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Can Statistics Predict the Outcome of a War?

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the first-you-have-to-get-the-inputs-right dept.

Math 572

StatisticallyDeadGuy writes "A University of Georgia scientist has developed a statistical system that can, she claims, predict the outcome of wars with an accuracy of 80 percent. Her approach, applied retrospectively, says the US chance of victory in the first Gulf War was 93%, while the poor Soviets only had a 7% chance in Afghanistan (if only they'd known; failure maybe triggered the collapse of the USSR). As for the current Iraq conflict: the US started off with a 70% chance of a successful regime change, which was duly achieved — but extending the mission past this to support a weak government has dropped the probability of ultimate success to 26%. Full elaboration of the forecasting methodology is laid out in a new paper (subscription required — link goes to the abstract). Some details can be gleaned from her 2006 draft (PDF)."

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0% (4, Funny)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487633)

It's 0% if you play "Global Thermonuclear War". The only winning strategy is not to play.

Sounds like fun. Let's test this theory =)

Re:0% (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487787)

It's 0% if you play "Global Thermonuclear War". The only winning strategy is not to play.

Bah! What is so bad about living in mines? With nuclear reactors and the appropriate male to female ratio we can reach our current Gross National Product in say 20 years. The only thing you need to worry about is whether your enemies have stashed a nuke in one of their mines to use on you when the world becomes habitable again.

Re:0% (4, Funny)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487909)

It would not be difficult. Nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely. Greenhouses could maintain plant life. Animals could be bred and slaughtered.

A quick survey would have to be made of all the suitable minesites in the country, but I shouldn't be surprised if several hundred thousand of our people could be accomodated.

Every nation would undoubtedly follow suit.

Re:0% (1)

Nullav (1053766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488131)

Every nation would undoubtedly follow suit.

Follow suit with clean energy and preparation, or follow suit with nuclear attacks, throwing the world back several centuries in technological development?

Re:0% (2)

adona1 (1078711) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487829)

Or else be really good at tic-tac-toe [wikipedia.org] =)

Thermonuclear (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487837)

...as opposed to Cryonuclear?

Re:0% (3, Funny)

EuroMike (810928) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487919)

....how about a nice game of chess? :)

Can Statistics Predict the Outcome of a War? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487987)

Yes they can; but only 50% of the time.

strange game (0, Redundant)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487637)

The only way to win is not to play.

Re:strange game (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487915)

Sometimes others will decide that you are going to play it whether you want to or not.

Re:strange game (1)

benna (614220) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488125)

Not if they want to win.

Re:strange game (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488181)

You're right. All we need if we want everything to be perfect is for everyone to be perfect. Totally achievable.

100% likely outcome (5, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487641)

Is that lots of people are going to suffer and die, and lots of money will be spent, usually with detrimental results to all parties involved.

Oh yeah, and the companies that make bombs and guns will get richer.

Re:100% likely outcome (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487723)

Is that lots of people are going to suffer and die, and lots of money will be spent, usually with detrimental results to all parties involved.

Yep. Those original 13 colonies are still licking their wounds.

Re:100% likely outcome (2, Insightful)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488013)

Just ask the settlers that lived there at the time the war started.

Re:100% likely outcome (5, Insightful)

pchan- (118053) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488017)

Can Statistics Predict the Outcome of a War?

No. Statistics can never predict the outcome, they can only give you a probability of an outcome. That is, of course, unless the probability is 0 or 100%.

Or in the words of another famous analyst... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488029)

...Mr. Jar Jar Binks:

"Innocent people are gonna die?"

Re:100% likely outcome (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488049)

Oh yeah, and the companies that make bombs and guns will get richer.


Unfortunately for pacifists, people (when not neutered by an easy life with lots of food and entertainment, such as in the West) are vile, disgusting animals, prone to quarreling with and killing each other. Quite frankly, these types un-neutered by the 'easy life' we lead need to be kept from killing themselves and others.

That's what "guns and bombs" are for.

You may disagree with the motives for certain conflicts going on today (Iraq), and I will give you provisional agreement. Iraq is a hopeless mess with the tactics currently being employed. But eliminating "guns and bombs" just leaves us defenseless and at the mercy of the other human animals.

To Whom It May Concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19488135)

This area has been attacked by computer simulated enemy bombardment and, unfortunately, you have been declared dead. Please report immediately to your local abbatoir for recycling.

With Thanks,

Vendikar Battle Simulation Department [wikipedia.org]

Re:100% likely outcome (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488161)

Well , no matter the outcome of a war , the "good" will always win , because after the war , the winner gets to decide who was good and who was bad .

