Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Patricia L. Sullivan's "Who Wins?"

Patricia L. Sullivan is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Peace, War, and Defense in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the recipient of the 2011 SPIA Excellence in Teaching Award, the 2004-2006 Walter Isard Dissertation Award, given every two years by the Peace Science Society International, and the 2005 Dissertation Award from the Committee on the Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy (CAMOS), an affiliated group of the American Political Science Association.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Who Wins?: Predicting Strategic Success and Failure in Armed Conflict, and reported the following:
There are only 73 words on page 99. The page is entirely taken up by a gargantuan table of numbers—statistical results from a Heckman two-stage multinomial logistic regression selection model. The general reader is likely to skip right over it. But this one table presents almost as much information as the prose in the remainder of the chapter. So what does it say? What is so interesting about the numbers in this table?

This table summarizes the effects of ten key factors on the outcomes of almost 2000 violent disputes between countries all over the world between 1919 and 2001. I argue in this book that all military operations ultimately have political objectives, and the numbers in this table provide striking evidence that the utility of military force for achieving these objectives is limited. In other words, even very powerful countries frequently cannot achieve their objectives at an acceptable human and material cost when they use military force against much weaker adversaries. On the first line of numbers in this table, the data show that a country’s military strength is highly correlated with its ability to attain what I call “brute force” objectives—political objectives that could be seized and held by physical force alone. Strong countries are likely to succeed when they engage in direct attempts to seize territory or overthrow foreign regimes. But a country’s willingness to suffer political costs and the enemy’s resolve to resist become more important than physical strength when a country uses military force in an attempt to attain political objectives that require compliant behavior on the part of the enemy. Negative numbers on row 13 reveal that military strength is actually negatively correlated with the likelihood a country will attain “compliance-dependent” objectives. Militarily strong countries are at greatest risk of failure when they use force in an attempt to coerce weaker countries into changing objectionable foreign or domestic policies.
Learn more about Who Wins? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue