example he can find; many of them are not really suited and the result is that this otherwise excellent books tends towards hectoring in its third quarter.

Nonetheless, this is well worth a read, perhaps the first seriously critical work on the issue and a welcome counterbalance to the war stories and self-serving political memoir genres.
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