[Defense and the National Interest was blogging on 4GW and counterinsurgency doctrine long before it was popular in the military. A key issue is whether or not soldiering and humanitarian work should be kept separate. -jlt]
|It's a pretty safe bet that the strategy Nagl promotes, whether it is called neocolonialism or counterinsurgency, will be applied in various regions over the next several years, with the incoming president's oversight.|
John Nagl's memories of Vietnam are vague, at best. He was, after all, only two years old during the 1968 Tet offensive and was in grade school in Omaha, Nebraska, during the fall of Saigon. It is perhaps for this reason that Nagl, a former tank commander turned military strategist, does not see Vietnam as a symbol of dishonor, the way older military officers do. Rather, the Vietnam War is a subject to be studied: Nagl's acclaimed book, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, explores lessons from the American experience in fighting an insurgency in Vietnam. He's been one of the foremost proponents of applying those same techniques in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Vietnam War, he writes, shows the importance of understanding tribal loyalties, working to improve the lives of civilians, and training local forces. Many of these lessons were forgotten in the decades following Vietnam. Nagl believes this is an oversight, and he has worked harder than almost anyone to bring these fundamental tenets of counterinsurgency into the military mainstream. Indeed, he has helped turn things around so dramatically that now counterinsurgency not only is seen as a legitimate and honorable pursuit but has become the guiding doctrine of the U.S. military.
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