U.S. Army withdraws flawed and plagiarized manual about “cultural understanding”

After the manual was published last month, BuzzFeed News began asking anthropologists and military experts to review the 55-page document. They found it contained botched explanations — describing culture as a bewildering laundry list of everything from handshakes to religion — and that it was also rife with plagiarism.

“The money would be better spent on Lonely Planet guides,” cultural anthropologist Roberto Gonzalez of San Jose State University told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a relief to hear that the Army retracted the manual, but it does raise questions about how many more pieces of flawed or dangerous doctrine continue to exist.”

It’s good that the Army is at least thinking about other cultures in an era when U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, if not Iraq, is winding down, Ben Connable, a retired Marine intelligence officer with the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, told BuzzFeed News. But regardless of the intentions, the outcome was a disappointment, he added. “It is a bit of a jumbled mess that tries to incorporate too many disparate and sometimes conflicting ideas.”