John Nagl: Another academic star leaving the military

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It is not often that the announcement of a lieutenant colonel's retiring makes it into the pages of The Washington Post. But then again, it is not often that an Army officer is the subject of a lengthy New York Times Magazine profile or the author of an acclaimed history, Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya and Vietnam (University of Chicago Press, 2005), to say nothing of a contributor to the widely discussed The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (Chicago, 2007) — the finer points of which he has explained on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, the Charlie Rose show, and National Public Radio.

Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, age 41, who holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Oxford, is a high-profile member of a cadre of so-called warrior-scholars gathered around Gen. David H. Petraeus, who himself holds a doctorate from Princeton University in international relations. Petraeus, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, has long advocated that the military repair ties to academe rendered asunder by the Vietnam War. Charged with drafting a new doctrine on counterinsurgency operations, Petraeus sought the specialized knowledge, fresh thinking, and cultural sensitivity of journalists, human-rights activists, scholars, and members of the armed forces like Nagl.

Nagl will join the Center for a New American Security, a foreign-policy think tank in Washington. Although he cited family reasons for his retirement, his sudden departure sparked a wave of hand-wringing as commentators questioned the military's ability to retain its most capable and intellectually adventurous officers.

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