About the Headmaster

Dr. John Nagl is the Ninth Headmaster of The Haverford School. Prior to assuming responsibility for the School in July 2013, he was the inaugural Minerva Research Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. Dr. Nagl was previously the President of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., and remains on the CNAS Board of Advisors. He is also a Senior Fellow and member of the Board of Advisors at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
In addition to teaching at Annapolis, Dr. Nagl taught national security studies at West Point’s Department of Social Sciences, earning the Earnest Bevin Fellowship, and in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. He earned his Master of the Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he received the George C. Marshall Award as the top graduate, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He was selected as the Alumnus of the Year of Creighton Preparatory High School in Omaha, Nebraska in 2012. 
Dr. Nagl is a member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a Visiting Professor in the War Studies Department at Kings College of London, and a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and of the Council on Foreign Relations, which selected him as an International Affairs Fellow. Dr. Nagl has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to serve on the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel (the Hadley/Perry Commission). 
Dr. Nagl was a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Military Academy Class of 1988 who served as an armor officer in the Army for 20 years. He led a tank platoon in Operation Desert Storm, earning a Bronze Star medal, and served as the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning the Combat Action Badge and another Bronze Star. He later served as a Military Assistant to two Deputy Secretaries of Defense. His last military assignment was as commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor at Fort Riley, Kansas training transition Teams that embedded with Iraqi and Afghan units.
Dr. Nagl is the author of Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice, published by Penguin Press in October 2014, and of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. He was on the writing team that produced the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. He has also been published in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalForeign PolicyMilitary ReviewJoint Force QuarterlyArmed Forces Journal, and Democracy. Dr. Nagl was profiled in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times Magazine and has appeared on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, National Public Radio, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Dr. Nagl is the proud father of Jack, who attends The Haverford School. He is also responsible for Maggie the black lab and Sparky the Jack Russell terrier, who sadly do not meet The School’s rigorous standards for academic achievement and discipline.

News, articles, and media featuring Ninth Headmaster John Nagl

  • Counterinsurgency Expert John Nagl, On the Parallels of Business and War

    December 8, 2014

    Forbes.com contributor David J. Parnell explores Headmaster John Nagl’s thoughts on the parallels and contrasts between the theaters of business and war, seeking functional lessons that transcend boundaries. Read >

  • The President Needs a Secretary of War

    November 30, 2014

    In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Headmaster John Nagl offers, "Chuck Hagel is a good man ... For all his accomplishments, however, Hagel was not a success as the first former enlisted man to lead the Defense Department. The problem was not so much who Hagel was as who he wasn’t." Read >

  • Headmaster John Nagl named as 2015 Nimitz Lecturer at UC Berkeley NROTC

    November 19, 2014

    The Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Memorial Lectureship annually brings to the University of California at Berkeley a distinguished scholar, professional military person or government official for a series of lectures on specific national security subjects. Each lecturer is hand picked by the Midshipmen and Cadets of the University of California, Berkeley ROTC Program. More >

  • VIDEO: Headmaster John Nagl's book launch of "Knife Fights"

    November 18, 2014

    In this video of his book launch at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 16, Headmaster John Nagl talks about the development and effectiveness of the counterinsurgency strategy that the U.S. used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Watch >

  • New York Times Book Review: 'Knife Fights,' by John A. Nagl

    November 13, 2014

    The New Yorker Staff Writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dexter Filkins reviewed Headmaster John Nagl's book, Knife Fights, for the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Read >

  • May the 3rd Battle of Fallujah be the last

    By John Nagl
    November 11, 2014

    As the nation honors all of those who have fought in its wars this week, the veterans of Fallujah deserve a special place in our memory. Read >

  • Middle East crisis topic of "In the Arena" talk with Headmaster John Nagl and alum Al Hunt Jr. ’60

    October 29, 2014

    Headmaster John Nagl and renowned journalist Al Hunt Jr. ’60 explored the evolution and consequences of military action in the Middle East over the past 25 years during “In the Arena: The Middle East in Flames” on Oct. 21. Read about, listen, and watch the event. More >

  • Beating ISIS will require U.S. ground troops in Iraq

    October 22, 2014

    Headmaster John Nagl made front page headlines on Yahoo!News on Oct. 22, discussing lessons that the U.S. military has learned through the wars of the 21st Century and its strategy to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. More >

  • Get Ready for Iraq War IV

    October 21, 2014

    "The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out," says Headmaster John Nagl, who writes about why the U.S. seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. Read >

  • ISIS Threat Is 'Extremely Worrying' Says Counter-Insurgency Expert

    October 19, 2014

    A decade after the U.S. took control of Fallujah, America is at war again. NPR's Rachel Martin talks with former Lt. Col. John Nagl, whose counter-insurgency manual helped shape U.S. strategy in Iraq. Listen >

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John A. Nagl, D.Phil. P'20


  • B.S., United States Military Academy
  • M.Phil., St. John's College, Oxford University
  • D.Phil., St. Antony's College, Oxford University
  • M.M.A.S., United States Army Command and General Staff College

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