After all , there are 3 kind of lies : lies , damned lies , and statistics :-)

Makes perfect sense (5, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487643)

I notice that the probability of success in Iraq correlates well with George's approval rating.

Re:Makes perfect sense (2, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487951)

Yeah, this stuff looks like it's been retconned to fit conventional wisdom.

If i'm reading this correctly (5, Insightful)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487647)

She took a bunch of historical information about wars, built a model and then when run on that historical information it was 80% accurate.

Amazing stuff.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487705)

Why is this amazing? Are you being sarcastic? I can't tell.

People are always trying to build models based on historical data, especially for things like the stock market. But, as they say, "past performance is no guarantee of future results" - and one big reason is that all it takes is for one significant new factor to come into play that didn't exist in any of the historical data and the model becomes useless.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487741)

When in doubt, assume i'm always being sarcastic.

The current iraq war seems to be a new frontier in warfare style. I'm not sure we've ever fought an insurgency quite like that before. Without that knowledge and model calibration we'd probably fail to come up with an accurate number when trying to estimate success. I would imagine the model would show that the US military could easily overpower saddams military - mission accomplished.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487815)

When in doubt, assume i'm always being sarcastic.
That was sarcastic, right?

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488007)

"new frontier in warfare style" that's sarcasim for sure. This is a totaly generic occupation of hostile locals.

The new frontier is that we are using our taxes to train a bunch of assholes how to fight the US army. Did you see Al Jazera's "Chariots of God"? It was about how Hezbulla leaned to beat the Isreali tanks. Same problem in Iraq. The insurgents we don't kill are by natural selection the ones who we need to be worried about, the ones who can excape us and or kill us. Then off they go to Afganistan or Pakistan or the mountains in between and teach what they know to other bad people.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (2, Informative)

Requiem Aristos (152789) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487895)

Note that the model does show this; an initial 70% chance dropping to 26% as the mission changed.

It's not a new frontier in warfare style; insurgencies have existed back to Roman times and beyond. What is different are the methods used to combat them; for moral reasons we do not permit ourselves to use the traditional techniques. (Plus, its being a bloody mess of cronyism, profiteering, and sectarian violence hasn't helped matters any.)

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488039)

Even without new frontiers and warfare styles, you can really not predict anything.

The analyses performed at the outset of the war in Croatia predicted total defeat of the practically non-existent and unarmed Croatian army in mere days.

Ooops.

You can never factor in everything. And sometimes, things can turn over faster than the weather.

Besides, counting pure firepower, the US not only has the ability to totally destroy Iraq, it has the ability to destroy the world three times over. And yet...

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (4, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487759)

No kidding since Taleb (Fooled by Randomness, and Black Swan) has explicitly said it is nearly impossible to predict the outcome due to the Black Swan.

>> Sullivan analyzed all 122 post World War II wars and military interventions in which the United States, the Soviet Union, Russia, China, Britain or France fought a weaker adversary. She examined factors such as the type of objective (on a continuum from brute force to coercive), whether the target was a formal state, guerilla or terrorist group, whether the target had an ally and whether the more powerful nation had an ally.

>> She tested her model and found that it was accurate in 80 percent of conflicts. It predicted a seven percent chance of success for the Soviets in the 1979 to 1988 war in Afghanistan and a 93 percent chance of success for the U.S. in the 1991 Gulf War.

Just from reading the abstract what concerns me is hindsight bias. Hindsight bias is when you build a model, based on some data. Then to test the validity of the model you test the data. You can't do that because the model is based on data that you are trying to test.

To properly test a model you need to use data that is completely out of the blue. For example I would love to have seen her test the model against the American civil war.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (4, Insightful)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487793)

And if that new data happens to relate to a new style of conflict, then I doubt the model will accomodate.

Pre-vietman we were generally exposed to "traditional" wars. Part of the disaster there was that I'm not sure we really gauaged the enemy correctly going in.

Iraq has a different insurgency again, and we were almost certainly expecting to have to defeat saddams army (which was relatively easy), but we overlooked the "terrorist" contingent.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (1)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487853)

Give the man a cigar! You just hit the nature of the statistical problem point blank. And this is why I think papers that try to wrap themselves in the security of statistics are misleading decision makers.

Small rectifications... (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488147)

we overlooked the "terrorist" contingent
Should be:
we "overlooked" the terrorist contingent
And now my question is: who's we? Because, I'm sure the Pentagon planners never overlooked anything.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (1)

witte (681163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487929)

Also, war is not the kind of activity for which everybody candidly shares their data, during or after the facts.

This model may be useful for strategic think-tanks when running through different tactical scenarios, though.

The study and interpretation of history (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487765)

She took a bunch of historical information about wars, built a model and then when run on that historical information it was 80% accurate. Amazing stuff.

The idea of studying history, and learning from it in order to avoid mistakes, is a good idea. The trick is if you can define sufficiently and accurately, many of the significant condtions and possibilities. For instance, the Vietnam war is a success if you consider the objective to be standing up to and halting the spread of worldwide communism, but could also be seen as a failure if you ignore the rest of the world and simply see America pulling out and the remaining Vietnamese being slaughtered.

Re:The study and interpretation of history (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487863)

The Domino theory was a load of hogwash.

Besides, the US failed to spread democracy to Vietnam by simply refusing Uncle Ho when he asked them for support before he turned to the communists. The US involvement in Vietnam has been just a big mountain of failure. Anyone trying to suggest that it has been successful in any way is fooling themselves. Well, it was successful in providing a lot of opportunity to develop from mistakes, and a lot of new military hardware got live-tested.

anyway: But what my model could say was that if the population was not supportive of whatever new regime we put in power
means that her model is useless. The US administration was swearing black and blue before the invasion that the Iraqis would be dancing in the streets and welcoming them with open arms. Even the best models can't survive bad data.

Ah, the joys of revisionism... (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488091)

Ah, the joys of revisionism...

Let me see, what happened in Vietnam (and eerily enough, Korea didn't go that differently either.)

1. Actually refused to allow elections and backed an inept dictator that was hated even by the south. That's a funny way to spread democracy, you know.

2. It lost its chunk of Vietnam to the communists.

3. It actually created such an anti-american sentiment in Laos and Cambodia that they went Communist too. You know, let's bomb some countries which aren't our enemies, just because the communists smuggle arms and supplies through their territory. In fact, let's bomb a country that's our _ally_ FFS. If you trace the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, it went from a fringe group that noone really supported, to _massive_ support in the zones bombed by the Americans.

At any rate, voila, two more countries lost to communism as a result of inept American meddling in the area. Way to stop the spread of communism, buddy.

4. That and Korea scared China into flipping from a country just licking its wounds and wanting to be left alone, to becoming a lot more politically and militarily active. Just because some idiot generals wanted to push the border all the way to China, and at least one idiot actually advocated attacking China.

5. It takes some massive dose of revisionism to call it some spread of communism in the first place, when it was just a country (two, if you count Korea too), that just wanted to reunite. And that the _only_ reason it escalated to war is because the USA didn't allow elections.

Contrary to Domino theory bullshit and McCarthist propaganda, the USSR was _not_ your enemy at that point. The only reason why there was, say, a north and south Korea was because the Russians actually stopped their advance at the exact spot where the USA asked them to ask. The USSR was still licking its wounds after WW2 anyway, and it knew it's in no condition to start a world war.

You know what the USSR and China wanted at that point? They just wanted to have no border with NATO, if possible, because the USA had suddenly flipped from being their ally to treating them like mortal enemies. That's one reason why, for example, Stalin actually proposed to let Germany reunite if it stays neutral and doesn't join either pact. The wars in Korea and Vietnam just convinced them to rearm faster and help start the Cold War sooner.

And if you want something which stopped both sides, that was the rise of long ranged nuclear weaponry and the mutually assured destruction.

Redefining it as, basically, "nah, see, they calmed down because of the war (USA lost) in Vietnam" is pretty laughable.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (4, Insightful)

jmv (93421) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487771)

That was my thought. Especially since I'm sure there must lots of parameters that can be tweaked to make the model fit. I can't help but think that "We achieved 80% accuracy learning our training set" isn't a very sexy thing to report in a paper :-)

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (1)

Smight (1099639) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487785)

80% accuracy? Sounds like she's using the same equation those dentists use when determining if they will endorse toothpaste. Seriously though, when you are building a model based on known information and results and can only get an 80% accuracy that doesn't impress me. You could probably get 80% accuracy with an by comparing the results of $/soldier+soldiers/(enemy combatants) for both armys.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487871)

She took a bunch of historical information about wars, built a model and then when run on that historical information it was 80% accurate.

Sounds like all those black box stock market predictors to me, none of which are better than a dartboard, but it is very useful for news articles and the media loves numbers like this one: Iraq War has 26% Chance of Success".

However, it's total crap to predict something so complex and varied as a war. Think of the confounding factors! How can there be unbiased inclusion of geographical, political and an infinity of unknowable factors such as which side has the upper hand on intelligence?

How can we assume that future wars will be in any way conventional, or otherwise?

Believing in this stuff makes palm reading look like science.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487885)

Whatever dude. I'd like to date a woman like this. We could argue about Prussian foreign policy in the 19th Century, then fuck like mink, then maybe write some code. Then argue about US Foreign policy, then watch some documentary on strategic bombing where I'd play devil's advocate to conventional wisdom, then argue a bit more and have great make up sex.

Re:If i'm reading this correctly (4, Funny)

hazem (472289) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487921)

I was going to write a post here arguing about establishing a Reference Behavior Pattern, determining relationships and causality, and the difference between verifying and validating models...

But I like your way of thinking better...

Game Theory (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487649)

Why not read `a beautiful mind` for a few observations on this. BTW has anyone ever seen any of John Nash's computer programs? They're supposed to be pretty elegant.

Statistics, Schmatistics (5, Funny)

Xero_One (803051) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487653)

Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

It so happens, (5, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487891)

That 74% of war historians think that 26% of war historians have less than 10% of a clue clue about more than 90% of what they are talking about, when it comes to statistics. This assessment of course is subject to adjustment depending on perceived public opinion and verified by use of the retrospectoscope.

Re:Statistics, Schmatistics (4, Funny)

buswolley (591500) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488035)

Some people use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post - for support rather than for illumination.

Project Management (5, Funny)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487655)

As in all projects, when you let the scope blow out, then the costs blow out proportionately. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the initial scope was to topple Saddam Hussein. Scope then changed to include installation of democracy.

Nobody wrote up a scope change request, let alone getting it signed off...

Re:Project Management (5, Insightful)

dbolger (161340) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488059)

I know I'm going to get modded offtopic at best here, but wasn't the point of the invasion to stop Iraq from deploying its extensive stockpiles of WMDs? Wasn't it supposed to be a pre-emptive strike to get him before he got America and its allies? Toppling Hussein was supposed to be a byproduct of that, but it was not the primary goal.

You're right, statistical prediction is unlikely to suceed if every couple of months the goal of your war changes, but its next to impossible if even the initial point of the war gets retconned. How far can this go?

We're going into Iraq to stop Saddam and his WMDs.

No WMDs found? Oh, then we came to Iraq to stop Saddam and free the Iraqi people.

Saddam gone and there's still fighting? Then we came to Iraq to fight the terrorists there so we dont have to fight them here.

Terrorism worldwide increasing despite, or possibly /because/ of the invasion? Then, erm... SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!

How far can you push this? No statistical model, no battle plan can succeed if the people in charge can't even make up their mind what they are fighting for.

His name was Robert Mcnamera; the Wiz Kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487667)


There are many throughout history who have attempted to reduce the Art of War to a science.

But a few would include, Vietnam and Iraq, and any number of CIA interventions.

Ha! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487669)

That's nothing! I can predict the outcome of a war with 100% accuracy when applied retrospectively.

For my next trick... (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487671)

I will predict the winner of the World Series, for any year up through 2006. Looks like the White Sox had a 96% chance of winning in 2005. I'm not gaming the numbers, I swear. I've got a perfect system for retroactive "prediction."

John Edward has a better act, Ms. Sullivan.

--
Toro

Psychohistory (5, Insightful)

ttys00 (235472) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487675)

Hari Seldon [wikipedia.org] , is that you?

calculate this (1)

Oersoep (938754) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487681)

What did the formula make of the "war on terror"?
Or RIAA vs piracy?

Re:calculate this (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487711)

Unfortunately the formula only works with real numbers as inputs, not imaginary ones :)

Re:calculate this (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487729)

War on drugs? War on Want? Warren Beatie?

Future Wars (2, Insightful)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487683)

Hindsight is 20/20. I would be more interested in what the odds of Future wars would be. Like against Iran or North Korea, simultainiously.

Re:Future Wars (5, Funny)

Guerilla* Napalm (762317) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487923)

Actually, with her model hindsight is only 16/20.

This is (2, Insightful)

cojoneees (916665) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487691)

pure historical data. At least it looks that way to me. I find it hard to believe that one can predict accurately the outcome of a war. Think about the super technologies that the involved parties may keep in secret just to have the surprise factor in a war. That could definitely screw up the statistics :)

Re:This is (1)

Shintarian (1114857) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487899)

Strangelove: Yes, but the... whole point of the doomsday machine... is lost... if you keep it a secret! Why didn't you tell the world, eh? DeSadeski: It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

Re:This is (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487913)

She makes some good points. One point is that if an objective can be achieved by brute force alone, i.e., without cooperation from the conquered people, that bodes well for success by the brute. As an example, she points to the first gulf war which had the objective of expelling Iraqi troops from Quwait. In contrast, the current mess, i.e., installing a government, requires the cooperation of a population interested to a large degree in not accepting whatever we try to impose. Hence the poor chance of success. It has nothing to do with secret weapons really -- except that if Iraqis did have some kind of secret weapon, they could become the brute-forcers. But it isn't even necessary to chalk up a loss for the Iraqis to have such a weapon -- their cooperation, or lack thereof, is all that they need. In other words, we lose without cooperation, AND we lose if they come up with a secret weapon to expel us. The secret weapon only speeds the process, but doesn't change the result.

