RUSI Book: Wars in Peace: British Operations Since 1991

201403 Wars in Peace thumbRUSI publishes a major study on British defence policy ahead of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Entitled ‘Wars in Peace: British Military Operations Since 1991’, RUSI has published the first-ever comprehensive audit of the UK’s use of force over a whole quarter-century of intervention. Significantly, it is also the first to calculate the cost to the UK of all its major military operations, and the first to assess the strategic outcome of all Britain’s operations since the Cold War — concluding that it was the more focused interventions that have been the most successful.

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Listen to Professor Malcolm Chalmers discuss the book on BBC Today programme.


About Wars in Peace 

Wars in Peace considers the impact of British military operations on domestic security; the legacies of UK interventions and their strategic outcomes; the link between public and elite opinion on intervention; the financial costs of and industrial contribution to operations; the conduct of British strategy; and the UK’s alliances and alignments. It brings together rigorous analysis and provocative conclusions in a comprehensive audit of British military operations of the last quarter of a century.

Writing in Wars in Peace, Professor Michael Clarke, Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute, suggests that there are two reasons for the overstretch of UK forces in recent history: first, the ‘the conspiracy of optimism that produced both a political and a military hubris that gave UK forces too much to do with too few resources’, and secondly, how ‘many observers have not given sufficient weight to the limitations this imposes on the ability of national leaders to adjust or review their strategies.’

‘Allowing for the disappointments involved in the second phases of Iraq and Afghanistan, however, it is unlikely that we have seen the last of UK expeditionary operations in the present era. The source of strategic continuity is still present for the UK…’.

Providing a scorecard assessment of UK intervention since the Cold War, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Research Director at RUSI, argues that the UK’s most important military operations of the last two decades suggests that the most successful interventions were those with clear but limited strategic objectives.

Professor Chalmers also offers a figure, £34.77 billion, for the cost of interventions since the Cold War. He notes that: ‘The wars fought in Afghanistan (after 2006) and Iraq (from 2003) were the most expensive military operations of the period, accounting for 84 per cent of total operational spending’.

Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fry, himself a crucial participant during this period, fulfilling senior military roles during the Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, explores the process of military and policy planning during this period. He argues that, post-2001, ‘London suffered from the same distance between ends and means that characterised the planning process in Washington, and with the same consequence.’

‘That grand and military strategy were out of step, and that grand strategy failed to observe the most basic tenet of producing compound effect, is also clear.’

‘In the wars of 9/11, [British assumptions] have created an illusion of independence and a tendency to assume that parochial outcomes in limited geographies have significance at the campaign level.’

With 9/11 and 7/7 becoming a major backdrop to defence and security policy since the turn of the century, Sir David Omand, the first Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office, explores domestic security. He argues that:  ‘It would be reasonable, therefore, to look back over the last decade and conclude that, overall, the UK is safer today than on the eve of 9/11, when Al-Qa’ida had bases and training camps in Afghanistan’.

Nevertheless, ‘overall effect of the war in Iraq and the second intervention in Afghanistan, taken with the excesses of the original US War on Terror, has, however, been to make it much harder, over the period, to counter the jihadist message and thus to protect the British public at home and abroad.’

Wars in Peace: British Military Operations since 1991, published by the Royal United Services Institute, is available for purchase at:

1. For all enquiries please contact Saqeb Mueen, / +44 20 7747 2618
2. The contributing authors to Wars in Peace are: Malcolm Chalmers, Michael Clarke, Michael Codner, Jonathan Eyal, Robert Fry, Henrik Heidenkamp, Adrian Johnson, John Louth, David Omand, Joel Faulkner Rogers And Trevor Taylor, foreword by General Sir David Richards.
3. To arrange an interview with any of the authors, please contact Saqeb Mueen, / +44 20 7747 2618
4. Wars in Peace: British Military Operations since 1991 is available for purchase at:
4. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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