Economics of Warfare 17-2

Continuing the examination of the seventeenth 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 started with a paper by Hsiang, Burke and Miguel that was a survey of 60 different papers from 1994-2013 on interpersonal conflict and climate, intergroup conflict and climate, and “institutional breakdown and population collapse” and climate (see slides 3-8). This is discussed in more depth on my previous post. Starting on slide 26, he then reviews a group of authors who are critical of the findings of Hsiang, Burke and Miguel. The review makes three arguments

  1. Many of 60 studies are quite similar to each other. For example, many contain African countries and some only contain African countries.
  2. There is a lot of variation of what is modeled and how it is modeled.
  3. They omit other studies that reach other conclusions.

They then provided their own meta-analysis for the effect of climate variability on civil conflict on slide 29. The argument here is not “….that climate has no effect on conflict, but, rather, that the effects of climate on conflict are less clear than claimed…” by the previous studies authors “…and that more research is needed to pin down what the real effects are.”


Now going back to America’s Modern War, which I seem to do a lot lately, I do have a chapter called “Other Similar Work” (Chapter 7, pages 70-77) that looks at other work similar to the work I present in that book. I provided in Chapter 6 a logistic regression model that keys off of force ratio and insurgent cause compared to outcome. At the time I wrote the book, there were only two similar studies I was aware of that addressed this. Done independently and at the same time as my study was Andrew Hossack’s study over at Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom. Done after my study and using the database we developed was a study done by Center for Army Analysis (CAA). Certainly the first two criticisms provided above could be partially applied to this comparison, in that these three studies (The Dupuy Institute, Hossack and CAA) are 1) quite similar to each other, including two studies using the same database and, 2) there is some variation (but not much actually) in what is modeled (although all three studies effectively used the same dependent variable). On the other hand, as far as I know, there are no other quantitative studies out there that reach a contradictory conclusion. There are few studies done comparing force ratios to outcome. Shawn listed seven studies one of his posts, but several were related to troops per 1,000 population as opposed to force ratios:


Only five studies addressed force ratios and they found a positive correlation in all cases (although there was some debate over the significance).

Now, when I was out marketing my book to publishers, one British editor sent the manuscript to two expert reviewers to look at. One came back with the comment that contemporary studies clearly show that a force ratio model is not correct, and therefore they should not publish. I almost felt like trying to argue with this anonymous reviewer, but there were many other things on my plate (including finding another publisher for the book). I get the sense that because force ratio models of insurgency were discussed in the 1950s and 1960s, and were dismissed by some at the time, that people believe that they are passé. But, it does not appear that the original 10-to-1 or similar force ratio model that was quoted in the 50s and 60s was based upon any systematic quantitative analysis. It also does not appear that the dismissal of it in the 1960s was based upon any systematic quantitative analysis.

Anyhow, that was somewhat of a long and not clearly related aside. But sometimes, the Dr. Spagat lectures get me thinking back to my work and how it compares and contrasts these other attempts to quantify and model conflict phenomena. The link to his lecture is here:

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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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