26% chance of WHAT? (4, Insightful)

kahei (466208) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487701)


As far as I know nobody has formally specified the 'win' outcome for the war -- so I'm a bit doubtful that anyone has worked out an EXACT 26% (not 25%! That number would sound like a guess! But 26% sounds like SCIENCE!) chance of the US side achieving it.

If the 26% really was worked out with a reasonable methodology, then the interesting part isn't the number so much as whatever definition they came up with of 'victory'.

That said, giving ridiculously exact answers to impossibly vague questions is fun and harmless. 92.8% of the time.

Re:26% chance of WHAT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487763)

US wars tend to play out fairly well in the US's favour considering they have a tendency to only attack people who can't shoot back.

Later they claim that it was the heroic struggle of the ages and we get Oliver Stone movies about it.

Re:26% chance of WHAT? (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487797)

Somebody is missing the point of the point estimate.

Re:26% chance of WHAT? (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487841)

Considering the current situation, not letting the country fall into Iran/Syria sponsored total chaos nor being taken over by an Al-Queida affiliated islamic dictatorship until the next US presidential election will be a victory. Doing so without the need of massive reinforcements would be a large victory, being able to also evacuate in good order is very unlikely.

No need for fancy statistics (1)

rduke15 (721841) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487739)

You don't need fancy statistics to predict that a foreign military invasion will ultimately fail. In the meantime you can also be sure of what a previous poster suggested [slashdot.org] .
Invasions may work when they are combined with a civilian invasion if the population numbers allow for it (like China in Tibet and the like). And even in that example, China has a hard time completely assimilating Tibet and it's not quite done with it yet, after half a century and no armed resistance.

Statistical Probabilities (1)

NanoGradStudent (878951) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487761)

"The odds are stacked against us! We have no hope and our best option is to surrender immediately!"
-(Paraphrased) Jack, DS9 Statistical Improbabilities [memory-alpha.org]

Winners of war? (1, Insightful)

DynamicPhil (785187) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487801)

Oh, come on.

Winning a war in modern times means that the war has ended - and that's something that nowdays never happens because there will always be "resistance (one man may call it "freedom-fighters", another calls it "terrorist").
There are numerous historical examples of this (Ireland, ETA, Tibet, Afghanistan, vietnam), and you'd think someone would get the message.

The winners of war are the ones profiting on war, and by that I mean convert it into cash (territory/resources can be retaken).
It's the same entity with one hand destroying infrastructure/society in a warzone, and the other getting the contracts for rebuilding.


I'd like to see a return to common sense, diplomacy, and compromize when dealing with conflicts.

Re:Winners of war? (1)

witte (681163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487969)

>Winning a war in modern times means that the war has ended - and that's something
> that nowdays never happens because there will always be "resistance (one man may
> call it "freedom-fighters", another calls it "terrorist").

This may be because nowadays in the aftermath of war, the conquered people are not utterly crushed/slaughtered, as Machiavelli suggests.

(Corollary, the only humane option is to avoid war if at all possible.)

Re:Winners of war? (1)

DynamicPhil (785187) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488075)

Heh - I've read The Prince too.
Even if the conquered people are not utterly crushed, you nowdays have global information/awareness, (at least currently - the future may hold changes) and you would have to deal with world public opinion on genocide. I'm absolutely for international War-crime tribunals, wich would prevent the thing Machiavelli suggests.

Re:Winners of war? (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488055)

I'd like to see a return to the tactics of the ancient world when dealing with rebellions, such as decimation and mass crucifixion. That's how you deal with rebellions and insurrections, not molly-coddling the civilian population (half of whom are in league with the resistance fighters) and standing around waiting to be shot. The US in Iraq is in the business of guarding its enemies.

Re:Winners of war? (1)

DynamicPhil (785187) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488117)

I'll take the bait - and say you are wrong.
Hate breeds hate, and all you would accomplish is MORE terrorists, using harcher tactics.
go play some http://www.newsgaming.com/games/index12.htm [newsgaming.com] , you will get the message.

I'll eve nuse a cliche: Killing terrorists to end terror is like killing the poor to end poverty - futile.

Re:Winners of war? (1)

utnapistim (931738) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488099)

Let me fix that for you:

I'd like to see a turn to common sense, diplomacy, and compromize when dealing with conflicts.

I'd like that also :)

Exercise: Point to a period in human history devoid of oppression/abuse/war longer than, say ... 100 years?

