Frank Ledwidge, author of the bestselling and controversial book on British military policy Losing Small Wars, returns with a startling ebook essay on rivalry between top ranks of the UK military forces.
Frank Ledwidge knows what he’s talking about. He spent fifteen years as a Naval reserve military intelligence officer, retiring in 2008 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander; he served on front-line operations in the Balkans and Iraq, where he commanded British and multi-national units; he practised as a criminal barrister for eight years before specialising in international development and human rights law; and he worked as a civilian advisor all over the world, including in Afghanistan and most recently Libya. Last year Yale published his groundbreaking book Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was an enormous success, both commercially and critically, gaining widespread media attention for it’s frank revelations about UK military policy.
Since publication of Losing Small Wars back in July 2011, Frank Ledwidge has become an often-sourced expert on Britain’s ongoing conflict in Afghanistan (see Ledwidge being interviewed on Channel 4 news). He has been quoted by newspapers and media figures on all sides of the political spectrum, amazed and appalled by the statistics revealed in his book (The Sun newspaper ran with the headline ‘Britain has got more Generals than Tanks’ back in October 2011, and the BBC’s Andrew Marr called Losing Small Wars “one of the most devastating books on British policy I have read”).
Due to this intense media exposure, the hardback of Losing Small Wars raced out of print. The paperback has just been published, alongside a short ebook Punching Below our Weight: How Inter-Service Rivalry has Damaged the British Armed Forces, which is published today.
Priced at just over £1, the 5,000-word ebook looks at the problem of rivalry between the top ranks of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Ledwidge argues that senior generals, admirals and air marshals have focused more on empire-building within their own services rather than on the needs of the UK armed forces as a whole, with enormously damaging results. In particular, the UK involvement in Libya was hampered by a total lack of aircraft carriers – sacrificed to preserve the Typhoon, a fighter jet designed for Cold War combat that never happened.
Written with Ledwidge’s trademark insight and panache, Punching Below Our Weight is an incisive condemnation of the British armed forces at the very top, ending with some pertinent suggestions for how the UK could reorient its military priorities. As with Losing Small Wars, Ledwidge shows support for the troops on the ground (indeed, both Losing Small Wars and Punching Below Our Weight have been extremely well-received by The Army Rumour Service, the unofficial Army website and forum). Instead he takes aim at the military leaders whose actions (or inactions) have such an enormous impact on the lives of those following their orders. And he doesn’t pull any punches.
Punching Below our Weight: How Inter-Service Rivalry has Damaged the British Armed Forces is available now from Amazon.
Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan is out now in paperback.