It is fairly conventional to say that a book represents a ‘missed opportunity’. Were there, however, to be a special prize awarded in this category, Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon's study of Britain's post-war counterinsurgency campaigns would be a strong contender. There is a desperate need for a calm, scholarly overview of these gruesome conflicts, one that treats them neither simply as an opportunity to expose the iniquities of British imperialism, nor, conversely, as some sort of instruction manual for current and future neo-imperial adventures (as Samuel Beckett might have put it ‘Fail again. Fail better’). Yet the merits of this book—which are considerable—serve only to deepen one's sense of frustration. Grob-Fitzgibbon writes well, and has a keen eye for the telling detail. His search for primary sources has taken him well beyond the National Archives...

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