Books for the News, History, Politics and Current Events

Required reading at the White House

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In an opinion piece in yesterday’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer discussing the current conflict in Lebanon, columnist Trudy Rubin says that U. S. military strategy for dealing with guerilla tactics has shifted.
“Hasn’t anyone at the White House noticed the U. S. Army is changing its doctrine on guerilla warfare?” asks Rubin. “Instead of all-out military assault, the new doctrine calls for waging a political battle for ‘hearts and minds’ while exercising military restraint so as not to drive civilians into the arms of terrorists.”
“One key army text,” Rubin continues, “is Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by Lt. Col. John Nagl, which focuses on counterinsurgency lessons from the 1950’s war in Malaya and the Vietnam war. … Nagl focuses on the ability of armies to learn from mistakes and adapt their strategies and tactics—skills in which he finds the U. S. forces lacking. He shows how the British in Malaya were nimble enough to defeat a communist insurgency, while U. S. military in Vietnam clung to a failing doctrine of force.”
In the light of recent events demonstrating the need for the U. S. military forces to develop a more effective strategy for dealing with conflict in the Middle East, it is indeed, as Rubin concludes, “past time to make Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife required reading at the White House.”
Read the new preface to Nagl’s book, written following his combat experience in Iraq.