A new review article by Geraint Hughes, of British Generals in Blair’s Wars

A Review Article by Geraint Hughes, of British Generals in Blair’s Wars, was published in the November 2013 issue (6) of The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs

Here’s a short extract:

Over the past 15 years the British armed forces have almost constantly been in a state of war. At the time of writing Britain has fought in seven external conflicts: the joint US–UK bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998, the Kosovo War (March–June 1999), the intervention in Sierra Leone (April 2000–September 2001), the NATO-led mission to end the Macedonian civil war (August 2001), the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan (October 2001 onwards) and Iraq (March 2003–July 2011), and the multinational air campaign in Libya (March–August 2011). At the beginning of this period, the British armed forces—the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force (RAF)—were hailed by the Labour government of Tony Blair as a ‘force for good’ in world affairs, and the ‘New Labour’ ideology emphasised UK involvement in humanitarian intervention in overseas conflicts.

Currently, however, there is widespread fatigue and disillusionment among Britain’s politicians, senior military commanders and the general public, arising from the legacy of the Iraq war and Britain’s embroilment in Afghanistan, and the parliamentary vote blocking UK participation in any US-led air strikes against Syria (29 August 2013) can be seen as evidence of a widespread and fundamental hostility towards military interventions overseas. Above all, the laudatory and often self-congratulatory commentary about the inherent skills of the British armed forces has become a casualty of the fighting in Basra and Helmand.

Thousands of servicemen and women have served in demanding overseas tours, with hundreds giving their lives in the process, and thousands more dealing with the physical and psychological traumas that come from engagement in combat. The three armed services—and in particular the Army—are now tarnished with a word rarely used since 1942: ‘defeat’. If success can encourage complacency, failure often leads to soul-searching, introspection and recriminations.

British Generals in Blairs WarsIn 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.

If you subscribe to this journal, this is the link to the full review article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00358533.2013.857810

More information about British Generals in Blair’s Wars

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