A revelatory, explosive new analysis of the military today.
Over the first two decades of the twenty-first century, Western militaries changed enormously. Multi-year campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan had a considerable financial and human cost. Yet neither war achieved its objectives. This book questions why, and provides challenging but necessary answers.
Composed from assiduous research including hundreds of interviews, The Changing of the Guard is a strikingly rich, nuanced portrait of a military institution in a time of great stress. It is informed by conversations with soldiers who served in the British Army, and the politicians who directed them, as well as interviews with members of the US military and other allies who accompanied them, and the family members who loved and—on occasion—lost them.
Award-winning journalist Simon Akam, who spent a year in the British Army when he was 18, returned a decade later to see how the institution had changed. His book examines the relevance of the armed forces today—their social, economic, political, and cultural role. This is as much a book about the politics of failure, as it is about the military.
“Simon Akam delivers a devastating indictment of Britain’s military chiefs for overseeing the shocking decline of the nation’s armed forces.”
Tom Bower, biographer
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“Simon Akam has written a perceptive, challenging and passionate book that looks at modern soldiering. In doing so, Akam provides an invaluable look at how the British Army works—and how the changing world in the 21st century is asking new and complex questions for soldiers and military strategy alike.”
Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads
“This brave, absorbing and prodigiously well-researched tour de force renders every previous account of the British Army in its disastrous recent campaigns obsolete. Akam makes an unanswerable case that we are no longer very good at fighting wars, building his arguments with panache and good sense. In doing so he has done his country, and the army, a great service—although the Generals may not see it quite that way just yet. Put away the self-serving autobiographies and the obsequious histories of in-house academics; this is the definitive account of the British Army in its 21st Century misadventures.”
Frank Ledwidge, author of Losing Small Wars
“[An] excellent and valuable book.”
Jason Burke, The Guardian
“Akam is an angry young man and the book is better for it.”
“A passionate book.”
The Sunday Times
“It’s compellingly written–I got through all 500-plus pages in two sittings–and it is certainly worth the effort.”
Mail on Sunday
“This detailed, academic book argues flawed leadership led to military disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan… Akam just manages to prevent his detailed account from becoming too crowded in military jargon, with some illuminating tales from barracks, brothel and battlefield.”
Anthony Loyd, New Statesman
“Impassioned… It is a valuable addition to analyzing the past, present and future of a venerated institution.”
Kim Sengupta, The Independent
“A scathing account of the British army in the years after 9/11… Akam has not just done his homework, interviewing 260 people, but also shows his working in 89 pages of footnotes, full of forensic detail—and delicious gossip.”
Shashank Joshi, Spectator Australia
“Akam makes many important points and reports in depth on officers’ recollections of specific episodes.”