5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2009
A well written contribution to the rapidly expanding stockpile of Counter-Insurgency literature available today. The focus on the organisational learning and behaviour remains particularly insightful and highly relevant in addressing the core focus. Nagl's experience as not only a COIN thinker but a COIN practitioner no doubt contributed to the quality of this study. 'Learning to eat Soup with a Knife' is a must read for military personnel, academics and anyone with a strong interest in field of Counter-Insurgent Policy.
On a final note to the general reader, the depth and style of analyse in this work is likely to go beyond the needs for everyday conversational knowledge and would not be largely useful for historical overview of either conflict. Nevertheless at a time where COIN is at the forefront of Policy, Nagl's work highlights timeless principles that remain relevant today and have the potential to provide useful insight in many modern conflicts.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2010
This book is principally one of organisational culture and organisational learning set in the historical context of `small wars' / counter insurgency. It compares how the British Army successfully evolved to counter insurgency in Malaya with the US experience in Vietnam. The paperback edition has the advantage of the authors reflections after a tour as a battalion operations officer in Iraq. This however is a book with value beyond a military context.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2007
Colonel Nagl's book is an excellent study though inevitably is bears traces of its original existence as a Oxford University doctoral study.
I have no problem with the Vietnam section but in regard to what Colonel Nagl has written about the Malayan Emergency, the argument is advanced that the army was running the intelligence behind the counterinsurgency
operations. However, the supreme intelligence agency was the Malayan Police Special Branch which was responsibile for political, security and
operational intelligence. The army did not run its own agents and General Templer, the British High Commissioner and Director of Operations, made it quite clear on several occasions that the Special Branch was the supreme intelligence organisation. Although indeed some 30 or so military intelligence officers were eventually (around 1952) attached to the Special Branch, they were not in charge of intelligence, and they acted under the direction of the senior Special Branch officer to whom they were attached. Their role was limited to passing on operational intelligence obtained by the Special Branch to the army in a form that the army could readily understand. The reader should therefore bear this important qualification in mind in reading Colonel Nagl's otherwise commendable contribution to counterinsurgency warfare.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2006
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife is a well written book by an author who has a good deal of experience in field on which he writes. The book itself sometimes reads as you might expect a university thesis to. To some this might seem distracting, but actually accentuates the amount of excellent research carried out by John Nagl. It is, in fact, a very readable book which those who read it will find intellectually stimulating as well as interesting. For those in the armed forces whose jobs relate to counter-insurgency this book is well worth the time spent reading it.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2008
I was lucky enough to meet Col Nagle earlier in the year and following on from conversations i had with him i was keen to read this work.
This is an imformative and intuitive look at the subject drawing lessons from both campaigns but moreover takingextensive extracts from numerous other litterary publications on the subject.
As a compendium of reference material, "Learning to eat soup with a knife" offers clear direction to the reader on further reading and asscociated text. I would reccomend his work to anyone studdying counter insurgency principals, or to any British reader who wants to hear an American expert wax lyrical about how our armed forces are historically better than his own in these environments.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2008
John Nagl's book is simply a must for those heading to the sand pit and includes a great deal of insights into the workings of the British and American army's.
John Nagl incliudes his own aspect of Argyris and Schon's double loop learning system based on Ashby's previous work and fits the learning cycle into the military system in order to discover what is a successful learning organisation.
It is interesting to review the American surge with the failure of Britain's army to secure Basra after reading this book and learning more about organisational learning.
Importantly, it is also easy and interesting to read!!