Critique Memo

Critiquing an Analysis 

Defense leaders make important decisions every day. Normally, these decisions are framed and guided by some sort of study, report, or decision briefing, which uses some type of analysis. Identifying and critiquing the underpinning of prepared reports is an important and necessary skill for any decision maker in the Department of Defense (and their staffs).

The purpose of the weekly assignments is to improve your ability to critique selected
defense reports, studies and briefings. They will help us to help you to quickly grasp the analytical foundation of any work, evaluate it, and to offer your views on it-· the key steps in critical thinking about defense analyses.

Because any defense leader-or any leader, for that matter-has limited time to spend on individual issues, a good critique must be succinct and dispassionate. Thus, your critiques are limited to 500 words. Good critiques are lean, crisp and, above all, illuminating. Good critiques also stand on their own-not requiring the reader to be intimately familiar with the analysis.

The following will help you get started: 

After reading the work, and before you begin to write, try to fit the analysis into proper context. Keep in mind the setting in which a decision maker-the analysis’s and its
critique’s consumer-will view the work. 

Next, identify the key assumptions that underlie The work Identify them explicitly (sometimes the author will help you), and decide the degree to which you agree or disagree to which you agree or disagree substantially with any particular assumptions, note why. 

Identify alternative assumptions, if appropriate and possible. Pose at least one
competitor assumption (usually, one you’d prefer), and contrast its viability.
If the work is not current, make an issue of it only if new information has become available that refutes the work. (It is generally most appropriate to view the work from the time perspective when it was done.) 

If important facts are incorrect –especially if they influence the results of the analysis –
identify and correct them. If other evidence or facts were omitted, characterize and add
them. 

Finally, decide whether or the author’s conclusions flow from the works logic and evidence. If not jot down why not.

Additional notes about Larson article 

A logarithmic plot (one axis portrayed as growing exponentially) converts the casualty acceptance graph to a line of more-or-less constant slope in each conflict examined by Larson.  The comparison of slopes across conflicts is made easier when the portrayed graphical lines are linear.  The comparison of slopes then reveals the differentiated views about particular conflicts.
The variation in slopes is the essence of Larson’s hypothesis, and — since the lines are data(polling)-based — can be viewed as support for the hypothesis.

When a slope is other than flat, it indicates that individuals in the poll’s sample say ‘enough’ at different numbers of KIA.  The individuals ‘tip’ from saying they support the campaign to saying they don’t depending on thresholds that are different for the individuals sampled.  Even a small sample (such as the 17 students in a 2015 class of mine whose pink/Syria graph I passed around in class last night) shows this phenomenon.  
The resultant sloped line aggregates the differing views of the individuals sampled. 

1.  How much does the populace pay attention to US interventions/campaigns?

It varies by individual, just as does each individual’s tipping point (as KIA rises) differs for shifting from support to nonsupport. Since Larson’s draw on polls taken among samples of the populace whose attention varies means Larson is indifferent to attention paid, that means there is a deep Larson assumption lying beneath.  See if you can identify it.     

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