Losing Small Wars

#1
Now, before anyone throws their teddy out of the pram I know that there's a 'What Are You Reading Now' thread but this book has greater relevance. Entitled Losing Small Wars, British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, its written by one Frank Ledwidge, an ex-RNR officer and intelligence herbert, and a barrister.

Now I've never had the misfortune to serve in either place but I do follow the news and, I hope, can pick fact from fiction most of the time. The author's contention is that the Army as a whole has been sold down the river by the General Staff and commanders in place in the old-fashioned hunt for Glory before Honour - he is not out to get the average Tom and is at pains to say so.

If anyone has read it already I'd be interested in their comments and urge the others of you to read it yourselves - I got my copy out of the local library.
 

No.4 Mk.1

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#3
I'm just debating the kindle or paperback version - any thoughts please?

(would i miss out on glossy pics if i get the kindle version is principle query)
 
#4
There are no pictures in it at all.
 

DaManBugs

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
It sounds like a cracking read. It's definitely on my order list now.

MsG
 
#6

No.4 Mk.1

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#7
There's plenty of moving pictures on the interweb, and i have watched most of them more than once.

70 Amazon reviews with an average rating of 4.5 / 5.0, and a couple of recommendations on here tells me it's worth putting my reading glasses on for.
 

TheresaMay

ADC
Moderator
DirtyBAT
#8
Is this the book that mentions something along the lines of needing 7,000 personnel in order to put 200 boots on the ground? Or am I thinking of a different book?
 

No.4 Mk.1

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#9
Is this the book that mentions something along the lines of needing 7,000 personnel in order to put 200 boots on the ground? Or am I thinking of a different book?
I'll let you know as i work my way through it.

I've heard one Senior Officer say (on film) that in 2006 they'd told the Helmand Governor Daoud that there'd be 3000 soldiers in theatre, but omitted to tell him that when the QRF, reserve, etc had been taken into account that would only equate to c.300 soldiers active on the ground at any one time. As the said officer was making his excuses in the program maybe the 7000 / 200 ratio is nearer the truth, or perhaps somewhere in-between?
 

TheresaMay

ADC
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DirtyBAT
#11
Excellent.

This was highly recommended to me recently by a colleague (a very knowledgeable LE who I've served with a few times over the years).

I've just had a look on Amazon though, and the cheapest is about £8.00 - so I might have to join the library instead.

Hunger Games Mockingjay for my daughter cost £8.99 from WHSmith, but the way I see it - that saved me £40 from taking my daughter to the cinema *twice* to watch both parts. Of course, I read it myself first, albeit very carefully to avoid creasing the spine :-D

Ahem.

So anyway, be sure to tune in next week to "Pikey TV" kids, where I'll be demonstrating how to make another bar of soap out of all the little ones you normally throw away...
 

No.4 Mk.1

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#12
Is this the book that mentions something along the lines of needing 7,000 personnel in order to put 200 boots on the ground? Or am I thinking of a different book?
Spoiler alert ( but it appears to show Frank has the facts at his finger tips) - 4 months into the deployment in Helmand (c.Oct 2006), from 3500 soldiers deployed they could only muster 168 combat troops to conduct operations.

I can't wait to get to Chapter 5 now, 'Dereliction of Duty: The Generals and Strategy', as those are pretty much the words i'd use to describe what little i know.
 
#13
I read this last year with an ever-increasing sense of 'OMFG really!?'

Until, that is, I came across one or two areas about which I had some quite extensive first-hand knowledge. Let's just say that, whilst he wasn't wrong, I'm now more of the opinion that Mr Ledwidge views the world through a 'lens' much like everyone else does, and that a sensible approach might be to read wider and treat this book as one viewpoint among many.

Not saying that he's massively wide of the mark (my experience doesn't encompass everything he deals with), but my limited reference points tell me that his conclusions may not all be of equal, errm... 'reliability'. Others I have spoken to concur for their own reasons.

Oh, and I found that at least one of his references was wrong, so if you're going to quote him to anyone important, do a bit of homework first. Not a criticism as such — big book, lots of moving parts and all that — just a word to the wise.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#14
This is, without a doubt, one of the worst-argued and full-of-bollocks books it has ever been my mistake to buy. It came well recommended - but in reality it is the uninformed ramblings of a nincompoop with chips the size of Chrieftains on each shoulder.

The basic trouble is, as pointed out above, is that if you have specific knowledge of any of the areas he whines about, you will probably notice how wrong his facts, let alone his conclusions, are. This leads you to think that maybe, just maybe, the rest of his facts/conclusions are flawed as well.


I didn't like it.
 
