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Thread: Don't Send a Lion to Catch a Mouse

  1. #21
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Small War missing?

    Awhile ago there was a list of small war and insurgencies; it misses out Southern Rhodesia / Zimbabwe 1965-1980; which pitted Rhodesia - with South African and up till 1974 Portugese support -v- Liberation groups, supported by USSR, China, the 'Frontline' black African states and more. We all know who won.

    davidbfpo

  2. #22
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    Default Comments on the article that provoked this thread

    I finally got a chance to read the whole article yesterday. While it has some useful insights, particularly in the latter section case study of Iraq, it is too often an attempt to bend the facts to fit the theory.
    Pardon the political science stuff that follows but it is necessary to critique the authors on their own terms as well as those of practitioners. Since I "are one" of those political scientists - my job.
    The most critical failing of the article is its failure to list its cases - they state they have some 268 cases of small wars and insurgencies but never list a single case (unless Iraq is one - if so, they list 1, 2 if the Peninsula campaign is included). As important is the fact that they nowhere state how their cases were coded as wins v losses. As we found in our 43 cases this is not really so easy or obvious. David's Rhodesia case also points out the difficualties involved as to who supported whom with both the UK and US on the side of the eventual winners. so, without this information, their whole premise is suspect.
    The authors have also used the Correlates of War project definition (perhaps modified but not clearly stated if so) of war. That definition excludes everything with less than 1000 "battle deaths" - the authors use the term casualties so they may have modified it. In any event, this definition would exclude both Grenada and Panama from inclusion in their small wars category!
    The article also makes dubious use of statistics. First, it defines as statisitically significant a probability of 0.1 of something occurring by chance alone as statistically significant. Although statistical significance is simply a convention, the commonly used one is 0.05 - much more rigorous. They thencompound the problem by drawing inferences from results of their tests that are not even statistically significant by the convention they have imposed themselves!
    Their conclusions rest on the premise that more developed states are increasingly losing small wars and insurgencies. This conclusion is based on a data set that is not provided nor is its coding. It also runs counter to the evidence in the data set that Manwaring and I used as well as subsequent cases we have added and the cases added by Tom. Based on this premise, the authors propose that the explanation for lack of success is based on the great forces of modernization at work - the economy, technology, etc. They propose that the modern army is simply not capable of fighting these kinds of wars effectively. They give no weight to the issue of leadership - I submit that in addressing their Iraq case it would have made a difference if the 101st had been commanded by Ray Odierno and the 4th ID by Dave Petraeus. We might well be lauding the efforts of the 4th ID and deploring those of the 101st. See John Nagl's preface to the paperback edition of his book for what a well led armor unit can do in an insurgency!
    The authors do raise a problem that we have been commenting on in one way or another in several threads - that is, why the institution as a whole seems to have to relearn and reinvent its own doctrine every time a new "Uncomfortable War" comes on the scene.
    Last edited by John T. Fishel; 03-08-2007 at 12:39 PM.

  3. #23
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    Digging a little, I found the authors' e-mail addresses.

    jlyall@princeton.edu
    Isaiahwilson3@aol.com

    Perhaps they could provide interested members a copy or direct them to an online version. Plus, they might also appreciate some critical eyes looking over their paper and offering feeback or criticism.
    Last edited by Paralus76; 03-09-2007 at 06:29 PM.

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    Default Lions and Mice: "Ahem..."

    I regret to say that the Vedantam piece may need retraction. Lyall and Wilson presented the ideas cited by Vedantam at an American Political Science Association panel in 2006, where it was roundly criticized, not for the content of its arguments, but for the fact that they lifted almost their entire argument from another author's work. Ivan Arreguin-Toft published the same argument (including virtually the same empirical trend) in an essay entitled "How the Weak Win Wars" in International Security in 2001 (v26, n1). Toft later published his findings in a book in 2005. For those of you interested in the actual article Vedantam cites, it's available at Lyall's "personal web page" at Princeton.edu. I've attached pages 1–5 of Toft's paper (note the graphic on p. 97) so readers can judge for themselves. Lyall and Wilson appear to be moving forward with a new version of "their" argument, to be presented at a West Point conference next week. One can only hope they've re-framed their paper to acknowledge their debt to Toft (at the panel they presented, Toft was actually the panel discussant!).
    Last edited by odin; 03-15-2007 at 11:49 AM. Reason: forgot attachment

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