Military Effectiveness in Modern War

How do we explain variation in battlefield performance in conventional war?

This project investigates the sources of battlefield performance in conventional wars (including civil wars) fought between 1800 and 2011. A new dataset of conventional wars and combatants — the product of over 80 coders working in 21 languages over 6 years — forms the empirical backbone of these efforts. New data on battlefield practices, including desertion and defection among soldiers, is also marshalled to demonstrate that the sources of wartime military effectiveness lie in a state’s prewar identity type. More specifically, the nature and severity of exclusion directed toward internal populations by regimes seeking to legitimate their domestic rule helps condition a state’s military performance even before the first battle is joined. A mixture of crossnational data, natural experiments, and paired historical cases are used to test this argument against alternative explanations.

Relevant Research

“Why Armies Break: Explaining Mass Desertion in Conventional War” pdf.



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