High Command: British Military Leadership in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

High Command: British Military Leadership in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

by Christopher Elliott


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From 2001, Britain supported the United States in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Victory" in such conflicts is always hard to gauge and domestic political backing for them was never robust. For this, the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were held responsible, and paid the price, but the role played by the High Command in the Ministry of Defence also bears examination. Critics have noted that the armed services were riven by internal rivalry and their leadership was dysfunctional, but the truth is more complicated.

In his book, General Elliott explores the circumstances that led to these wars and how the Ministry of Defence coped with the challenges presented. He reveals how the Service Chiefs were set at odds by the system, almost as rivals in the making, with responsibility diffuse and authority ambiguous. The MoD concentrated on making things work, rather than questioning whether what they were being asked to do was practicable. Often the opinion of a junior tactical commander led the entire strategy of the MoD, not the other way around, as it should have been. While Britain's senior officers, defense ministers and civil servants were undeniably competent and well intentioned, the conundrum remains why success on the battlefield proved so elusive.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190233051
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 03/01/2015
Pages: 286
Sales rank: 751,686
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Christopher L. Elliott retired from the British Army as a Major General in 2002. This book was written over two years while Elliott was a research fellow at the universities of Oxford and Reading.

Table of Contents

1. Prologue

2. A Case to Answer?

3. Jumping to the Conclusion
Deciphering the Code
Armed Forces are Different
Some Wars are Different
Warfare in a State of Evolution
Solders Will Die and They Will Cause Death

4. Inside the Ministry of Defence
A Walk through the MoD
Seeing One of the Chiefs
The Motivations of the Actors
Other Influences

5. The Tribes and The System
Defence Politicians
Civil Servants in the MoD
The First and Second Permanent Secretaries
The Military in the MoD
Different World Views
The Royal Navy
The Royal Air Force
The British Army Officers are Similar but Different
Officers Behaving Badly
The Culture of the MoD Did it Matter?

6. Setting the Conditions for Success and Failure
The Weinberger Doctrine
The Powell Doctrine
No Useable Doctrine
Blair's Doctrine
Problems for the Military
What did the Changes Mean for the UK?

7. A Long Peace is Shattered
The Twin Towers
War Comes to Afghanistan in 2001
Hunting al-Qaida
A Limited Success

9. The War on Terror Opens in Iraq in 2003
Aftermath of the Invasion
Hard Fighting
Operation Salamanca/Sinbad and The Deal
Out of Step

10. Battle Returns to Afghanistan in 2006
NATO Expands its Role
Unified Command
The Taliban Attack
Why Helmand?

11. Emerging Criticism and Flawed Strategies
A Capable Army
Someone Was to Blame
Good Strategy
Contradictions in UK Strategies
How were these Strategic Inconsistencies Left Unchecked?

12. Making Military Decisions
Sorting Out the Levels of Decision-making
The Defence Crisis Management Organisation (DCMO)
High-level Decision-making in Main Building
The Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ)
Orphaned Commanders

13. The Chiefs
The Development of the Chiefs of Staff System
Selection of a Service Chief
Military Chiefs in a Political World
Selection of the Chief of the Defence Staff
The Chief of the Defence Staff
Preparation for the Top Job
The Chiefs of the Defence Staff in Action
The Chief of the Defence Staff as the War Commander

14. The Aftermath
Why Did it Go Wrong?
How Things Could Improve
Who is to be in Charge and How should Decisions be Taken?
Choosing and Training the Chief

15. Fit for the Future?

Annex 1. Events and Principal UK Defence Personalities
Annex 2. Principal UK Field Commanders
Annex 3. Maps of Iraq and Afghanistan
Annex 4. Summary of Eight Contradictions in UK Strategy
Annex 5. List of Titles, Acronyms and Ranks

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