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John Nagl Next Haverford Headmaster


John Nagl, who became famous as a leading counterinsurgency theorist and practitioner, is taking on a new challenge: grooming young boys for life.

‘War on Terror’ Now ‘Countering Violent Extremism’

Countering Violent Extremism

The Obama administration is quietly dumping the Bush era “War on Terror” for “Countering Violent Extremism,” Marc Ambinder notes. The Obama administration has unofficially rebranded “war on terror” phrase that dominated public discourse throughout the Bush administration. The replacement phrase, carefully chosen, is “CVE” — Countering Violent Extremism. Early in the administration, the Office of […]

Military Bureaucracy


Two separate reviews of The Fourth Star, a new book by David Cloud and Greg Jaffee, touch on a theme that has fascinated me since I wrote a dissertation on the subject. NYT foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins (via SWJ): “The Fourth Star” paints wonderfully dramatic portraits of the four senior officers highlighted here, but at […]

How to Turn a Cigarette into a Knife

John Nagl’s classic book on counterinsurgency is called Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Less insightful, perhaps, but easier to implement is Neil Strauss’ survivalist video, “How to Turn a Cigarette into a Knife.” Via Noah Shachtman, who has an interview with Strauss and several other videos. (Also, one of the most annoying pop-over […]

John Nagl New CNAS President


Given that Michele Flournoy has taken a position in the Obama administration and Kurt Campbell is widely expected to follow, I had been thinking for awhile that John Nagl is now the biggest star at CNAS. Sure enough: Dr. John Nagl, acclaimed author, West Point graduate, Rhodes scholar, retired Army officer, and Bronze Star recipient, […]

Ending the War in Iraq


I see that Elizabeth Bumiller, writing in the New York Times Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed “trainers” and “advisers” in what are […]

Army Band Hit By Skydiver, Marches On


OTB’s Roving Correspondent Richard Gardner sent me this clip about an unfortunate incident at Fort Riley, Kansas wherein a hapless parachutist collides with an Army band. A rogue parachutist veered off course yesterday and smashed into an unsuspecting military brass band in Kansas, injuring three musicians and destroying two tubas. Members of the 1st Infantry […]

NPR Had a Counterinsurgency Debate and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt


NPR’ Morning Edition calls. John Nagl the disciple of COIN’s Jesus, GEN David Petraeus.

Fixing America’s Military

Fixing America's Military

Ultimately, “fixing America’s military” will require fixing America.

COIN Manual Plagiarized?


Anthropologist David Price has a harsh and rather unscholarly critique of General David Petraeus and his team for “pilfering” from the social science literature without proper attribution, including “no quotation marks, attribution, or citations” for ideas loosely paraphrased from academic works and an incomplete bibliography. Small Wars Journal publishes a series of responses to Price […]

Post-Conventional War Army


Don Rumsfeld spent six years leading a transformation of the United States military to fight modern conflicts. His successor, Bob Gates, is going light years beyond that. Peter Spiegel and Julian Barnes have the report. Absorbing the lessons of a troubled war, U.S. military officials have begun an intense debate over proposals for a sweeping […]

New Interagency COIN Manual


Small Wars Journal passes on word that the State Department is working on a new interagency manual entitled “Counterinsurgency for U.S. Government Policymakers: A Work in Progress.” Given that State and other non-military agencies are critical to successful counterinsurgency, it’s good to see them working this issue. SWJ’s editors are right, though, that we’re a […]

John Nagl on ‘Daily Show’


LTC John Nagl, author of How to Eat Soup With a Knife appears on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart explaining Counterinsurgency doctrine. Stewart’s reaction to “Be polite – Be professional – Be prepared to Kill” is priceless.

Fixing the Service Academies

USMA Academic Program Requirements

Op-For‘s John Noonan argues in today’s Weekly Standard that it’s time to rethink the curriculum at West Point and the other service academies. West Point and all of the service academies promote math and engineering above all other disciplines. Thayer wanted math savvy artillery officers. The Navy sought officers with a firm grasp of engineering […]



NYT Magazine has an illuminating piece entitled, “Professor Nagl’s War.” It’s especially interesting to me because I knew John Nagl when he was an 18-year-old cadet on the West Point debate team. He was a very impressive fellow then and has certainly gone on to do well for himself.