Michael Spagat, Department of Economics


The Nature of War    

Since around 2004 I have been pursuing an agenda with Neil Johnson, a physicist at the University of Miami, and a number of other collaborators finding and explaining common patterns that range across wars. Our main work together is summarized in a cover article that appeared in Nature:

Common Ecology Quantifies Human Insurgency with Juan Camilo Bohorquez, Sean Gourley, Alex Dixon and Neil F. Johnson, Nature, December 17, 2009.

There was good journalistic coverage of this article in Nature, Science, Discover, Discover again, the New Scientist, the BBC, Miller-McCune, Big Think, again Big Think with interesting historical background. There was also a useful interview of co-author Sean Gourley on the TED web site and a nice blog posts on Global Guerrillas and Follow the Data.

Mathematics of War is a web site we have set up to provide mathematical background material on the modeling side of the work.

There were two antecedents to the "Common Ecology.."paper:

Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism with Neil Johnson, Jorge Restrepo, Óscar Becerra, Juan Camilo Bohórquez, Nicolás Suarez, Elvira María Restrepo, and Roberto Zarama, 2006.

This paper was written up in Science, reviewed in Physorg.com and summarized by Neil Johnson The Back Page of APS News, November 2006, Volume 15, Number 10.

From Old Wars to New Wars and Global Terrorism with Neil Johnson, Jorge Restrepo, Juan Camilo Bohórquez, Nicolás Suarez, Elvira María Restrepo, and Roberto Zarama, 2005.

This paper was covered in the Economist, The Guardian and Nature. There is also an interesting discussion on Global Guerrillas.

Universal Patterns in Modern Conflicts is a short presentation that may be the easiest introduction to this research agenda.

Natural Disasters, Casualties and Power Laws with Óscar Becerra, Neil Johnson, Patrick Meier and Jorge Restrepo, 2006.

 

There has been an offshoot of this research program examining spatial patterns of violence and their implications for commonly used sampling procedures for estimating conflict violence in sample surveys. Along the way we coined the term "main-street bias" which has taken hold:

Bias in Epidemiological Studies of Conflict Mortality with Neil F. Johnson, Sean Gourley, Jukka-Pekka Onnela and Gesine Reinert, Journal of Peace Research, 45(5), 653-664.

This paper won the Article of the Year in the Journal of Peace Research. There have been good journalistic articles citing this work in Science, Science (again), Nature, Slate, The Times, The New Scientist, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and Miller-McCune Magazine .

We published a follow-up paper generalizing the model:

Sampling Bias due to Structural Heterogeneity and Limited Internal Diffusion with Jukka-Pekka Onnela, Neil F. Johnson, Sean Gourley and Gesine Reinert, European Physics Letters, January 2009.

Conflict Mortality Surveys is a web site we have set up with much supporting material on this work.

Potential Sampling Biases in Mortality Surveys is a presentation I gave at at "Survey Conference 2007: Surveying Health in Complex Situations" sponsored by the CRED - Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The Discussion of Potential Sampling Bias in the Second Lancet Study of Mortality in Iraq is a presentation I gave at the third annual conference of the Households in Conflict Network at the University of Sussex in 2007.

Non-violent and Violent Conflict Deaths in Small Cluster Surveys is a presentation I gave at the Conference on Casualty Recording and Estimation in Times of Conflict at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh in 2009.

 

Conflict, Health and Human Rights

This is an agenda I pursue with Dr. Madelyn Hicks, a psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London and other collaborators. This work flows out of our first paper together in which we propose a framework to document, analyze and reduce harmful effects of armed conflict with particular regard to civilians:

Global Comparison of Warring Groups in 2002–2007: Fatalities from Targeting Civilians vs. Fighting Battles with Madelyn Hicks, Uih Ran Lee and Ralph Sundberg, PLoSONE, September 6, 2011.

Casualties in Civilians and Coalition Soldiers from Suicide Bombings in Iraq, 2003—10: a Descriptive Study with Madelyn Hicks Hamit Dardagan, Peter Bagnall and John Sloboda, the Lancet, September 2, 2011.