S

Spider39

Guest
#15
519y-XXKYXL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_[1].jpg



I will be reading the precursor to LSW over the xmas period ,shame Sandhurst's and Whitehall's finest failed to do the same [I know this specific book was not printed then but its hardly an excuse ]

sorry about the image quality ,nothing I can do about it .

This is, without a doubt, one of the worst-argued and full-of-bollocks books it has ever been my mistake to buy. It came well recommended - but in reality it is the uninformed ramblings of a nincompoop with chips the size of Chrieftains on each shoulder.

The basic trouble is, as pointed out above, is that if you have specific knowledge of any of the areas he whines about, you will probably notice how wrong his facts, let alone his conclusions, are. This leads you to think that maybe, just maybe, the rest of his facts/conclusions are flawed as well.

I didn't like it.
Fair enough you did not like it but i'd be interested in the specifics of what you did not like and what you thought was so wrong ,I mean its a fact that the truth does sometimes hurt .
 

TheresaMay

ADC
Moderator
DirtyBAT
#16
This is, without a doubt, one of the worst-argued and full-of-bollocks books it has ever been my mistake to buy. It came well recommended - but in reality it is the uninformed ramblings of a nincompoop with chips the size of Chrieftains on each shoulder.

The basic trouble is, as pointed out above, is that if you have specific knowledge of any of the areas he whines about, you will probably notice how wrong his facts, let alone his conclusions, are. This leads you to think that maybe, just maybe, the rest of his facts/conclusions are flawed as well.
Interesting. I was curious to see how it related to my own experiences in theatre - for they are very positive. Being 'fortunate' enough to see Afghanistan at the early stages and again at the closing stages I was incredibly impressed at what the coalition forces had managed to achieve, regardless of resources, command chain and other contributory factors.

It always leaves a bit of a sour taste when I hear of never-served civilians slating our deployment and work there, based on what they have read from someone whose sole aim is to generate a few bob by publishing a dramatic novel. There's the suggestion that those British soldiers (plus other nationalities) died for nothing. Not from where I was looking at least.

Like you, I was recommended to this book by a well-respected colleague. I might still read it just to see if it has the same effect on me as it had on you.

Not for eight f**king quid though... Libraries are open on Saturdays, right?
 
#17
It always leaves a bit of a sour taste when I hear of never-served civilians slating our deployment and work there, based on what they have read from someone whose sole aim is to generate a few bob by publishing a dramatic novel.
DC, I realise you probably meant that as a general observation, but Ledwidge served more than once and in more than one 'tribal skin'. Indeed it may be one of the reasons that he is plausible, but I have since heard points of view expressed by independent charities and OGD types (e.g. Treasury, FCO and DfID) that 'rhyme' with some of Ledwidge's opinions. And if you spend long enough listening to one particular tribe, you will form the clear opinion that the rest of them are just a legion of Terry Fuckwits.

The truth is probably somewhere in between the various bastions of hubris out there.
 

TheresaMay

ADC
Moderator
DirtyBAT
#18
DC, I realise you probably meant that as a general observation, but Ledwidge served more than once and in more than one 'tribal skin'. Indeed it may be one of the reasons that he is plausible, but I have since heard points of view expressed by independent charities and OGD types (e.g. Treasury, FCO and DfID) that 'rhyme' with some of Ledwidge's opinions. And if you spend long enough listening to one particular tribe, you will form the clear opinion that the rest of them are just a legion of Terry Fuckwits.

The truth is probably somewhere in between the various bastions of hubris out there.
Sorry yes - I wasn't referring to Ledwidge. I was referring to the civvies who read these books and then make criticisms of our military, based on their interpretation of somebody else's interpretation. If you see what I mean...
 

No.4 Mk.1

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#19
Sorry yes - I wasn't referring to Ledwidge. I was referring to the civvies who read these books and then make criticisms of our military, based on their interpretation of somebody else's interpretation. If you see what I mean...
Most of my info is off the internet, and i do put a lot of weight behind the info from journalists such as Ben Anderson & Mark Urban who i believe saw a far bigger picture than 95% of those that served. Whilst they undoubtedly have an angle and a pitch to their reports, it is first hand veterans, diplomats & politician's opinions they tend to report.

I'd also give a fair bit more credit than you do to civvies who have been interested enough to pick up a book and find out why we have spend £20+ Billion on a mission that has produced very little in the way of results:
  • Bin Laden was in Pakistan,
  • Afghanistan is still up there for training & battle hardening foreign Jihadist
  • Opium production is at record highs (especially in Helmand)
  • We've left the place with a bunch of criminals, drug dealers and Warlords in charge
I'd go so far as to say i'd bet most of the interested civvies have a far better understanding of what has gone on than many veterans.
 

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