|Born||1966 (age 47–48)
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1984–2008|
|Unit||1st Cavalry Division
1st Armored Division
24th Infantry Division
34th Armor Regiment
|Commands held||1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment|
|Battles/wars||Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
|Awards||Bronze Star Medal|
John A. Nagl (born 1966) is a retired Lieutenant colonel in the United States Army who is an influential expert in counterinsurgency. He is former president of the Center for a New American Security and current headmaster of The Haverford School. He is the author of two books based on his military career and thinking, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (2002) and Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice (2014).
Education and military career
Nagl was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, where he graduated from Creighton Preparatory School in 1984. He then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he studied international relations and graduated near the top of his class in 1988. As a newly commissioned 2LT, he was chosen as a Rhodes Scholar and studied international relations at St John's College, Oxford, earning his MPhil in 1990.
Entering the Armor Branch of the US Army, Nagl led a tank platoon in the 1st Cavalry Division during the Gulf War. After returning from the Middle East, he commanded A Troop of the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment in the 1st Armored Division in Büdingen, Germany and served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans for the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Nagl later returned to Oxford to earn his DPhil at St Antony's College in 1997. At Oxford, his focus was on counterinsurgency. Nagl's doctoral dissertation was a comparative study of the British and American militaries as they dealt with insurgencies in Malaya and Vietnam, respectively. While at Oxford, he wrote several book reviews in a variety of military journals, focusing initially on the history of armoured warfare, and later on the Vietnam War and guerilla warfare.
He was appointed as a social sciences professor at West Point in 1997. While teaching at West Point, he was affiliated with the Strategic Studies Institute at the United States Army War College  for which he co-authored a book on military professionalism in 1999. He later received the George C. Marshall Award for being the top graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College in 2001. A revised version of his dissertation was published in 2002 as Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, titled after an observation made by T. E. Lawrence about the challenges of fighting guerilla forces. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 as the operations officer of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division stationed near Khaldiya. While in Iraq, he was profiled in the New York Times Magazine in January 2004.
After returning from Iraq, he served as military assistant to Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Wolfowitz's successor, Gordon England, until 2006. While he was military assistant to Wolfowitz and England, Nagl co-authored the new United States Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency field manual as part of a team overseen by Generals David Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and James N. Mattis, the former commander of United States Central Command.
Anthropologist David Price has claimed, in CounterPunch, a monthly magazine published in the United States, that the counterinsurgency field manual co-authored by Nagl is in places remarkably similar to earlier texts. CounterPunch covers politics in a manner its editors describe as "muckraking with a radical attitude". Other sources have described the magazine as left-wing; many of its contributors could be characterized as generally having left-wing views.
Nagl took command of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment in 2006 to help train MiTT teams, which are small groups of American soldiers tasked to develop the Afghan National Army and Iraqi security forces.
Nagl retired from the Army and became a fellow in 2008 at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington D.C.. Many commentators, including CNAS fellow Andrew Exum and retired Marine Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, lamented his retirement because they saw it as a significant loss for the Army. There was some speculation that Nagl retired because he had been passed over for promotion or otherwise sidelined by the military, as happened to H.R. McMaster, because of his advocacy of counterinsurgency, which had fallen out of favour with senior commanders by 2008. However, Exum confirmed on his Abu Muqawama blog that Nagl was not eligible for promotion to Colonel in 2008 and argued that Nagl could have greater influence on defense policy outside the military, particularly if he were given an opportunity to serve in the Department of Defense by a future administration.
After CNAS's founders, Kurt M. Campbell and Michèle Flournoy, left CNAS to serve in the Obama administration, Nagl was named CNAS's president in February 2009 and served until January 2012. Nagl remains a non-resident senior fellow of CNAS. While at CNAS, he co-authored several reports on a wide range of issues, including counterinsurgency, Islamist extremism  and the future of the American military. While he was still in the Army, Nagl wrote a report in 2007 for CNAS which advocates for the creation of a permanent Army advisory corps,  a proposal that he argued for in an op-ed in the New York Times.  His proposal for an advisory corps was favorably cited by American historian Max Boot in a New York Times op-ed about ways to modernize the State Department and the American military.
