jump to navigation

Pr(yi=1|xi) = 1/(1 + exp(-xi ß)) The formula for a ‘successful’ war October 6, 2007

Posted by franklittle in Iraq, Other Stuff, Pseudo-Science, Science, The War On Terror, United States, US Media, US Politics.

Some people cherish the fond belief that many of the more confusing problems of this life can be reduced to mathematical forumlae and equations. One of these seems to be Patricia Sullivan, a professor at the University of Georgia in the US, who has devised a mathematical equation to predict the outcome of conflicts based on a detailed analysis of 122 military interventions involving the US, Britain, China, Russia and France since 1945.

She claims that the correct outcome is predicted in 78% of the conflicts run through it. The chances of success for the US in Vietnam for example, come out at 22%. The Soviets had a 7% chance of success in Afghanistan and the invasion and overthrow of Saddam started off with a 68% chance of working.  The forumlae gives the objective of routing the insurgency and the creation of a democratic Iraq a success rate of 26% with an estimated duration of ten years.

While accepting that there is some truth in the accepted wisdom that the relatively poor success rate of the major powers in foreign military interventions is down to a combination of lack of resolve and poor decisionmaking, Sullivan argues that the key determinant in many conflicts has been the attitude of the civilian population. Without ‘target compliance’ the chances of success through the application of overwhelming use of blunt force are pitiful. Decades after Vietnam and the notion that hearts and minds must be won over still seems not to have caught on.
“We can try to use brute force to kill insurgents and terrorists, but what we really need is for the population to be supportive of the government and to stop supporting the insurgents,” she said. Otherwise, every time we kill an insurgent or a terrorist, they’re going to be replaced by others.”

Strangely, despite a level of understanding of mathematics that has floored me in calculating the tip in a restaurant, I’d figured all that out by myself. Also interesting that the notion that foreign powers have a right to intervene isn’t questioned, merely the efficiency with which it is done and whether the target population is compliant enough. Key words there being ‘target’ and ‘compliant’.

More of an oddity I suppose than a newsy story for the blog but easing myself in again after an unavoidable absence. Also, would be curious to know what the chances of a successful armed revolutionary uprising in Ireland would be. If ‘y’ is the number of copies of Socialist Worker sold in the country and ‘xi’ is the number of capitalist running dogs, how many ‘Pr’ (left-wing blog posts) are necessary to push us over the top?


1. Tiny Planet » Save your math for the war* - October 7, 2007

[…] absolute gem unearthed by Frank Little of The Cedar Lounge Revolution: Patricia Sullivan, a professor at the University of Georgia in the US, has devised a mathematical […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: