Economics of Warfare 7

Examining the seventh lecture from Professor Michael Spagat’s Economics of Warfare course that he gives at Royal Holloway University. It is posted on his blog Wars, Numbers and Human Losses at:

This lecture, which starts by discussing the “Dirty War Index”, remains focused on civilian casualties. He presents on slide 4 the “Dirty War Index” (DWI), which is actually something we could have used for our insurgency work.

The link to the lecture is here:

We did something very similar in pages 88-92 in the section on “Use of Firepower” in America’s Modern Wars. On page 89 we have a chart with three columns tracking civilians casualties. They are 1) (civilians killed)/(CI/INS killed); 2) civilians killed/insurgents killed; and 3) total civilians killed/100,000 population. We only have data for nine cases (nine insurgencies). The first two formulations are ratios but the same data could be used to calculate an ersatz DWI. We then discussed the problem with Irish Loyalists Militias on pages 89-90 (using the exact same data as Dr. Spagat used on slide 6) and then we looked at 35 insurgencies compared to 1) rules of engagements, 2) civilians killed/insurgents kills, and 3) total civilians killed/100,00 population (pages 90-91). Our conclusions were (page 92):

In general, there does seem to be a pattern where insurgencies win more often if the number of civilians killed compared to the number of insurgents killed is greater than 10, but there is no statistical support for such an assumption.

This was a case where we needed to do a lot more work, but never got back to it (read: defense budget cuts and sequestration).

Slides 5 and 6 of Dr. Spagat’s lecture are worth looking at. You will note that in Colombia that while the guerrillas and government forces were responsible for their share of civilian casualties, it was the paramilitaries who were doing a lot of the bloodletting. Government ties to some of these paramilitaries have been an issue. As Dr. Spagat puts it (slide 7) “Their relationship with government forces is murky and controversial.” Slide 6 is from Northern Ireland. Again the “Loyalist Paramilities” are the worst offenders. Probably good policy to keep the Shiite militias out of Mosul.

On slide 10, Dr. Spagat switches from the rather depressing discussion of civilian casualties (which is a subject that needs to be discussed and analyzed more than it has) to a discussing of the “Benefits of Peace.” Because of the nature of our customers, we haven’t done a lot of work on peace…not that we don’t want to. He ends up looking at housing prices in Northern Ireland. Slide 13 has the total killings in Northern Ireland by quarter, although only from 1983 and on. The war was far more bloody in the early 1970s and the violence declined notably after that. The figures on slide 14 catches my attention because at one point in our insurgency studies we also looked at distribution of casualties by region in Northern Ireland, compared to Vietnam and compared to two other wars. We noted at the time that unequal distribution of casualties by geography was at a similar ratio between Northern Ireland and Vietnam. We did not go any further with this effort, because we needed a whole lot more cases and we could not see a pattern with what we had examined (and it took a lot of time). This effort was discussed in our report on terrain (Report I-12: but I am pretty sure I left it out of my book.

Anyhow, Figure 15 shows housing prices in Northern Ireland. Not particularly surprising, peace is good for housing prices. You probably could have guessed that without a statistical analysis. The rest of the slides just go into more depth on the statistics behind this (slides 17-19). Then there is a discussion on “sampling rare events” (slides 20-29). Note the mention of bootstrapping on slide 29: Bootstrapping_(statistics)

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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One comment

  1. I wonder if private military contractors (e.g. Academi) fall under a similar category of government oriented militias, i.e. displaying similar behaviour?

    The credibility of reports and the DWI issue reveal how important mindesetting can be. The work of agents and propaganda was utilized througout history to undermine transparency and upheaval. When the Soviets reached the Eastern border of Poland in 1939, they substituted their flags with polish ones mounted on their vehicles, on so called “liberation” units when entering the cities.
    The BBC should not have interviewed Ahmadi in the first place – publicity and authority (I am not familiar with the numbers of TV and radio sets per 100 inhabitants, though Smartphones are more important now). A very inefficient way to win their minds and a contrast to the occupation of the crimea, local/Tatar TV and Radio stations were shut down, any outside information suppressed, journalists imprisoned.
    In Syria, such debate would not exist and the BBC would never get the chance to interview such individuals.

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