Coverage in the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post Guardian and CNN.

Here is an exchange of letters we had in the Lancet after publishing the original paper.

The Dirty War Index: A Public Health and Human Rights Tool for Examining and Monitoring Armed Conflict Outcomes with Madelyn Hicks, PLoS Medicine, 5(12): e243.

There are good journalistic articles about this idea in Nature, Miller-McCune and PHYSORG.com.

Together mainly with collaborators from Iraq Body Count we analyzed the lethal effects of different weapons on civilians (see the press release):

The Weapons that Kill Civilians - Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003-2008 with Madelyn Hicks, Hamit Dardagan, Gabriela Guerrero Serdan, Peter Bagnall and John Sloboda, New England Journal of Medicine, April 16, 2009.

There is good journalistic coverage of this paper in Miller-McCune, the Daily Telegraph and Time.

The same group extended this analysis, breaking the violence down by perpetrator, weapon, time and location (see the press release):

Violent Deaths of Iraqi Civilians, 2003-2008: Analysis by Perpetrator, Weapon, Time, and Location with Madelyn Hicks, Hamit Dardagan, Gabriela Guerrero Serdan, Peter Bagnall and John Sloboda, PLoS Medicine, February 2011.

We teamed up with British Army medic Lt. Col. Ewan Cameron to describe how Civilian Battle Damage Assessment Ratios (CBDARs) can be used by military and humanitarian organizations to track and reduce civilian casualties from military actions:

Tracking Civilian Casualties in Combat Zone using Civilian Battle Damage Assessment Ratios, with Ewan Cameron and Madelyn Hicks, British Army Review, Summer, 2009.

The Full Original Version contains references that were removed from the final published version.

Since October 2009 CBDAR methodology has and continues to be used by NATO forces in Southern Afghanistan to reduce injuries to Afghan civilians.  The methodology has already led to changes in NATO procedure after a number of military activities that have caused civilian mortality have been identified.  This has reduced the number of civilian incidents and thus protected the population from some of the effects of conflict.  Now that Ewan has returned from Afghanistan we will work to publish a subsequent article on his finding regarding the application of CBDAR methodology. Meanwhile please listen to the podcast that Ewan Cameron has done from Afghanistan explaining some details on how the CBDAR methodology is being applied in the field. This is posted on the web site of the AMSUS: The Society of Federal Health Agencies.

Why Record War Casualties? is a presentation I gave at the conference The Role of Computer Science in Civilian Casualty Recording and Estimation at Carnegie Mellon University in 2010.

Awakening Blank Memory, Canadian International Council, December 2011.



Human Rights Conditions on Foreign Aid Can Backfire with Michael Mandler, 2005.

Foreign Aid Designed to Diminish Terrorist Atrocities can Increase Them with Michael Mandler.  (This paper is being split into two papers and hence covers some of the same ground as the paper above.), 2003.

 

Mismeasuring Deaths in Iraq

The following series of papers and presentations are part of a large effort I am making to sort through all sources of information on mortality in the Iraq conflict, separating fact from fiction. I plan to write a book on this subject.

In the paper below I make the case that the data from the Burnham et al. survey of mortality in Iraq are unsound and unethically gathered.

Ethical and Data-Integrity Problems in the Second Lancet Survey of Mortality in Iraq Defense and Peace Economics, Volume 21, issue 1, February 2010, pages 1-41.

I summarize this paper in a press Release (long version) and a short document

There is good coverage of this paper at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference and Social Science, Straight Statistics, Francis Sedgemore, Eagle Eye, and Miller-McCune.

Below is a follow up paper to the "Ethics and Data Integrity..." paper exposing a number of flawed attempts to claim corroborating evidence for the Burnham et al. survey of mortality in Iraq.

Mainstreaming an Outlier: The Quest to Corroborate the Second Lancet Survey of Mortality in Iraq forthcoming in Defense and Peace Economics.

