The inclusion of footnotes in think tank documents is, in part, a kind of signaling mechanism. It may not be peer reviewed scholarship, but you can tell it’s way more serious than a blog post or a newspaper column. After all, it’s in PDF rather than HTML and it’s got footnotes!
Joshua Foust finds an example of counterproductive footnote-related signaling:
The Institute for the Study of War — still blindly advocating more war — has a report out devoted to “Defining success in Afghanistan.” My heart sank when I saw this 40-page report only has seven footnotes, all of which link back to the Kagans’ own work.
One should probably stop right there, but the Kagans define success as including “a political order, security situation, and indigenous security force that is stable, viable, enduring, and able — with greatly reduced international support — to prevent Afghanistan from being a safe-haven for international terrorists.”
Which countries, I wonder, meet this standard. Not Pakistan, right? Nor Yemen nor Somalia. But we’ve also seen terrorists hatch plots in Germany, Madrid, and London even though these are all extremely stable and successful political orders.