Economics of Warfare 13 – 1

Hope you all have your taxes done….speaking of economics. Anyhow, picking back up on the Economics of Warfare posts by Dr. Spagat. The good news is that these blog posts by me apparently inspired (read: forced) Dr. Spagat to post all 20 of his excellent Economics of Warfare course lectures on his blog.

Starting an examination today of the thirteenth 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: https://mikespagat.wordpress.com/

The lecture looks in depth at one country, Colombia. Dr. Spagat has done a lot of work there, and even helped set up a non-profit to analyze the Colombian civil wars. These have been the bloodiest series of conflicts in the western hemisphere in the period after World War II. It was through his work on Colombia, and our related work on insurgencies, that we first became acquainted.

Slide two of his lecture starts with the statement that: “To get anywhere with empirical research you need to have a reasonably large number of data points. (This is a basic fact about empirical analysis that many students beginning research projects overlook)”

Actually, it is a basic fact that many in the Army and Defense operations research community overlook!!! I remember getting into discussion with a senior OR practitioner, a retired corporate president who once shared an office with Geroge Kimball of Morse and Kimball fame (Methods of Operations Research, 1951), who tried to make the argument that all you need to 15 good data points. This was at the time we were doing the Bosnia Casualty estimate (see America’s Modern Wars, Appendix II). Needless to say, I strongly disagreed, especially as we were looking at “social science” type data.

The next line in Dr. Spagat’s presentation is: “So we need to ask ourselves — where are all of these data points going to come from?”

This is the issue, and quite simply, the gap that The Dupuy Institute has attempted to fill. For example, Dorothy Clark’s seminal study on Breakpoints (Force Changes to Posture) was based upon only 43 cases [Dorothy K. Clark, Casualties as a Measure of the Loss of Combat Effectiveness of an Infantry Battalion (Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1954]. This is not a lot of data points, which of course, she understood. But, producing “data points” requires research, which takes time and money. There are some existing databases publically available that can help with some problems, but for many problems, there is simply not enough data points assembled for any meaningful analysis. There does not seem to be the mechanism in place to make sure that the Army or DOD has the data that it needs for all of its analytical work.

After starting page 2 with two rather significant statements, Dr. Spagat then goes into discussing Colombia in more depth. I will pick this up in a post tomorrow, as this blog post has already gotten long (and preachy).

The link to the lecture is here: http://personal.rhul.ac.uk/uhte/014/Economics%20of%20Warfare/Lecture%2013.pdf

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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.
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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.
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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).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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