Washington Babylon — November 2, 2007, 10:14 am

A Surge in Plagiarism?

Remember the hoopla surrounding the publication late last year of The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual? In one of a wave of favorable reviews, the Chicago Tribune called the book—which General David Petraeus played a notable role in producing—“the single most important document one can read to make sense out of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The COIN, as the manual was known, was talked up everywhere from the New York Times to The Daily Show.

But Saint Martin’s University Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology David Price, writing in CounterPunch, has claimed that key portions of the manual were plagiarized. Price says that sources for “the Manual’s pilfered passages range from the British sociologist Anthony Giddens’ introductory level sociology textbook to the writings of American symbolic anthropologist (and World War Two conscientious objector) Victor Turner, to an online study guide for an MIT anthropology course, to Fred Plog and Daniel Bates’ anthropology textbook Cultural Anthropology, to the writings of Max Weber.” The overall impact, Price says, “”is devastating to the Manual’s academic integrity.”

As Danger Room reports, “one of the manual’s authors, Lt. Col. John Nagl, is hitting back.” In Small Wars Journal, Nagl writes, “To paraphrase von Clausewitz, military Field Manuals have their own grammar and their own logic. They are not doctoral dissertations, designed to be read by few and judged largely for the quality of their sourcing; instead, they are intended for use by soldiers. Thus authors are not named, and those whose scholarship informs the manual are only credited if they are quoted extensively. This is not the academic way, but soldiers are not academics; it is my understanding that this longstanding practice in doctrine writing is well within the provisions of “fair use” copyright law.”

Not everyone finds this explanation convincing. Gian Gentile, whose bio for several 2007 Washington Post op-eds describes him as “a lieutenant colonel in the 4th Infantry Division [who] operated in west Baghdad last year,” replied to Nagl in a comment at the Small Wars site:

Agree that the Price piece is strident and very angry in tone . . . [However] I am looking for an explanation for the reason so many passages from the manual were pulled directly from other sources (as the Price piece demonstrates) but were not set off in quotations in the manual. I mean heck on page 1–4 of the manual the publishers did find it in their means to use quotation marks to quote directly from TE Lawrence; So why not these other passages?

For his part, Price sent me a soon-to-be-published reply to Nagl. It states:

Lt. Col. Nagl wants to have his cake and eat it too. He was the Manual’s public spokesman on the well-oiled media circuit where he claimed that the new Manual was the product of high scholarship in service of state; yet when it becomes apparent that somewhere along the line the most basic of scholarly practices was not practiced, he now pretends that these rules do not apply in this context. He has to choose what he wants: doctrine or scholarship.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Seductive Catastrophe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The world’s leaders were moved by a populace fused into a forward phalanx, were shaken by a tidal wave of militancy jubilantly united.”
Photograph courtesy Mary Evans Picture Library
Article
What the Camera Saw·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“They shot him behind the left ear, and he fell.”
Post
The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“From the nerd squabbles of Internet discussion threads rose an urban legend that culminated in a film that hinges on digging through my town’s trash.”
Illustration (detail) by Timothy Taranto
Article
Me, Myself, and Id·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The one defining trait of the narcissist is that it’s always someone else.
Painting (detail) by Gianni Dagli Orti
Post
The Many Faces of Boko·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“People want education. Open a school and they will rush.”
Photograph © The author

Rolls of toilet paper Chicago’s city government has produced this year from recycled City Hall wastepaper:

19,000

Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.

Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today