Counterinsurgency in Crisis

Britain and the Challenges of Modern Warfare

David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell. Foreword by Colin Gray

Columbia University Press

Counterinsurgency in Crisis

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Pub Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780231164276

248 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $28.00£24.00

Pub Date: October 2013

ISBN: 9780231164269

248 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $80.00£67.00

Pub Date: October 2013

ISBN: 9780231535410

248 Pages

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List Price: $27.99£24.00

Counterinsurgency in Crisis

Britain and the Challenges of Modern Warfare

David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell. Foreword by Colin Gray

Columbia University Press

Long considered the masters of counterinsurgency, the British military encountered significant problems in Iraq and Afghanistan when confronted with insurgent violence. In their effort to apply the principles and doctrines of past campaigns, they failed to prevent Basra and Helmand from descending into lawlessness, criminality, and violence.

By juxtaposing the deterioration of these situations against Britain's celebrated legacy of counterinsurgency, this investigation identifies both the contributions and limitations of traditional tactics in such settings, exposing a disconcerting gap between ambitions and resources, intent and commitment. Building upon this detailed account of the Basra and Helmand campaigns, this volume conducts an unprecedented assessment of British military institutional adaptation in response to operations gone awry. In calling attention to the enduring effectiveness of insurgent methods and the threat posed by undergoverned spaces, David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell underscore the need for military organizations to meet the irregular challenges of future wars in new ways.

In this critical and important study, David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell challenge the British Army's record of counterinsurgency. They demonstrate the need for a more careful reading of history and for a clear-eyed assessment of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Essential for those seeking to learn lessons from Britain's recent small wars.

Theo Farrell, head of the Department of War Studies, King's College, London

Impeccably researched and elegantly written, Counterinsurgency in Crisis is important because what the United Kingdom and its allies learn from experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq is likely to be as important as the outcomes of those wars. Indeed, if we are to prepare well for future conflict, the authors warn, we must not let false interpretations dominate historical memory. Counterinsurgency in Crisis is at once a work of military history, intellectual history, and historiography. It is highly recommended for students, academics, diplomats, and military leaders.

H. R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam

A balanced and clear-sighted evaluation of the problems that affected British Army Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

M.L.R. Smith, Kings College London

A sobering indictment of the British performance in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing shrewd analysis—the best yet—of what went wrong and why, and the lessons that must be learned. Essential reading for policymakers, strategists, and practitioners, both military and civilian.

Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely (British Army, retired)

This excellent book reveals Britain's strategic, operational, and tactical missteps in Iraq and Afghanistan. It charts the failure to institutionalize lessons from our counterinsurgency past and, worse still, how false complacency stifled adaptation mid-campaign. This valuable book is recommended to anyone who cares for the future of the British armed forces or the United Kingdom's place in world.

Colonel Richard Iron (British Army, retired)

Critical yet balanced, this book provides the best overall assessment of the British campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan currently in print.

Theo Farrell, King's College London, RUSI Journal

A long overdue account of British counterinsurgency efforts during Iraq and Afghanistan… a highly insightful analysis… not only a valuable read for anyone interested in the application of counterinsurgency, but especially for anyone interested in military adaptation and organizational learning.

Defence Studies
Foreword by Colin S. Gray
Introduction: Rethinking Counterinsurgency
1. Untangling the British Counterinsurgency Legacy
2. The British in Basra: With Heads Held High Into the Abyss
3. Act II: British Counterinsurgency in Helmand
4. "A Horse and Tank Moment"
5. Whither British Counterinsurgency?

Read the introduction, "Rethinking Counterinsurgency":

Web Features:
Panel discussion on Counterinsurgency in Crisis

About the Author

David H. Ucko is associate professor at the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University, and an adjunct fellow at the Department of War Studies, King's College London. His research areas include civil war, counterinsurgency, and war-to-peace transitions. He is the author of The New Counterinsurgency Era: Transforming the U.S. Military for Modern Wars and coeditor of Reintegrating Armed Groups After Conflict.

Robert Egnell is visiting associate professor and Director of Teaching in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. His research focuses on the conduct and effectiveness of different forms of stability operations and statebuilding. He is the author of Complex Peace Operations and Civil-Military Relations: Winning the Peace and coeditor of New Agendas in Statebuilding: Hybridity, Contingency, and History.

Colin Gray is professor of international politics and strategic studies at the University of Reading, England, and an external researcher at the Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College.