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Nagl in Wall Street Journal

jacket imageThe front page of today’s Wall Street Journal features an article on books that are "changing the military’s views on how to fight guerrilla wars." Several books are discussed but clearly the most influential is Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl’s Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, which we recently republished with a new preface.
In Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, Colonel Nagl, "who served a year in Iraq, contrasts the U. S. Army’s failure with the British experience in Malaya in the 1950s. The difference: The British, who eventually prevailed, quickly saw the folly of using massive force to annihilate a shadowy communist enemy."
According to the WSJ, "the tome has already had an influence on the ground in Iraq." Last winter, General George Casey, the top commander of U. S. forces in Iraq, opened a training center so that U. S. commanders could help officiers "adjust to the demands of a guerilla-style conflict in which the enemy hides among the people and tries to provoke an overreaction." General Casey attributes the idea for the training center partly to Colonel Nagl’s book, which depicts how the British in Malaya used a similar school to train incoming officers.
Interviews with General Casey’s staff revealed that nearly every member had read Colonel Nagl’s book and that General Casey "carried the book with him everywhere." Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife is included on a recommended reading list that is part of the Army’s new counterinsurgency doctrine.
Last December, in Baghdad, General Casey gave Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a copy of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. No word on whether Rumsfeld has read it.
Read the new preface.