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Michael Collins and the Anglo-Irish War
Britain's Counterinsurgency Failure
Michael Collins and the Anglo-Irish War reveals that the success of the Irish insurgency was not just a measure of Collinss revolutionary genius, as has often been claimed. British miscalculations, overconfidence, and a failure to mount a sustained professional intelligence effort to neutralize the IRA contributed to Britains defeat.
Although Britain possessed the worlds most professional secret service, the British intelligence community underwent a politically driven and ill-advised reorganization in early 1919, at the very moment that Collins and the IRA were going on the offensive. Once Collins neutralized the local colonial spy service, the British had no choice but to import professional secret service agents. But Britains wholesale reorganization of its domestic counterintelligence capability sidelined its most effective countersubversive agency, MI5, leaving the job of intelligence management in Ireland to Special Branch civilians and a contingent of quickly trained army case officers, neither group being equippedor inclinedto mount a coordinated intelligence effort against the insurgents. Britains appointment of a national intelligence director for home affairs in 1919just as the Irish revolutionary parliament published its Declaration of Independencewas the decisive factor leading to Britains disarray against the IRA. By the time the War Office reorganized its intelligence effort against Collins in mid-1920, it was too late to reverse the ascendancy of the IRA.
Michael Collins and the Anglo-Irish War takes a fresh approach to the subject, presenting it as a case study in intelligence management under conditions of a broader counterinsurgency campaign. The lessons learned from this disastrous episode have stark relevance for contemporary national security managers and warfighters currently engaged in the war on terrorism.
320 pages; ISBN 9781612341286