Author Ben Barry at the book launch at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2017 in Singapore

Launched in the wake of 9/11, the US-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq became prolonged insurgencies that challenged the military and strategic competence of the US and its allies. The experience of these unpopular and unexpectedly challenging wars will continue to shape their approach to warfare and military intervention for some time.

What are the military lessons of these wars and what do they mean for the future character of conflict?

Harsh Lessons: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Changing Character of War, written by Brigadier Ben Barry and published in January 2017, draws on field trips to Afghanistan and the author’s analysis for the British Army of the lessons learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This exclusive corporate breakfast focused on how military capabilities rapidly changed and evolved during the wars, and identified their utility for the future. It also looked at the unforeseen challenges of ‘learning under fire’ that forced painful transformations in Western militaries, providing lessons for future military adaptation, not least the importance of leadership and military culture.


Brigadier (Retired) Ben Barry is the IISS Senior Fellow for Land Warfare and an expert on the higher management of defence, military strategy, operations and tactics, military innovation and adaptation, modern warfare and land warfare. He has operational service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Middle East and Central Asia. Barry is the author of The Road from Sarajevo: British Military Operations in Bosnia, 1995–1996 and led the British Army’s analysis of the lessons of the post-conflict stabilisation of Iraq.


This event was chaired by Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security, IISS. It took place in the Trafalgar Room at Arundel House, 13–15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX.

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Event details

Brigadier (Retired) Ben Barry OBE, Senior Fellow for Land Warfare, IISS
Chaired by Nick Childs, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security, IISS
Arundel House, London