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

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Harold Briggs and Gerald Templar were both incredibly influential in providing the strategic vision and leadership to respond to the political dynamics of the insurgency. However, Templar was very much a product of the British Army culture and cannot be considered an atypical officer. Many officers understood the importance of addressing political factors In contrast, the American Army culture prioritized conventional strategies to the insurgency and ignored any attempts at innovation regardless of their source.

Innovation was directed primarily towards maximizing firepower while neglecting intelligence sources and the security of the populace With the majority of American officers garrisoned in the United States during noncombat periods, few had any chance to develop a background in addressing political concerns of foreign populations to the same degree as British officers Even though the official British military doctrine largely ignores counterinsurgency, this omission is secondary to the wealth of experience of its officers, focus on small units, and an understanding of political dynamics as well as the importance of minimal force.

In other words, the British Army is well adapted to irregular warfare The American Army on the other hand has not accepted the need to respond to insurgencies with a different doctrine than conventional conflicts. Following Vietnam, the American Army intentionally abandoned any lessons from the experience to focus, once again, on conventional conflicts.

The conclusion was to avoid insurgencies altogether.

Publisher's Summary

Some international relations theories claim that states are interchangeable since every state focuses on the advancement of its own power. Therefore, states will respond in the same manner as each other if placed in the same position.


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Nagl contends that the international system is far more complex than this. One factor that can make states respond differently from one another is the organizational culture of their militaries. Even when faced with substantial external pressure, as was the case with the American Army in Vietnam, the organizational culture can override the ability of the military to acknowledge that its current policies are ineffective Since conventional and unconventional warfare are so different from each other, an army cannot be optimized for one without failing at the other.

The organizational culture of the American Army may struggle severely with counterinsurgency but it is ideal for confronting a conventional threat. With the increased occurrence of unconventional conflicts, the American Army would do to well to make itself more flexible in a post-Cold War world where change is abundant In other words, it is a very heavy read. On the other hand, if you want an introduction to counterinsurgency in general, we recommend The Accidental Guerilla by David Kilcullen. He systemically addresses each of his points in kind while offering a great deal of evidence to support his claims.

Since popular wisdom is that Vietnam failed due to constraints enforced on the American military by their civilian counterparts, Nagl does an excellent job at providing a substantiated case that a strategy derived from conventional warfare proved to be far more detrimental. After completing the book, many readers will likely wonder how this has changed during the insurgencies of Iraq and Afghanistan. Does the American Army still prefer conventional strategies or has it begun to adapt to the demands of unconventional warfare over the last decade?

Possibly the only shortcoming of the book resides in the conclusion. After discussing the details of the British and American responses to their respective insurgencies, he seems to rush through several of his more important claims at the end. He quickly covers several critical points that do not seem to have been given the attention they deserve. Within international relations, there are vibrant debates between how states act and respond to each other. Nagl uses his analysis of organizational learning to conclude that different characteristics within a state can radically alter its choice of action.

Even though Nagl has more than enough evidence to back this claim, he briefly conveys this idea in his conclusion and then quickly moves on. Furthermore, Nagl concludes that America has no choice but to adapt to unconventional warfare because of its inevitability.

Related information

While this argument has a great deal of support behind it, Nagl only briefly discusses the logic behind this conclusion. As Nagl notes, the predominant form of conflict is within states, not between them. Considering the proliferation of insurgencies, civil wars, and failed states, it is reasonable to conclude that the United States should expect to be involved in these types of conflicts in the future and prepare accordingly.

The counter to this argument is to assert that the United States should simply avoid these conflicts altogether. Avoidance may be sound advice but the real question is whether or not it is possible. Neither the insurgencies of Iraq nor Afghanistan were expected. Even if the United States continues to focus on conventional warfare and adopts a formal policy to avoid unconventional conflicts, it may find itself embroiled in an unconventional conflict despite its best efforts at avoidance.

Yet Nagl does not address this line or reasoning and explain the difficulty of avoiding unconventional conflicts despite genuine attempts by policy makers.


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Nagl, John A. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, Filed Under : Book Reviews. About the Author :. Trackback URL.

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Subscribe Via Email Privacy guaranteed. Your audiobook is waiting…. By: John A. Nagl , General Peter J.

Counterinsurgency lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: learning to eat soup with a knife

Narrated by: John Pruden. Length: 8 hrs and 46 mins. Categories: History , 20th Century.

Counter-Insurgency: 'Learning To Eat Soup With A Knife' - gioretpitofjo.ml John A. Nagl (COIN)

People who bought this also bought Counterinsurgency By: David J. Seven Pillars of Wisdom By: T. Marine Corps Manual By: U. McMaster Narrated by: H. McMaster Length: 15 hrs and 58 mins Unabridged Overall. Directorate S The C. Hackworth US Army Ret. Publisher's Summary Invariably, armies are accused of preparing to fight the previous war.

Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife : Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam - gioretpitofjo.ml

Preface by John A. Foreword by Peter J. Lawrence—himself no slouch in guerrilla warfare is a study of how the British Army succeeded in snuffing out the Malayan insurgency between and —and why the Americans failed in Vietnam…It is helping to transform the American military in the face of its greatest test since Vietnam. More from the same Author Knife Fights. What members say Average Customer Ratings Overall.

Amazon Reviews. Sort by:. Most Helpful Most Recent. Natalie How to make military action and political effort match A must read for every officer, civil servant or educated amateur who searches for a deeper understanding of COIN. James Wood Eurocentric This is a very neccessary subject of study and there were good observations noted. Informative and sobering. James Germany Good for the car Struggled to stay engaged despite the interesting topic, as the narrator was a bit flat. Jessica B Great book - read by Siri's brother The lessons from Vietnam and the Malayan conflict are clear and very well put together.

He tends to repeat the contrast between the British experience and the John A. Invariably, armies are accused of preparing to fight the previous war. 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.