Small Wars Journal

Ivory Tower? Or Glass?

Regular readers here are aware that

href="">Dr. David Price

is an ardent critic of the "pilfered scholarship" behind


3-24, COIN

.  There are many nuances to that discourse, and I don't

doubt that I am about to bludgeon them into one dimension.  But a core issue Dr.

Price consistently raises is that of attribution.  Or more accurately, non-attribution. 

Non-attribution seems to be the big proton-like nucleus issue around which the electron

issues of plagiarism, shoddiness, informed consent, ethics, dim-wittedness,

speed-to-press, and pesky utility to the warfighter seem to spiral in infinite relativistic


The COIN authors' counter to the


article, et al, has fairly consistently been that it is a manual,

not an academic work.  Not so fast....

Small Wars Journal has found a



of part of the manual.  And darn if it doesn't look like some

legitimate academic rigor went into the whole thing from the beginning.

SWJED professed


of his experience with editors when working on the Urban GIRH.  Many others know

the drill.  It appears that more of the same may have occurred here with FM

3-24 -- an editorial decision to go light on the footnotes, not an absence of intellectual

rigor, and certainly not an intent to pilfer.  At least not in this stage of

the development effort.  I'll also observe, at risk of not only drinking the

Kool-Aid but of spilling some on my shirt, that I am surprised, in a heartening

way, that there has been a bare minimum of finger-pointing from the authors at

the editors.  They knew the scholarship was solid.  They knew the almighty footnotes

were in there.  And they knew that to tens of thousands of operators, it didn't

matter.  So they didn't pass the buck. They've stood behind the strength of their

work and accepted the editorial decisions, despite whatever individual

opinions they may have.

All along this has been a clash of cultures -- that of the

ivory tower, with that of the operator or manual / doctrine writer.  Dr. Price

has a point, within his domain.  Ironically for an anthropologist, he fails to

see and appreciate the limits of the application of his domain.  Even more

unexpectedly, his own published scholarship now seems to fall short of his own standards.  It is one thing to criticize FM 3-24's

failure to live up to a set of ivory tower academic standards that may or may

not apply, U of Chicago reprint notwithstanding.  It is quite another to throw

stones from a glass house.

Witness, first case in point, Dr. Price's quote from his first

Counterpoint article.  He quotes section 3-20, Society as:

sociologists define society as a

population living in the same geographic area that shares a culture and a

common identity and whose members are subject to the same political authority


fact, section 3-20 in the published version is:

A society can be defined as a

population whose members are subject to the same political authority,

occupy a common territory, have a common culture,and share a sense of identity. A society is not easily created or destroyed, but it is possible to do so

through genocide or war.

Second, in the same article, he states "I have such high respect for Jon Nagl's

academic work and sense of propriety..."  Perhaps not so much that he

will spell John's name correctly, or recognize service-specific norms for rank

abbreviation (e.g. LTC vs. Lt. Col. or LtCol).  Nit-picky, sure!    But given

the name-spelling spat as one element of his strident critiques published


in SWJ Magazine

volume 8 on another piece, we no longer know where the bar lies.  Certainly

below our radar screen for substance. But if he's going to make

this his crusade, at least he could start criticizing the published version

instead of some exposure draft, and living by his little sword.

So onward we go.  FM 3-24 isn't perfect.  And we don't

have HTTs down to a science yet.  But the broken eggs are the price to pay for

the bit of cake we have and desperately need.  Let's get on with the icing, a

better cake, and applying anthropology and other disciplines in practice in our

cultural steps and mis-steps.  Not with trying to put humpty dumpty's footnotes

back together again.

For the record, Dr. Price was very cordial in offering us

publication of his latest

response.  Given its nature as a direct rebuttal to LTC Nagl, we offered

publication via our blog comments and/or discussion board thread on the topic,

with appropriate editorial highlighting and links to set it out from the fray. 

Dr. Price opted instead to pursue other venues.

- Bill


See also:

Dr. David Price's original

href="">Counterpunch article



Response to Counterpunch

- Small

Wars Journal


People with Limited Skills - LTC Nagl, Small Wars Journal

A response to the response(s) -- David Price's

href="">reply in Counterpunch


Published 3 Nov.


3-24 Chapter... Now With Footnotes! - Abu Muqawama

Disregard Academic Critiques of the New COIN Manual - Thomas P.M. Barnett

COIN Manual Plagiarized? - Outside the Beltway

Anthropology Ass'n Blasts Army's "Human Terrain" - Danger Room (Wired)


FM 3-24 Plagiarism "Scandal"

-- Abu Muqawama


on 3-24 and the Vanguard of Revolution

-- Abu Muqawama


3-24 "Scandal": Nagl Responds

-- Abu Muqawama


Author Hits Back on "Plagiarism"

- Danger Room (Wired)


Surge in Plagiarism? - Harpers


How to Make a Molehill out of a Mountain - Open Anthropology


Responds to Price

- Savage Minds


and a True Culture War

- Discuss at Small Wars Council


People with Limited Skills"

- Discuss at Small Wars Council


Abu Suleyman

Wed, 11/07/2007 - 4:10pm

While I believe that there are other issues in play here, I have to agree with Dr. Price. LTC Nagl and his associates should know better than to not cite their references when possible. That is an insult, and it is plagiarism. This was an opportunity to show that academic rigor applies in the military, and perhaps even engage in a thoughtful dialog, and it was missed.

In the end, a little citation never hurt anyone.

Small Wars Journal (not verified)

Wed, 11/07/2007 - 1:00pm

Received from Dr. Price. Posted as he requests in the text:

Dear Bill,

Thanks for sending this along. I'd appreciate it if you'd add this as a comment below your piece.

Touché on the dropped "h" in John, guilty as charged, though this is certainly far different than republishing the works of other without attribution.

I'm happy enough to be moving on to other things, but there remains one obvious issue that isn't addressed in your piece.

The point I keep making is that I am not holding the manual external standards, I am holding the manual to its own standards. You and Lt. Col. Nagl claim that the use of un-attributed passages written by others is acceptable when writing military doctrine. Given my ongoing research into the military's past record of lifting anthropological work for their own uses and the ongoing assurances by military personnel that the mistakes of the past have been corrected, I am disturbed to find this view stated so bluntly in the present. But even more significantly, if you RTFM (Read the Field Manual) you see that this view is unambiguously contradicted by the manual itself, which says in the preface:

"This publication contains copyrighted material. Copyrighted material is identified with footnotes. Other sources are identified in the source notes." (University of Chicago Press edition, preface page xlviii, paragraph 3, this same quote appears on page vii of the PDF version of the manual as released on December 15, 2006).

This statement contradicts the arguments by you, Nagl, McFate and other military aligned scholars claiming that doctrine does not have footnotes.

According to doctrine's preface: doctrine has footnotes.

Regards, David

Pauly (not verified)

Wed, 11/07/2007 - 3:54am

Sorry for sounding flippant, but Dr Price's arguments sound a lot like "You must only use your sholarly super powers for good (NGOs), not evil (Military)"