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The Devil's Calculus: Mathematical Models of Civil War

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  • Shenoy, Ajay

Abstract

In spite of the movement to turn political science into a real science, various mathematical methods that are now the staples of physics, biology, and even economics are thoroughly uncommon in political science, especially the study of civil war. This study seeks to apply such methods - specifically, ordinary differential equations (ODEs) - to model civil war based on what one might dub the capabilities school of thought, which roughly states that civil wars end only when one side’s ability to make war falls far enough to make peace truly attractive. I construct several different ODE-based models and then test them all to see which best predicts the instantaneous capabilities of both sides of the Sri Lankan civil war in the period from 1990 to 1994 given parameters and initial conditions. The model that the tests declare most accurate gives very accurate predictions of state military capabilities and reasonable short term predictions of cumulative deaths. Analysis of the model reveals the scale of the importance of rebel finances to the sustainability of insurgency, most notably that the number of troops required to put down the Tamil Tigers is reduced by nearly a full order of magnitude when Tiger foreign funding is stopped. The study thus demonstrates that accurate foresight may come of relatively simple dynamical models, and implies the great potential of advanced and currently unconventional non-statistical mathematical methods in political science.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 8895.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8895

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Keywords: civil war; mathematical model; differential equations; dynamic model;

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  1. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and Grievance in Civil War," Development and Comp Systems 0409007, EconWPA.
  2. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke & Soderbom, Mans, 2001. "On the duration of civil war," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2681, The World Bank.
  3. Elbadawi, Ibrahim A. & Sambanis, Nicholas, 2000. "External interventions and the duration of civil wars," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2433, The World Bank.
  4. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 1998. "On Economic Causes of Civil War," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 563-73, October.
  5. International Monetary Fund, 2000. "Corruption and Military Spending," IMF Working Papers 00/23, International Monetary Fund.
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