In January 2011, he and CNAS chief executive officer Nathaniel Fick wrote an op-ed in the New York Times supporting the Obama administration's troop surge and reporting on its early successes.  In April 2011, he wrote favorably about President Obama decision to name Leon Panetta, then director of the CIA, as Secretary of Defense, and General David Patraeus, then commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, with whom Nagl had worked on the new Army/Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual, as director of the CIA, noting the increasingly intertwined nature of the relationship between the intelligence and defense establishments in the United States.
Nagl serves on the Defense Policy Board, which advises the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. He is also a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  He taught in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University in 2009 and is a visiting professor in the war studies department at King's College London. In January 2012, he was named the inaugural Minerva Chair at the US Naval Academy, where he joined the history department at the Naval Academy and conducted research on the relationship between culture and warfare. He taught a course on the history of counterinsurgency to midshipmen at the Naval Academy.
Already notable in military circles, his public profile was further raised with an interview on Comedy Central's The Daily Show on August 2007. He was also interviewed with fellow counterinsurgency experts Lewis Sorley and Conrad Crane on the Charlie Rose show about the similarities between counterinsurgency during the Iraq and Vietnam Wars in March 2006.
Nagl is the eldest of six children and was raised in a Roman Catholic household.  He is married to Susanne. They have one son, Jack, who will attend The Haverford School when his father begins his term as headmaster in 2013. They currently live in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
- Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (2002) ISBN 0-275-97695-5 / paperback (2005) ISBN 0-226-56770-2. With a new preface by the author for the paperback edition.
- Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice (2014) ISBN 1594204985
- The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (2007) ISBN 0-226-84151-0 / FM 3-24. Foreword by Nagl to the University of Chicago Press edition.
- Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during World War II (2007) ISBN 0-226-84170-7
- The New Counterinsurgency Era (2009) ISBN 978-1-58901-488-6
- Cohen, A. A. Galula: The Life and Writings of the French Officer who Defined the Art of Counterinsurgency. Foreword by John A. Nagl. Praeger, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4408-0049-8.
- Peter Maass (2004-01-11). "Professor Nagl's War". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
- Nagl, John A.; Yingling, Paul L. (2006). "The FA in the Long War: A New Mission in COIN". Field Artillery: 33–36. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
- Nagl, John A. (1997). "Men, Ideas, and Tanks: British Military Thought and Armoured Forces, 1903-1939". Armor 106 (3): 52–53.
- Nagl, John A. (1997). "Guerrilla Warfare: A Historical, Biographical, and Bibliographical Sourcebook". Military Review 77 (6): 76–77.
- Price, David "Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Manual", CounterPunch, October 30, 2007. 
- "We've got all the right enemies". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
- Ralph Blumenthal (May 12, 2006). "Army Acts to Curb Abuses of Injured Recruits". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
- "The Devil You Know". new Republic.
- "Olbermann, Assange, and the Holocaust Denier When you want to believe, you'll believe anything.". Reason.
- Olmsted, Andrew. "From the Front Lines" RockyMountainNews.com Accessed September 4, 2007. 
- Ricks, Thomas E. (16 January 2008). "High-Profile Officer Nagl to Leave Army, Join Think Tank". The Washington Post.
- Time. 16 January 2008 http://swampland.time.com/2008/01/16/the_armys_brain_drain/
|url=missing title (help).
- Nagl, John A. (2 April 2008). "A Battalion's Worth of Good Ideas". The New York Times.
- Fick, Nathaniel; Nagl, John (20 February 2011). "The ‘Long War' May Be Getting Shorter". The New York Times.
- "Blurring the Lines Between Soldiers and Spies?". The New York Times. 28 April 2011.
- Maass, Peter (11 January 2004). "Professor Nagl's War". The New York Times.
- Center for a New American Security biography
- Interview on Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library on July 14, 2007