I’ve followed the ongoing debates around the Counterinsurgency [COIN] theory of warfare for quite some time, especially during my ramp up to spend 15 months in Baghdad during the much vaunted ‘Surge’. Folks like Gentile, Metz, McMasters and Nagl would take to the wonkish forums like Small Wars Journal and the Center for Defense Studies to defend their strategy of taming asymmetric warfare in the 21st century. The discussions waxed and waned over topics like understanding indigenuous cultural values and the efficacy of armor and artillery in a COIN environment. These men are not superstars outside of their arena, as the media has not given due diligence to the architects of strategies that have influenced national policy and news cycles….though one name had stood out the brightest and for the longest. LTC John Nagl [Ret] wrote Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, which was published in 2002, and soon became the rising star of a cadre nicknamed the COINdinistas.
COIN soon became the new currency of strategic success, coming at a time when our outlook for obtainable metrics in Iraq was rapidly diminishing. But as many have noted, COIN is not a band aid for bad national policy, nor poor planning.
Nagl is leaving the world of strategic studies and the Center for a New American Security, but the debate still rages on.
Learning to Eat Soup with a Spoon
The American Conservative
Cogent commentary on the TAC article
Small Wars Journal