Re:Winners of war? (1)

brit74 (831798) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488115)

The winners of war are the ones profiting on war, and by that I mean convert it into cash (territory/resources can be retaken).

So, your idea is that Halliburton and other US companies won the war? I exclude the US from that list because the US (as a nation) is certainly not profiting from the Iraq War. Sure, the price of oil is high (making the capture of Iraq seem like a valuable asset), but the US is still paying to buy Iraqi oil, and dumping large sums of money into the country. And, if you think the US government had some secret plan to enrich US companies, it seems like paying them directly would've saved a whole lot of money. The US has spent $434 billion on the war already, and I doubt the US companies involved in building can count even one-tenth of that dollar amount in profits as a result of the war.

It's the same entity with one hand destroying infrastructure/society in a warzone, and the other getting the contracts for rebuilding.

I can only guess that you think the US government is destroying infrastructure/society "with one hand", while "the other hand" (US companies) is getting contracts for rebuilding. The problem is that it costs the US government money to destroy things, and costs the US government to rebuild them (US companies are not a part of the US government). Even if we pretend US companies and the US government are one entity, it's still a net loss. Look at it this way: imagine you are the US government, and you pay $1000 for your soldiers to destroy a building. Then, you pay $1000 for a US company to rebuild that building. That US company pays its employees $600 and pockets $400. Now, imagine that because you are "the US", you get to keep the profits from that US company (you don't get to, but pretend you do). That means that you paid-out $2000, and then put $400 back into your pocket. That's still a net loss of $1600. If you could get lots of foreign money for rebuilding, you might be able to turn a profit when you pay the US companies to rebuild - but there isn't much foreign money coming in. If the US was outright stealing the Iraqi oil, that's another way to make a profit, but the US is still paying for Iraqi oil. Besides, even if the US was outright stealing the oil, the profits from Iraqi oil still aren't enough to overturn the net loss.

Asimov, is that you? (1)

Edward Kmett (123105) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487819)

Psychohistory anyone?

That said, odds are someone will stumble across a retrospective analysis of this sort. Wake me after they have correctly predicted the outcomes of the next few wars, then color me impressed.

Meaningless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487827)

What meaningless statistics. Even if it's a single bipolar result, it either happens or it doesn't. It's not like we have large numbers of Vietnam Wars to prove the veracity of these numbers.

Also, how does one term 'successful result'? Is a pyrrhic victory a successful result? Were the crusades initially successful for the christians, then not successful later?

Isn't it a failure every time the phrase 'home by christmas' is proven false?

WWI had a winner and a loser, but for both sides, it was a failure with astounding numbers of dead and ruined economies everywhere.

What about unforseen results that aren't what was desired but are better than a straight-out loss?

survival and statistics [scientifically tested] (1)

Ep0xi (1093943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487857)

When the US started the war to the talibans, the probability of survival for a two weeks fetus in Kabul were 10E-263
which means that if it survived, it probably were possible to hear it's harsh voice inbetwen all those bombs and planes.
So if the atom is 10E-15 we can statistically assume that there are 248 smaller magnitudes of existence in this very universe.

Heuristics worked (0, Troll)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487873)

The U.N. Security Council, along with pretty much everyone with half a brain living in most of the civilized world, used their own mental heuristics to correctly predict the outcome of the disaster in Iraq. The neo-conservatives in the U.S. and, inexplicably, Great Britain, were the only ones talking about a "cakewalk".

Re:Heuristics worked (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488173)

The U.N. Security Council, along with pretty much everyone with half a brain living in most of the civilized world, used their own mental heuristics to correctly predict the outcome of the disaster in Iraq. The neo-conservatives in the U.S. and, inexplicably, Great Britain, were the only ones talking about a "cakewalk".
Ever since Suez the UK has been very careful to sail in the wake of the USA and this time they simply did the same they have always done. The problem is that they have never spent any time on thinking whether it would be a good idea to do so, the UK never had to since the USA has never had a regime before that is quite as clumsy as this one when it comes to threat assessment and strategic planning.

Wrong (4, Insightful)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487937)

If she thinks there was only a 70% chance of regime change in the early part of the Iraq shambles then she needs to go back and see where she dropped that other 30%.

TWW

Re:Wrong (1)

Bottlemaster (449635) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488079)

If she thinks there was only a 70% chance of regime change in the early part of the Iraq shambles then she needs to go back and see where she dropped that other 30%.
No kidding. With the US behind it, a regime change was inevitable. Anyone with knowledge of United States military might and the shabbiness of Iraq's military would surely give a much greater than 70% probability. It's no secret that we were up against an easily-defeatable nation.

Regime change has definitely occurred; the former head-of-state has been executed, no less. The problem has been getting a favorable regime to replace the old one.

