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I have been privileged to know a number of people who played senior roles in the intelligence and military community in "The Troubles", including one at the very centre of its most controversial incident. As a consequence, I have always had an inherent respect for the hard-won success of the security services in "The Troubles". So I listened to this book hoping for an analysis of the approach that was taken and how it led to the undeniable military victory over the IRA and on to the Good Friday Agreement.
I was disappointed.
A minor point, but this is drawn from the author's PhD thesis and there is no harm in that, but it bears the traces of such and as a result lacks some readability. Other reviewers have criticised the lists of murders. which do go on for 10 minutes or more. I have a mixed view. They add little to the narrative, but deserve remembrance.
Where I take exception to this book is at its core purpose; to provide an academic-standard analysis of what, by any standards, was a complex and multi-faceted conflict. He also attempts to draw parallels with Iraq in the post 2003 period. The analysis is weak and scant, but the author shows his hand pretty early on with references to "bleeding heart liberals". His bottom line is that the Special Branch-led approach was effective and everything else failed; it felt like he was saying: "Trust me, I have interviewed SB members and they have told me so".
Having had similar conversations, I know this to be correct, but I am not purporting to write a book on it. But the real issue is the lack of balance and analysis. Anything outside of his core thesis is belittled out-of-hand. The world was much more complicated than that. Further, the peace settlement is portrayed as a cynical betrayal of all that had been achieved. I wonder how many people walk the streets of NI today who would not have had that peace not been forged when it was?
In terms of the parallels with Iraq, the analysis is plainly naive. It clearly scored points for his PhD that he interviewed David Patraeus and learned that Patraeus drew parallels with NI, but to suggest that the Special Branch model bears any relation to Iraq skims (again) across still more vast chasms of complexity. It escapes the author's attention that the armies of 2003 were a foreign force of invasion and occupation to ALL the citizens of Iraq, and that this invasion was a matter of months ago as opposed to centuries (for a minority) in the case of NI.
All in all, a bit of a wasted opportunity to get a thorough, balanced narrative when so many of the architects of victory are fast disappearing.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I found this book to be very heavily in favour of one outlook, it paints the special Branch as a bunch of equal opportunity police officers, the author is critical of the military due to the lack of trust, as a former soldier I can tell you this was for a very good reason. The author has either a very vivid imagination or he is a bigot. That is my own opinion, I got about 1 hour into the book and stopped listening.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful