Our good friends at Small Wars Journal have provided another forum for discussion of David Price’s article on plagiarism and Field Manual 3-24, aka the Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Lt. Col. John Nagl, one of the manual’s authors, has published a piece at SWJ directly responding to Price. Here is a quote (but inquiring Minds should read the whole thing):
The writing team had a lot of ground to cover. Counterinsurgency has been well described as “the graduate level of war”; success in counterinsurgency campaigns requires extraordinary political acumen, a real feel for the nature of the society in which the war is being waged, and an understanding of the political economy in the country and its neighbors, among dozens of other demanding requirements. Hence the need for a field manual writing team that could, and did, draw upon the best scholarship available. Remarkably, the team turned a draft of the manual in just two months—a process that often takes years. The draft manual was vetted at a conference Petraeus hosted at Fort Leavenworth in February 2006 that included journalists, human rights organizations, and military officers; at its conclusion, James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly commented that he had never seen a more open exchange of ideas in any institution, and that the nation would be the better for more such exchanges…
Critical to those successes has been a better understanding of the peoples of Iraq, an understanding that is a direct result of the influence of some of the people who contributed to the Field Manual. In particular, Dr. David Kilcullen, who recently served as General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency adviser, played a key role in building bridges with the Sunni tribes who have recently turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Dr. Montgomery McFate, who also contributed to the manual, is working to further the use of anthropological knowledge in our counterinsurgency campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan to save more lives and build better societies.
Nagl argues that plagiarism is an inappropriate accusation because the genre conventions of the manual are different than those of an academic treatise, echoing discussion in CKelty’s post here at SM. Both Harper’s and Danger Room have picked up on Nagl’s response. Additionally, SWJ has published a response by US Army spokesman Tom McCuin. The Harper’s article looks at the comments at SWJ, and highlights one by Lt. Col. Gian Gentile:
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?
While we could think of the charge of plagiarism as simply a ‘gotcha’ tactic, we might also think of it in terms of a larger attempt to assess the quality of the social science being offered to, conducted for, and used by the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nagl suggests that Kilcullen, McFate, and other military social scientists offer “broader and deeper understanding of other societies.” Listening to McFate on the radio and reading her comments in newspapers, looking at the writing and production of the FM 3-24, and reading the blog of Marcus Griffin, we are offered only bits and pieces of what comprises this ‘broader and deeper understanding.’ I personally was thinking of Shweder’s comment about Emily Post, as well as McFate’s comments about ‘man-boy love,’ after reading Nagl’s evocation of deeper understanding.