Cover: The Concept of Military Worth

The Concept of Military Worth

Published 1948

by Abraham Kaplan


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The analysis of the concept of military worth (MW) has two phases: the conceptual analysis and the empirical analysis. The task of the conceptual analysis is to make the concept precise and unambiguous in terms of possible observations, and to show that the concept so defined has the properties vaguely and intuitively expected of it at the outset. The task of the empirical analysis is to specify the indices which are most serviceable in determining to what degree the concept applies in a given case. The serviceability of an index includes such factors as its accuracy, reliability, and accessibility. For instance, the conceptual analysis may result in the definition of the MW of an Air Force action as the amount of destruction it inflicts on the enemy's physical installations. The empirical analysis would then indicate, perhaps, that this can be measured by damage to roof area or tons of bombs dropped.

The distinction of the conceptual and empirical phases of the problem is important for two reasons: (1) The conceptual analysis might be inadequate but the empirical indices perfectly suited to the concept defined, or the concept satisfactory but the indices selected unsuited to it. Hence it is impossible to determine the most satisfactory indices unless the conceptual problem has been solved. Before determining the best way of measuring physical destruction we should have to know that this is indeed the important element in MW. It might be, for instance, that destruction of morale or the will to fight is the most relevant factor, and this would of course be measured by different indices. (2) Errors in the empirical analysis can be empirically detected and corrected. If tonnage dropped were taken as an index of destructiveness, simple observations might show that in fact tonnage alone, without consideration of coverage, is misleading. But errors in the conceptual analysis cannot be as directly localized or corrected by observation. Such errors are determined by the purposes for which the concept is intended, and these must be stated beforehand, or uncovered by logical analysis of objectives and goals.

This report is on the conceptual phase of the problem of MW. Its aim is to indicate the elements involved in this concept, and thereby to delimit areas of empirical study by which each of these elements can be measured or appraised. Most of the following considerations, therefore, will be on a highly abstract level, without regard to the practicability of the procedures outlined. The reader is warned not to expect a blueprint for a military worth computing machine. On the contrary, the intent is to make explicit the difficulties that stand in the way of any simple computation of MW.

This report is part of the RAND research memorandum series. The Research Memorandum was a product of RAND from 1948 to 1973 that represented working papers meant to report current results of RAND research to appropriate audiences.

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