Online Appendix to "Mainstreaming an Outlier: The Quest to Corroborate the Second Lancet Survey of Mortality in Iraq"

Iraq Study Failed Replication Test is a letter I published in Science that was responding to this article.

First Thoughts on the National Journal Articles on the Lancet Surveys of Mortality in Iraq is a response a package of articles on the dispute over the Burnham et al. survey that came out in January of 2008 on in the National Journal.

I show in a paper with Josh Dougherty of Iraq Body Count that another survey purporting to measure violent deaths also overestimated these deaths by a wide margin:

Conflict Deaths in Iraq: A Methodological Critique of the ORB Survey Estimate with Josh Dougherty, Survey Research Methods, Vol 4, No 1, 2010, pp. 3-15.

Josh and I summarize our argument in this press release. There was good coverage at Straight Statistics, Francis Sedgemore, and Eagle Eye.

We also have a debate about this paper with Johnny Heald of ORB:

Discussion of Conflict Deaths in Iraq: A Methodological Critique of the ORB Survey Estimate with Josh Dougherty and Johnny Heald, Survey Research Methods, Vol 4, No 1, 2001, pp. 17-19.

Counting the Dead in Iraq is a presentation that I gave at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Denver in August of 2008 (with some slight improvements over the original).

How Many Dead (Really): Fact and Fiction Regarding Civilian Casualties in Iraq is a presentation I gave at George Mason University School of public policy in 2007.

 

Very well publicized estimates of the number of children who died due to economic sanctions in Iraq in the 1990's are also wrong:

Truth and death in Iraq under Sanctions Significance, vol. 7, issue 3, September 2010, pp. 116-120.

Two Decades of Death in Iraq is a keynote address I gave to The Dean's International Council 2010 in Beirut organized by the Harris School of the University of Chicago in which I summarize the key evidence given in the Significance article above and then discuss the implications of the WikiLeaks release of data on the Iraq war based on work that I did with Iraq Body Count.

 

Survey Estimates of War Deaths

Note that all of the papers in the sections "Mismeasuring Deaths in Iraq" and the papers towards the bottom of "The Nature of War" (below the break) are part of this Survey Estimate of War Deaths but I do not relist them in this section.

18.7 Million Anihilated Says Leading Expert in Peer-Reviewed Journal: An Approved, Authoritative, Scientific Presentation Made by an Expert is a presentation made at the Royal Society of Medicine Catastrophes and Conflict Conference, April 2013.

Violent Deaths in Kosovo: A Presentation given at the AAAS meeting in Vancouver in February 2012, with Sze Leung Lau. This project includes Sandra Orlovic of the Humanitarian Law Center and Nicholas Jewell of UC Berkeley.

Estimating the Human Costs of War: The Sample Survey Approach forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Peace and Conflict.

Estimating War Deaths: An Arena of Contestation with Andrew Mack, Tara Cooper and Joakim Kruetz, Journal of Conflict Resolution, December 2009.

Appendix to: Estimating War Deaths: An Arena of Contestation with Andrew Mack, Tara Cooper and Joakim Kruetz

Leading British Medical Journal's Review Process Assailed is a web site to support the "Estimating War Death.." paper. It is housed at the web site of the Human Security Report Project of Simon Fraser University.

Inconsistent Comparisons and Unsound Conclusions is a letter I published in BMJ Rapid Response that gave early version of some of the points made in "Estimating War Death...".

 

The Colombian Conflict

Ultrametric Wavelet Regression of Multivariate Time Series: Application to Colombian Conflict Analysis with Fionn Murtagh and Jorge Restrepo, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man & Cybernetics, Part A, PP Issue: 99, 2010.

The Severity of the Colombian Conflict: Cross-Country Datasets vs. New Micro Data with Jorge Restrepo and Juan Fernando Vargas, Journal of Peace Research, 43 (1), January 2006, pp. 99-115.

Colombia's hydra: The many faces of gun violence with Katherine Aguirre, Robert Muggah and Jorge Restrepo, Chapter 9 of Small Arms Survey 2006.

This paper was written up in the Financial Times and in many sources in Spanish.

