Is there such a thing as an “Average War”?

Posted on: October 22, 2014

Is there such a thing as an “Average War”?

The law of average is confusing, and basically the mean of a distribution has no concrete meaning to explain. Unlike the median which represents the cut-off point between the 50% lowest and 50% highest points in any data.

Actually, the Mean is basically used as a mean for further mathematical transformations of other statistical information such as standard deviations and other values.

Nassim Taleb warns: “Don’t cross a river if it is on average 4 feet deep. The river might transform into a raging torrent a few feet away from the middle…”

For example, receiving an average ultra violet rays one day may not be harmful. Getting this average doze several days per week and you have got a problem.

This article wants to focus on  whether any one can dare put forth what can be considered an average war.

Consider all the wars waged during the last 3 centuries, as cannon improved in mass killing and greater distance.

Mind you that a war is a series of field military battles, siege of cities and economic sanctions and blockades.

War can be a civil war, a colonial expansion adventure or between contiguous countries or alliance of nations, genocides, displacement of people, massive refugees exodus

Mind you also that sieges and economic blockades harvest more casualties than field battles: Due to famine, malnutrition, dissemination of diseases, lack of medicine, high infantile mortality, polluted and infected water supply… and the casualties are essentially non-combatant people.

For example, think of the blockade against Iraq for an entire decade (1993-2003) and the million of kids who died from lack of milk and basic medicines.

Think of the blockade of Iran since 1983.

Think of the blockade and sanctions against the Syrian people since 2011.

Think of the recent blockade of the Western African countries suffering from the Ebola epidemic: No border crossing, no meaningful trades with these poor countries…

Think of the siege of Homs, Aleppo, the Yarmouk Palestinian camp near Damascus, and the latest of Kobani (Ain Arab city)

Think of the conditions and the 3 consecutive preemptive wars on Gaza, this enclave constituting a big concentration camp

Now plot in a timeline fashion all the kinds of casualties (killed, injured, handicapped…) for each field battle, siege and blockade of entire region during the war until a treaty of stopping military confrontation takes hold.

How would you analyze the distribution graphs of all these wars, and how would you categorize the seriousness and level of danger of each war?

Frankly, the average of any distribution where any one of the tails over-dominate the set of data is practically worthless.

For example, studying the distribution of wealth when billionaires are included in the set.

Or studying the average population size in cities when we include cities like Tokyo (35 million) the 11 cities with size between 20 and 30 million, the 15 cities with size over 10 million and the 48 cities between 5 and 10 million….

There is no average wars simply because the distribution of wars follow the power law: How can we study a distribution of casualties when we add the WWI ad WWII wars or the genocides committed during Stalin, Cambodia, Rwanda., and the enduring civil wars in the Congo for the last 3 decades and yet not terminated, the situation in Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan..?

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