Frank Ledwidge is the author of the renowned book 'Losing small wars
: British military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan' (reviewed by OldSnowy here
) - a very well received but particularly scathing assessment of the British military's efforts over the last decade. He is an author with a good military pedigree: 15 years as a Naval Intelligence reservist with operational tours in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq as well as heading a joint service multi-national team searching for WMD in Iraq. Bearing all this in mind, the title of this work ''Punching below our weight' was only ever heading in one direction!
'Punching below our weight
' is the first in a series of short e-books being published by Yale University Press - it is effectively an essay rather than a short book at around 5000 words. If this one is anything to go by, YUP are onto a good thing and I look forward to future publications.
PBOW examines the premise that the key reason the MOD never realises its true potential is inter-service rivalry. Ledwidge asserts that the primary objective of the individual services is their own preservation and advancement; this, in turn, leads to the services all pulling in different directions and expending precious effort and resources on parochial matters rather than the job in hand.
The three main examples he gives are the deployment into Helmand (to justify the army's large number of infantry battalions), the commissioning of the new new carriers with their attendant F35s (to justify having a navy) and the use of Typhoon in Libya (to justify the aircraft could be a bomber as well as a fighter). It should be noted that the principal target of Ledwidge's ire is the RAF - an amusing statistic given was that since the end of WW2, the RAF has only managed to shoot down 2 aircraft (both its own and one of those was actually shot down by itself via a richochet whilst practising ground attack). The navy meanwhile have shot down 23 aircraft in the same time frame...
Up to this point in the book, it is difficult to argue with the central tenet even if the exact detail leaves a little room for debate. Ledwidge rolls out the familiar line that we have too many senior officers; comparing the MOD's upper echelons with the US Marine Corps, a similar sized organisation but with far fewer generals. This has been argued before and here, as usual, it is conveniently forgotten that this comparison isn't really looking at like for like. The US Marine Corps is supported by the rest of the US military behemoth, for example the US military procurement system, whilst the figures for the MOD include all its additional supporting tasks.
Ledwidge goes on to target the new Joint Force Command. He believes that rather than being a step in the right direction towards true 'jointery', it is actually just another 4 star command, with its many starred hierarchy, which will add a fourth service rivalry into the equation. Ledwidge examines other countries' approaches to the problem, in particular the Canadian Defence Force and the Israeli military. Accepting that there probably isn't the appetite for such radical solutions, Ledwidge suggests following the advice of the Ismay-Jacob report of 1963 and forcing all senior officers of two star rank and above to abandon their service affiliation.
Overall this is an extremely well written and thought provoking essay - its only downfall is that I suspect most people will agree with the key theme and therefore it may not generate quite as much argument as his other works!
Well worth a read - it won't take long - and a snip at £1.19
5 Mushroom Heads
Captain_Crusty Punching Below our Weight
by Frank Ledwidge published by Yale University Press Click here to buy from Yale University Press