This mistake has been made before. (4, Insightful)

rew (6140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487941)

The problem with this is that the model was "trained" on the same historical data on which it is eventually tested. This doesn't prove anything.

As an example, a defence contractor once built a system that would recognize wether or not a tank was in a picture. First the system was trained on half the "with tanks" and half the "without tanks" pictures. Next the system got a good percentage correct on the second half of the pictures. It turns out the "with tanks" pictures had been taken on a sunny day, and those without on a cloudy day. So the system was actually telling "sunny" or "cloudy".

In this case, it could very well be that her system predicts the outcome of the war, based on the weather in tokyo 6 weeks before the start of the war. This example was chosen so that you, not an expert in this field, immediately can dismiss this as a nonsense predictor. But as the model gets more complicated, and you feed it lots of parameters that might seem relevant, even the experts will no longer be able to see the value of such complicated predictions. At some point you just have to "trust the computer".

Aerodynamics: Yes. We understand the underlying principles, we've verfied the predictions made by the models in real life, and found that it matches very good.

In this case: No. Before I trust such a model, it would need to be verified (as is, no modifications allowed!) against say at least 20 wars that haven't started yet. If it preditcs the outcome of those correctly, the model has merit.

I'm not going to wait around (I hope).

Re:This mistake has been made before. (1)

Bottlemaster (449635) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488103)

In this case: No. Before I trust such a model, it would need to be verified (as is, no modifications allowed!) against say at least 20 wars that haven't started yet. If it preditcs the outcome of those correctly, the model has merit.
Actually, it's very easy to test this model without "going forward". You simply train it on previous wars except for the last 20. Then you see how it predicts the last 20 wars.

Somehow this reminds me of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487949)

the computer from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory:

This machine will tell us the precise location of the three remaining tickets.

It says, "I won't tell, that would be cheating."

I am now telling the computer that if it will tell me the correct answer, I will gladly share with it... the grand prize.

He says, "What would a computer do with a lifetime supply of chocolate?"

(Begins angrily punching buttons)

I am now telling the computer *exactly* what it can do with a life time supply of chocolate.

D'uh (1)

DraconPern (521756) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487953)

Anyone who has played an RTS knows this...

So I am stupid (3, Insightful)

Rumagent (86695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487959)

Can someone explain me how she can go on about conflicts between states, when the majority of conflicts are characterized by the opposition not being a state? I also have a hard time accepting the definition of victory. She defines it as "A state can attain its political objectives in war by rendering its opponent physically incapable of continuing to fight" (or make them believe that such an outcome is unavoidable). Given these criteria, how can an asymmetric war be won? Is it possible to render every terrorist/freedom fighter "physically incapable of fighting"? It probably isn't, so how many attacks are "just" violence and how many attacks constitutes an opposition?

In Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19487963)

while the poor Soviets only had a 7% chance in Afghanistan (if only they'd known; failure maybe triggered the collapse of the USSR)
That is because in Russia the outcome of war predicts Statistics!

lies, damned lies, and statistics. (1)

pilsner.urquell (734632) | more than 7 years ago | (#19487997)

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Tags? (2, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488003)

If ever there was an article that wanted the "No" tag... Damnit Slashdot, give us the old style tags back!

Thanks for uploading this (0, Offtopic)

kent12er (1109455) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488005)

"Thanks for uploading this, it gave me something to read on my lunch break." http://www.zuneconverter.net/ [zuneconverter.net]

Only one question I'm interested in (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488009)

So, what are the chances that the Cavs are going to come back from their three-game deficit in the finals and put the Spurs in their place?

Can Statistics Predict the Outcome of a War? (1)

doyoulikeworms (1094003) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488031)

Reply hazy, try again.

Collen Powell had a pretty good system too. (1, Offtopic)

F34nor (321515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488033)

Anyone remember the Powell Doctrine? Nope? Well it was designed to meet this lady's stated points for sucess and it served us well from Vietnam till Iraq. Then a Bunch of draft dodging Dixiecrats and Nixon era hawks ignored those lessons in a classic case of groupthink and now we are back in Vietnam.

I think we should impose a punitive tax on anyone who contributed to the Republican party during the last 6 years equal to the cost of the war.

Ruby or Perl? (1)

BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488061)

You can make an equation that'll fit any known values. Trick is to apply her equations to a future war and see if her predictions measure up with reality. Iran. North Korea. Maybe China as she gets bigger and bolder, or Russia if Putin finds Yeltsin's Kremlin Vodka stash.

> Full elaboration of the forecasting methodology is laid out in a new paper (subscription required -- link goes to the abstract)

Too bad she's not smart enough to post to an Open Journal. More government-funded research being resold by private publishers (in this case $AGE Publications). "Published in association with Peace Science Society (International)". Explain to me how you guys benefit from fewer people reading your stuff?

