- 12-06-2012, 20:40 #1
- Join Date
- Jul 2003
- In the Centre
'Punching below our weight' by Frank Ledwidge
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
PLEASE DON'T PUBLISH IN REVIEWS UNTIL THU 14 JUN 12 AS REQUESTED BY PUBLISHER
Last edited by Auld-Yin; 14-06-2012 at 12:52. Reason: Forgot about publishing embargo!"A stylish if somewhat eccentric young officer."
RSA course report
- 14-06-2012, 13:15 #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2005
- In front of the fire, wearing slippers with a brew at hand.
This eBook is linked to Frank Ledwidge's book "Losing Small Wars" as Capt Crusty mentions. On a similar subject and theme which Frank was involved with was the book and discussion about "Behavioural Conflict" by Steven Tatham and Andrew MacKay. Have a look also at the review for Behavioural Conflict and the forum started to try and keep the discussion going. Most of the discussion is in the comments are of the book review but some is contained in the Forum here.
I would suggest that you look at all three book reviews: Punching below our weight; Losing small wars and Behavioural Conflict plus the forum and comments to get a full flavour of the discussion. Then join in!!"Patience is counting down without blasting off."
- 14-06-2012, 13:48 #3
A host of minor loyalties & affectations, from assuring mess dinners of retired officers that they will fight for the regiment's interests, to stitching their new capbadge onto their old beret & cutting around in fancy trousers all accumulate to distract our cadre of strategic thinkers from combining to think afresh.
Perhaps a minor point, but I believe one which is indicative of the way we tacitly condone a culture which has failed us time & again.
- 14-06-2012, 15:32 #4
Is he the thinking man's Lewis Page? Or, given the inevitable "Lets mimic the USMC" simply another Lewis Page?
I am a big fan, but perhaps purely because he plays to my own prejudices.
- 18-06-2012, 18:11 #5
- Join Date
- Sep 2005
I have 2 possible thoughts (about all the single cell can manage today ;) )
a. Lewis Page could have been ahead of his time (published in 2006 remember) and saying things to an audience who perhaps didn't see the failures or defeat in Iraq, or considered that commonsense needs seniority/operational experience to be credible to a Military audience (if so, that's very expensive emperors new clothes - 406 dead since 1 July 2006 ). A number of his critics targeted the detail of his arguments, often refuting as a result that anything was wrong or any basis for significant change existed.
For Frank Ledwidge, he has the op background and experience in both theatres. The only significant criticism has been he didn't attend a "full course" at Shriv (or didn't have his full "groupthink" induction!).
Maybe after 6 years of lost blood and treasure in Afghan, even the most establishment of thinkers are having problems drinking the Koolaid and so he (ledwidge) has an acceptable profile/pedigree and puts across points that are difficult to dismiss out of hand.
b. Those who criticise Lewis Page in a knee jerk subjective and unargued manner without presenting valid alternatives or solutions are of a blinkered mindset/part of the whole bloody problem and indicative of the group that needs culling before progress can be made.....
(now where's blurry gumshield, helmet and Stage 3 trench c/w OHP??)
Last edited by smallbrownprivates; 18-06-2012 at 19:00. Reason: KlarityThe major didn't think of his superiors as fools, of course, since it would follow that everyone who obeyed them was a fool. He used the term 'unwise', and felt worried when he used it.
- 18-06-2012, 18:58 #6