El conflicto en Colombia: ¿quién hizo qué a quién? Un enfoque cuantitativo with Jorge Restrepo and Juan Fernando Vargas, in Francisco Gutiérrez (ed.), Nuestra guerra sin nombre, Norma, 2006.

La desmovilización y el desarme paramilitar en Colombia: éxito provisional y silencioso This article was published in Hechos Del callejón, UNDP Colombia, 17, August 2006 but due to an apparent miscommunication it was missing many corrections to an earlier draft of the translation that Jorge Restrepo and Juan Telliz had kindly made for me. I asked my contacts at Hechos to replace the web version of my piece with the corrected version and they agreed to do this but never actually did it. Instead they seem to have deleted my piece from the web site and replaced it with another one. The above link is what should have appeared. I cannot find the Spanish versions of the maps and figures any more but there are English versions at the end of the link below.

Colombia's paramilitary DDR: Quiet and Tentative Success this is the English version of the above Spanish piece, complete with figures and maps. It came out in English on the CERAC web site in August of 2006.

This work was cited in the Economist and World Politics Watch.

The Colombian Conflict: Uribe's First 17 Months with Jorge Restrepo, in Survival, vol. 47, issue 5, 2004, pp. 131-152 as "Colombia's Tipping Points?".

The Dynamics of the Colombian Civil Conflict: A New Dataset with Jorge Restrepo and Juan F. Vargas, Homo Oeconomicus, 21(2), 2004, pp. 396-428.

La Dinámica del Conflicto Colombiano, 1988-2003 with Jorge Restrepo and Juan Fernando Vargas, 2004. This is, essentially, the Spanish version of the above paper.

The Colombian Conflict: Where is it Heading? with Jorge Restrepo is a presentation I gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington in 2005.

Briefing on the Colombian Conflict is a presentation that I gave to the incoming British Ambassador to Colombia in 2005.

Below are two unfinished working papers:

The Work of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch: Evidence from Colombia with Andres Ballesteros, Jorge Restrepo and Juan F. Vargas, CERAC Working Paper number 4, 2007.

Civilian Casualties in the Colombian Conflict: A New Approach to Human Security with Jorge Restrepo, 2004.


Here are some shorter pieces on the Colombian Conflict

Book Review of  "Americas's Other War" by Doug Stokes, Journal of Peace Research, 2007.

Colombia's Chimera: Reflections on Human Security and Armed Violence with Robert Muggah, Jorge Restrepo and Keith Krause, Human Security Bulletin, December, 2005.

Kate Moss Should Support reparations for Colombia's Victims Human Security Bulletin, December, 2005.

Major Developments in the Colombian Conflict with Jorge Restrepo, Human Security Bulletin, December, 2005.

Rethinking the Colombian Conflict with Jorge Restrepo, November 15, 2004.

Ser leal con Colombia El Tiempo, June 29, 2004.

U.S. Must Stand by Colombia Miami Herald, June 23, 2004.

 

Dictatorship

Political Instability and Growth in Dictatorships with Jody Overland and Kenneth Simons, Public Choice, 2005.

The Politics of Co-optation with Graziella Bertocchi, Journal of Comparative Economics,  Vol. 29, no. 4, December 2001.

The Dynamics of Repressive Dictatorships with Jorge Restrepo, 2001.

 

Human Capital

Human Capital and the Future of Transition Economies Journal of Comparative Economics, 34 (1), March 2006, pp. 44-56.

The Evolution of Modern Education Systems: Technical vs. General Education, Distributional Conflict and Growth with Graziella Bertocchi., Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 73, no. 2, March 2004, pp. 559-582.

Human Capital, Growth and Inequality in Transition Economies in Nauro Campos and Jan Fidrmuc (eds.), "Political Economy of Transition and Development: Institutions, Politics and Policies." ZEI Studies in European Economics and Law, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston/Dordrecht/London, 2003.

Human Capital, Growth and Inequality in Russia with C. Simon Fan and Jody Overland, Journal of Comparative Economics, Vol. 27, no. 4, December 1999,  pp. 618-643.

