A revelatory, explosive new analysis of the British military today.
Over the first two decades of the twenty-first century, Britain has changed enormously. During this time, the British Army fought two campaigns, in Iraq and Afghanistan, at considerable financial and human cost. Yet neither war achieved its objectives. This book questions why, and provides challenging but necessary answers.
Composed from assiduous documentary research, field reportage, and hundreds of 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, it is a strikingly rich, nuanced portrait of one of Britain’s pivotal national institutions in a time of great stress.
Award-winning journalist Simon Akam, who spent a year in the army when he was 18, returned a decade later to see how the institution had changed. His book examines the relevance of the armed forces today — their social, economic, political, and cultural role. This is as much a book about Britain, and about the politics of failure, as it is about the military.
‘Simon Akam delivers a devastating indictment of Britain’s military chiefs for overseeing the shocking decline of the nation’s armed forces.’
Tom Bower, biographer
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‘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
‘[An] excellent and valuable book.’
Jason Burke, The Guardian
‘Akam is an angry young man and the book is better for it.’
‘A blockbuster critique … with heaps of evidence.’
Matthew Paris, The Times
‘A passionate book.’
The Sunday Times
‘It’s compellingly written – I got through all 500-plus pages in two sittings – and it is certainly worth the effort.’
Mail on Sunday