> That's nothing! I can predict the outcome of a war with 100% accuracy when applied retrospectively

Hey Hillary is posting to Slashdot! :-)

Statistics predict nothing (4, Insightful)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488109)

This is Slashdot, we are geeks, please can we correctly distinguish between forecasting and statistical analysis? Forecasting is an activity in which you develop mathematical models to describe a system based on the analysis of existing systems, e.g. if I find there is a -0.7 correlation between the global mean temperature and the estimated number of pirates in the Caribbean, that is analysis of an existing system using statistics, but I would not build a mathematical model of global warming based on that without applying a great deal of non-statistical input.

That said, I find this very unconvincing. And why? Because it is actually very hard to measure the outcome of a conflict, especially when the actual strategic objective of the conflict may be a state secret on the side of the aggressor. Put simply, we do not really know, in the case of Iraq, what the real objective of the US Government is. Is it:

  • To stabilise Iraq with a government that will be a more reliable client of the US than Saddam was?
  • To destabilise Iraq and the Middle East to prevent power accumulations that threaten the US regional aircraft carrier, USS Israel?
  • To maintain high oil prices by creating instability, enriching the Bush family and their clients?
  • To keep up pressure on other states by showing that the US will intervene and create anarchy if it wishes (The old "remember what happened to XXX country?" "There is no XXX country." "Exactly, that's what you need to remember")
My point is that for any desired outcome other than the first, the US Government would be achieving its strategic objectives. The fact that these objectives might be objectionable to the majority of the US population is irrelevant; for most of history, wars have been fought by military elites without reference to the interests of the majority of the population. In exactly this way, Vietnam can actually be seen as a victory for the US if the strategic objective was to stop the expansion of Communism. Personally I don't believe in the domino theory, but if you do you can argue that the example of Vietnam stopped other regional states from going Communist.

In the past, wars usually ended when one side ran out of resources, whether provisioning, human, strategic or geographical. The constraint on warmongers in democratic societies is that society can ultimately strangle the resources of its internal warmongers without, necessarily, killing anybody. It is also possible for democratic societies to change the playing field so that strategic objectives change or become irrelevant. (e.g. by doing so much business with other countries that it becomes impossible to pursue strategic objectives without doing more harm to yourself - which you could say is happening with the US and China.)

Forget the stats, the rest is more interesting (4, Interesting)

ElGanzoLoco (642888) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488149)

Forget about the statistical model, the Slashdot blurb has completely missed the point (as usual) by emphasing it. The point that Mrs. Sullivan is trying to make - and it's a good point - is that the traditional criteria for assessing the outcome of the conflict and whether you have won or lost (such as the number of buildings blown up and enemies killed, number of square kilometers controlled, etc) have become irrelevant in new types of (asymetrical) conflicts, where the objectives are political more than geographical, and where sociological aspects (support of the population, curbing down radicalism or sectarianism, promoting a particular form of government) determine the outcome of the conflict more than raw firepower.

The relevant part:
Driving Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War and overthrowing his government in 2003 was a brute force objective that was accomplished relatively quickly, for example, but quelling sectarian violence and building support for the current government has been much more difficult because it requires target compliance.

"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," Sullivan said. "Otherwise, every time we kill an insurgent or a terrorist, they're going to be replaced by others."


So, don't panic. No one is seriously trying to "predict" the outcome of a war by statistics alone. It's about time the American academia and military ditch the Cold War mindset they've been stuck in since 1947, and start adjusting to the new realities of warfare and conflict resolution. This has happened in smaller countries (in Europe and elsewhere) some time ago, with varying degrees of success. French opposition to the war in Iraq, for instance, was largely based on a good understanding of which political and sociological forces would naturally prevail in Iraq once the artificial Baathist regime was terminated. In other words: yes, we can blow the country to bits, but once we've done that, there is very little that can be done to manage the country's politics afterwards.

statistics.. (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488151)

So, the Soviets should have invaded at least 15 times to succeed, or something. At the moment it seems USA needs to try again five times, but it needs to do it fast because the probability is decreasing rapidly and I don't think it can bear the expenses.. Interesting statistical fact is that humans have less than two arms and legs.

war is science (1)

duggi (1114563) | more than 7 years ago | (#19488175)

Sun Tzu did that. Statistics is just analysis of data, and its what data you analyse that gives you a good result.
If you take into account the number of UN troops to Dafur and the local population stats, you might be wrong, because you forgot the tactics that can be used against a conditioned millitary force(Guerrilla warfare). some data might is intangible, and we need a new science that does quantitative analysis of these intangible expertise.
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