Education and the Transition from Communism with Ksenia Iliasova, 2004, revised 2006.

 

Transition from Communism

Structural Uncertainty and Subsidy Removal for Economies in Transition with Graziella Bertocchi, European Economic Review, vol. 41,  no. 9, Dec. 1997, pp. 1709-33.

Human Capital, Growth and Inequality in Russia with C. Simon Fan and Jody Overland, Journal of Comparative Economics, Vol. 27, no. 4, December 1999,  pp. 618-643.

A Book Review of Incentives and Institutions: The Transition to a Market Economy in Russia By Serguey Braguinsky and Grigory Yavlinsky, Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. XL, no. 1, March 2002.

Human Capital, Growth and Inequality in Transition Economies in Nauro Campos and Jan Fidrmuc (eds.), "Political Economy of Transition and Development: Institutions, Politics and Policies." ZEI Studies in European Economics and Law, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston/Dordrecht/London, 2003.

Human Capital and the Future of Transition Economies Journal of Comparative Economics, 34 (1), March 2006, pp. 44-56.

Education and the Transition from Communism with Ksenia Iliasova, 2004, revised 2006.

 

Monetary Policy

Learning, experimentation, and monetary policy with Graziella Bertocchi, Journal Of Monetary Economics, (32)1 (1993) pp. 169-183.

Structural Uncertainty and Central Bank Conservatism; The Ignorant Should Shut Their Eyes with Mauricio Rosal, 2002, revised 2006.

Discussion of “The great inflation of the 1970s” by Fabrice Collard and Harris Dellas prepared for the: “International Research Forum on Monetary Policy” Washington DC November 14-15, 2003.

A Review of Knowledge, Information, and Expectations in Modern Macroeconomics: In Honor of Edmund S. Phelps edited by Philippe Aghion, Roman Frydman, Joseph Stiglitz, and Michael Woodford, Economic Journal, 2004.

Bayesian Learning

Learning, experimentation, and monetary policy with Graziella Bertocchi, Journal Of Monetary Economics, (32)1 (1993) pp. 169-183.

Leaving Some Stones Unturned; A Reassessment of Iterative Planning Theory Journal of Public Economics, vol. 58, 1995.

Structural Uncertainty and Subsidy Removal for Economies in Transition with Graziella Bertocchi, European Economic Review, vol. 41,  no. 9, Dec. 1997, pp. 1709-33.

Growth Under Uncertainty with Experimentation with Graziella Bertocchi, Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Vol. 23, no. 2, November 1998, pp.  209-31.

Structural Uncertainty and Central Bank Conservatism; The Ignorant Should Shut Their Eyes with Mauricio Rosal, 2002, revised 2006.

 

Central Planning

Contract Enforcement in Seller's Markets Journal of Comparative Economics, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 681-697, December 1991.

Productivity Paralysis and the Complexity Problem: Why do Centrally Planned Economies Become Prematurely Gray? with Abhijit Banerjee, Journal of Comparative Economics, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 646-660, December 1991.

Shortages Amid Plenty Under Soviet-Type Planning: A Theory of Unreliable Supplies with Abhijit Banerjee, Journal of Comparative Economics, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 302-308, June 1992.

A General Model of the Soviet Consumer with Arnab Acharya, Journal of Comparative Economics, vol. 20, no. 3, June, 1995.

Leaving Some Stones Unturned; A Reassessment of Iterative Planning Theory Journal of Public Economics, vol. 58, 1995.

 

 

Below I post a few items that I refer to in some of my research papers but that have disappeared from the internet. I do this purely for the convenience of people reading these papers.

Here is a letter written by Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts written to the National Journal.

Here is a Q&A document on two Iraq mortality studies that was posted on the web site of the Bloomberg web site and withdrawn without explanation.

Here is another document that had disappeared from the web. This is the basis of a somewhat widespread believe that a survey was done finding 37,000 civilians killed in the very early stages of the Iraq war.

 


 




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