Britain’s brutal battles for hearts and minds

British campaigns in Kenya, Malaya and elsewhere are often hailed as exemplars of how anti-insurgency operations should be prosecuted. But, asks Michael Burleigh, is the praise really justified?

"Britain’s handling of the Malayan Emergency has often been cited as a textbook example of how an army should win over the ‘hearts and minds’ of civilians," says Michael Burleigh. (Photo by Charles Hewitt/Picture Post/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the May 2013 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Military doctrine is as susceptible to fashion as any other area of life, particularly when one type of warfare displaces others. Even with a vicious insurgency raging in Iraq, until 2006 the American military’s top brass remained contemptuous of what was known as MOOTW – ‘military operations other than war’ – and were wedded to such things as airborne forces or massed tank formations.

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