In follow-up stories, David Weigel notes the sadness this will cause in Democratic Party circles, while Martin and Nick Corasaniti note the sadness this news is generating at the War College. But I’d like to focus on something that both Weigel and Josh Barro brought up on Twitter Wednesday:
Can’t get over how the plagiarized essay was FOURTEEN PAGES LONG. Who can’t fill 14 pages? — daveweigel (@daveweigel) July 23, 2014
It’s worse than that, actually. Having read Walsh’s
thesis final paper, it’s not just that it’s only 14 pages of text; it’s that even if you ignore the plagiarism, it’s a pretty bad 14 pages. The thesis paper is ostensibly about whether the United States should prioritize democracy promotion in U.S. grand strategy. If I was supervising this thesis final paper — and I’ve supervised a fair number for my day job — then this is what I’d have e-mailed Walsh if he’d handed this in to me:
John, this is an intriguing topic, and you’ve got the bare bones of an interesting
thesisfinal paper topic here, but you’re going to need to do a lot more work before handing in the final draft. Your definition of democracy is incomplete, without any discussion of whether it’s democracies or liberal democracies that matter. The literature review is thin and out of date. You do not mention the most damning pushback in the literature against your thesis, which is Ed Mansfield and Jack Snyder’s argument that democratizing states are the most war-prone, and therefore that a push for democratization would destabilize a vital strategic area for the United States. If Mansfield and Snyder are correct, then won’t your strategy create significant short-to-medium term costs? And if that’s the case, how sustainable is this strategy? Most important, however, your empirics are very thin. You need more data, or more cases, where the U.S. has pushed for democratization to examine the pros and cons. As it stands, your conclusions are untethered from the rest of this draft. For your next draft, I’ll want to see a much fuller discussion of the literature, at least one of two cases to highlight the ways in which this strategy could harm or help the United States, and a much tighter linkage between your arguments and your policy recommendations.
Even if I didn’t detect the plagiarism, there is no way this passes muster for a
M.A. thesis final paper. No. Way. So here’s my question to the Army War College, an institution that I have heretofore admired greatly — how in the hell did this piece of s**t result in the awarding of an M.A. degree?
CORRECTION: My previous version of this story incorrectly called Walsh’s work a “thesis.” It was an independent study paper that was Walsh’s final requirement for receiving the M.A. degree, not a thesis. I apologize for the mistake.