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Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam by John A. Nagl
  

Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam

Synopsis

Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam by John A. Nagl

Invariably, armies are accused of preparing to fight the previous war. In Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife , Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl - a veteran of both Operation Desert Storm and the current conflict in Iraq - considers the now-crucial question of how armies adapt to changing circumstances during the course of conflicts for which they are initially unprepared. Through the use of archival sources and interviews with participants in both engagements, Nagl compares the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and practice in the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 with what developed in the Vietnam War from 1950 to 1975. In examining these two events, Nagl - the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine cover story by Peter Maass - argues that organizational culture is key to the ability to learn from unanticipated conditions, a variable which explains why the British army successfully conducted counterinsurgency in Malaya but why the American army failed to do so in Vietnam, treating the war instead as a conventional conflict. Nagl concludes that the British army, because of its role as a colonial police force and the organizational characteristics created by its history and national culture, was better able to quickly learn and apply the lessons of counterinsurgency during the course of the Malayan Emergency. With a new preface reflecting on the author's combat experience in Iraq, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife is a timely examination of the lessons of previous counterinsurgency campaigns that will be hailed by both military leaders and interested civilians.

Reviews

Nagl's study is especially relevant today, and one that military leaders and interested citizens at all levels should read. It suggests how to encourage the spirit of innovation - a spirit that helped the British Army succeed in Malaya and that is currently transforming America's Army in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and around the globe. - From the Foreword by General Peter J. Schoomaker Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife has become must reading for high-level officers in Iraq because its lessons seem so directly applicable to the situation there. - National Review Online


About the Author

Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl is a Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Nagl led a tank platoon in the First Cavalry Division in Operation Desert Storm, taught national security studies at West Point's Department of Social Sciences, and served as the Operations Officer of Task Force 1-34 Armor in the First Infantry Division in Khalidiyah, Iraq.

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Book Info

Publication date

4th October 2005

Author

John A. Nagl

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Publisher

University of Chicago Press an imprint of The University of Chicago Press

Format

Paperback
280 pages

Categories

Asian history
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000
Military history

ISBN

9780226567709

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