Defending the realm?

The politics of Britain’s small wars since 1945

Author: Aaron Edwards

Britain is often revered for its extensive experience of waging ‘small wars’. Its long imperial history is littered with high profile counter-insurgency campaigns, thus marking it out as the world's most seasoned practitioners of this type of warfare. Britain's ‘small wars’ ranged from fighting Communist insurgents in the bamboo-laden Malayan jungle, marauding Mau Mau gangs in Kenyan game reserves, Irish republican terrorists in the back alleys and rural hamlets of Northern Ireland, and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Helmand province. This is the first book to detail the tactical and operational dynamics of Britain's small wars, arguing that the military's use of force was more heavily constrained by wider strategic and political considerations than previously admitted. Outlining the civil-military strategy followed by the British in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, Defending the Realm argues that Britain's small wars have been shaped by a relative decline in British power, amidst dramatic fluctuations in the international system, just as much as the actions of military commanders and civilian officials ‘on the spot’ or those formulating government policy in London. Written from a theoretically-informed perspective, grounded in rich archival sources, oral testimonies and a reappraisal of the literature on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, Defending the Realm is the definitive account of the politics of Britain's small wars. It will be of interest to political scientists and historians, as well as scholars, students, soldiers and politicians who wish to gain a more critically informed perspective of the political trappings of war.

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