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Title: Changing of the Guard, The: The British Army Since 9/11
Author: AKAM SIMON
Publication date: 02/03/2021
Publishing status: NOT YET PUBLISHED
A revelatory, explosive new analysis of the British military today.
Over the first two decades of the twenty-first century, Britain has changed enormously as a country. During that time the British Army fought two campaigns, in Iraq and Afghanistan, at enormous financial and considerable human cost. Neither of those wars achieved its objectives. This book questions – systematically and comprehensively – whether the British military fought the wars it found itself fighting, rather than those it had prepared for.
The Changing of the Guard examines how the British Army faced the challenges of twenty-first century warfare. Necessarily, the book spends much of its time in Iraq and Afghanistan, interrogating many of the decisions, strategies, and initiatives undertaken in those two asymmetrical conflicts. But its canvas is wider, from grim barracks in Germany to vast prairie training areas in Canada, to reflections of the army in popular culture, stage, and film. It is as much a book about Britain, and about the politics of failure, as it is about the military.
Composed of assiduous documentary research, field reportage and hundreds of compellingly frank, astute, and revealing interviews with many soldiers and officers who served, as well as the politicians who directed them, the allies who accompanied them, and the family members who loved and – on occasion – lost them, The Changing of the Guard constitutes a strikingly rich, nuanced composite portrait of one of our pivotal national institutions in a time of great stress.
Simon Akam examines the relevance of the armed forces in today’s Britain, their social, economic, political and cultural role – and asks what the army can offer a new generation. How and why should any young Briton now “go for a soldier”?
‘Akam’s beautifully written, from the inside out, account of the British Army’s reluctance to engage with the realities of recent small wars, in Afghanistan in particular, is a must-read for every serious student of modern military history. At one level, it explains how and why we managed to turn victory over Al Qaeda in Afghanistan into defeat at the hands of the Taliban. But this book is about much more than the army in Afghanistan – it is a parable about failure, the failure of a revered institution, with a proud history and an uncritical public, to come to terms with a changed and changing world.’
-Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, former British ambassador to Afghanistan
‘Simon Akam has written a perceptive, challenging and passionate book that looks at modern soldiering. In doing so, Akam provides an invaluable look at how the British Army works – and how the changing world in the 21st century is asking new and complex questions for soldiers and military strategy alike.’
-Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads
‘This brave, absorbing and prodigiously well-researched tour de force renders every previous account of the British Army in its disastrous recent campaigns obsolete. Akam makes an unanswerable case that we are no longer very good at fighting wars, building his arguments with panache and good sense. In doing so he has done his country, and the army, a great service – although the Generals may not see it quite that way just yet. Put away the self-serving autobiographies and the obsequious histories of in-house academics; this is the definitive account of the British Army in its 21st Century misadventures.’
-Frank Ledwidge, author of Losing Small Wars