Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice

Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice

From one of the most important Army officers of his generation, a memoir of the military’s revolution in counterinsurgency warfare

Delivering a profound education in modern warfare, John Nagl’s Knife Fights is essential reading for anyone who cares about the fate of America’s soldiers and the purposes for which their lives are put at risk.

As an army tank commander in the first Gulf War, Nagl was an early convert to the view that America’s greatest future threats would come from asymmetric warfare—guerrillas, terrorists, and insurgents. His Oxford thesis on the lessons of Vietnam—eventually published as a book called Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife—became the bible of the counterinsurgency movement. But it would take 9/11 and the botched aftermath of the Iraq invasion to give his ideas contemporary relevance. After a year’s hard fighting in Iraq’s Anbar Province, where Nagl served as operations officer of a tank battalion in the 1st Infantry Division, he was asked by General David Petraeus to coauthor the new Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency field manual—rewriting core doctrine that would change the course of two wars and the thinking of an army. Knife Fights is the definitive account of counterinsurgency and its consequences by the man who was the doctrine’s leading architect.