Lt Gen (Retd) Sir Paul Newton

Former senior army official gives personal reflections on strategic leadership in Iraq

The Director for the new Strategy and Security Institute at the University of Exeter, Lt Gen (Retd) Sir Paul Newton is the key speaker at the University’s Business Leaders Forum on Thursday 6 September.

The lecture will focus on insights into leadership through a case study of Iraq during the height of the multiple insurgencies that took the country to the brink of civil war, and the western coalition close to defeat.

The analysis will examine the styles of three very different senior leaders as they struggled to make sense of the chaos and impose their will on events, with varying degrees of success. This will be a personal and off-the-record conversation about the way the leaders confronted the spiralling chaos that threatened to overwhelm post-invasion Iraq between 2003 and 2008. Paul Newton was personally involved throughout this period and played a leading role in designing and executing one of the most novel (and contentious) aspects of the strategy.

Sir Paul Newton explained: “Although it has dropped down the UK news agenda – at least for the time being – Iraq matters. It sits on one of the world’s major oil reserves and is critical to western economies. To the east, Iran continues to develop the capacity to become a nuclear armed state. To the west, Syria is in civil war. Within Iraq the ethnic and religious tensions meet; it is the fault-line between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam. Bringing relative stability to Iraq dominated the strategic agenda for nearly a decade, and whether those efforts ‘stick’ will be of critical importance to the west.”

He added: “Putting the rights and wrongs of the invasion to one side, leaders in all walks of life can learn from the contrasting way Coalition senior leaders shouldered their burdens under intense personal pressure.”

Sir Paul Newton joined the University of Exeter in April 2012 following a full career in the Army which spanned numerous command and operational deployments, culminating in membership of the Army Board. In this position he played a significant role in setting the context for the last Strategic Defence and Security Review and the work that is re-designing the Army for 2020. He initiated sweeping reform of the Army’s recruiting, training and education as well as making the preparation for UK forces for Afghanistan and other operations more agile and responsive.

As the Director for the new Strategy and Security Institute at the University of Exeter he is setting up an institute that has been formed following several years of professional collaboration on Middle East security and international relations between Paul Newton, Professor Gareth Stansfield, and the University's Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Sir Steve Smith. This new interdisciplinary research centre, based in the College of Social Sciences and International Studies, will address the strategic deficit of a world beset by instability and insecurity through carrying out research, consultancy and teaching in the field of global security and strategy, particularly relating to how individuals and organisations deal with conflict, unrest, and crisis under intense pressure.

The Business Leaders Forum lecture is on Thursday 6 September for a pre-registered audience in the University of Exeter’s Forum and Alumni auditorium at 5.15pm – 8.45pm. It is aimed primarily at chief executives and senior management, and is a membership based organisation that enables influential business people to stay up-to-date with current trends in business. Organisations are invited to join the Business Leaders Forum on the basis of their strategic importance to the region, and their engagement with the University of Exeter and the Business School.

University of Exeter staff are also eligible and encouraged to attend. For further information contact Kay Bishop, Event Manager.

Date: 3 September 2012