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:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

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

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Standing Rock Speaks

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Damages sought, in a defamation suit, by a Chicago landlord from a tenant who complained about mold via Twitter:

$50,000

The British House of Lords voted to limit the right of parents to spank their children.

The Mall of America hired its first black Santa, a real estate company valued Mr. and Mrs. Claus’s North Pole home at $656,957, and it was reported that the price of the gifts from “Twelve Days of Christmas” went up by more than $200 in 2016, to $34,363.49.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today