Saturday, April 07, 2007


So I was reading the Desch article, "Planning War in Peacetime," and a quote caught my eye.

As Sir Basil Liddell Hart has noted, "The statesman may continue to send telegrams, but they are merely waste paper. The military machine has completely taken charge."(1)
It's an interesting thing to say; and I admit ignorance of Sir Basil. Interpreting the quote requires a little context: was he a cabinet minister, writing a despairing letter on 30 July 1914? A 1970s paranoid critic of the military-industrial complex? Dunno. So I tried to check the footnote, expecting that it would provide the context, or at least a sense of when Hart wrote (or spoke) those words.

Instead, Desch cites another author's 1986
International Studies Quarterly article.

So I looked up the article on JSTOR; a handy tool to have. In that article, Jack Levy uses a similar, but not identical, quote -- and provides a citation to a 1970 book,
Origins of the First World War, by L. C. F. Turner. Again, no indication of when, or in what context, Sir Basil Liddell Hart used those (or similar) words.

Strictly speaking, those citations only show that Levy and Turner attribute that quote to Hart; they have not yet cited Hart's use of those words.

It's sloppy, lazy work; it is at best uninformative, and at worst deceptive, to provide such weak citations. In a better edited journal, that would have been cleaned up. In a non-academic field, an author could face serious repurcussions for citations that don't actually stand for the principle for which they are cited. It's called "contempt of court," and it can get a lawyer suspended from practice.

Sir Basil Liddell Hart, for the record, served -- and was gassed -- in World War I; he was 18 in August of 1914. He was a military historian, and he died in 1970.

Googling the two variants of the quote returns only the Desch and Levy articles.

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