In This Review

Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice
Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice
By John A. Nagl
The Penguin Press HC, 2014, 288 pp

T. E. Lawrence famously described guerrilla warfare as akin to “eating soup with a knife.” Nagl, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, chose that expression as the title for an earlier book on how armies conduct counterinsurgency; the title of this memoir alludes to it as well. In 2004, as an operations officer in a tank battalion in Iraq, Nagl witnessed U.S. forces commit critical errors. Later, he became familiar in defense and media circles as a scholar-soldier -- a leading light among the “COINdinistas,” the group of academics and officers associated with U.S. General David Petraeus, who pushed hard for and then implemented a new approach to counterinsurgency, or COIN, in Iraq. This engaging book exhibits droll humor and a sharp grasp of the limits and possibilities of the U.S. Army as a learning organization.