Since its founding in 1891, the University of Chicago Press has embraced as its mission the obligation to disseminate scholarship of the highest standard and to publish serious works that promote education, foster public understanding, and enrich cultural life. The dissemination imperative of our mission can often be one of the most surprising and rewarding aspects of publishing. Whether it’s sitting across from someone on the El who is reading a Chicago book or coming across an UCP title in an unexpected bookstore in a far off land, it’s fascinating to see where our books wind up. So this photo in that accompanied a Guardian article earlier this month on Pakistani efforts to root out terrorists naturally caught our eye.
Alongside folders labeled “Taliban”, “al-Qaeda”, and “Misc”, two UCP titles share space on a shelf in the office of the director general of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency in Islamabad. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam by John A. Nagl considers the crucial question of how armies adapt to changing circumstances during the course of conflicts for which they are initially unprepared. And to the right of that volume rests The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. The result of unprecedented collaboration among top U.S. military experts, scholars, and practitioners in the field, the manual espouses an approach to combat that emphasizes constant adaptation and learning, the importance of decentralized decision-making, the need to understand local politics and customs, and the key role of intelligence in winning the support of the population. The manual also emphasizes the paradoxical and often counterintuitive nature of counterinsurgency operations: sometimes the more you protect your forces, the less secure you are; sometimes the more force you use, the less effective it is; sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction. (You can read Nagl’s foreword to the COIN manual and an excerpt from the first chapter. We also have his new preface to Soup.)
Whether or not Islamabad can make real inroads against its home-grown terrorists remains to be seen. But at least we know that Pakistani officials have turned to some of the best books in the field to aid them in their fight.