International and cultural sensitivity regarding what constitutes plagiarism and how seriously it should be viewed varies a great deal. Army War College degree on the merits of a heavily plagiarized document, his degree was rescinded and he was forced to abandon his re-election bid amid widespread controversy.
In Colombia, for example, an author’s “moral rights” to his/her intellectual work command legal standing. Cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic malfeasance are well documented, widely decried, and increasingly rampant across virtually every intellectual landscape and professional activity. Instances of plagiarism surface even among the most elite cadres of impressively accomplished military professionals preparing to assume the highest levels of national leadership.
In one controversial case, the Colombian Supreme Court sentenced Professor Luz Mary Giraldo, an established literary critic, to a 2-year prison term for plagiarizing portions of her student’s thesis in a brief article published in a Mexican literary journal. Because integrity is fundamental to a professional military ethic, plagiarism within SSCs is especially difficult to reconcile.
In Germany, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a popular, promising, and highly effective member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet, was pressured to resign as defense minister in 2011 after it became known that he had plagiarized portions of his 2007 doctoral dissertation. Senior officers and their civilian counterparts are mature, experienced, well educated, hardworking, and by most counts amply compensated.
Stockton Advanced professional military education (PME) affords senior officers the opportunity to acquire solid intellectual footing and enter the strategic dialogue following over 20 years of progressively more responsible leadership.
Some, however, fail to grasp the importance of the mission and fulfill it.
Throughout the military, “officers headed for high rank need to be challenged intellectually and to sharpen their skills in critical, precise, rigorous, and imaginative thinking and writing.” At the highest levels, the tasks shift from artfully executing campaigns and missions crafted by others to identifying strategic challenges, rendering assessments, and advocating well-reasoned options to the most senior military and civilian leadership.
Effective execution requires development of critical thinking and writing skills well beyond the norm in military culture.
But at an SSC, even the plagiarists are accomplished, well-seasoned military professionals, many of whom have held command over thousands, rendered decisions impacting human life, assumed responsibility for multimillion-dollar equipment, and generally devoted their careers to the service of the Nation.
What accounts for plagiarism among a select population of respected warriors-scholars?