Let me start over. The key—but unanswerable—question for most things in life but also in a conflict is: What is going to happen next? A useful proxy is: What will the average person (on one side of the conflict) do? As the Armenian fighters were all irregular, it isn’t much use to look for what grand strategy some general had. It was much more horizontal.
The fact pattern I’m looking at is roughly 1988-1993, when armed Armenian resistance in the Nagorno-Karabakh was developing and was in open conflict. On one side was a well paid and moderately well trained Azeri army with many paid mercenaries, on the other was a small untrained poorly-armed Armenian population demanded independence. It’s unclear who started the war as violent and oppressive actions existed for a period of time beforehand. To generalize, it was an ethnic liberation struggle between disproportionate opponents.
One method of answering that is to collect a broad sample of sentiments from the Armenian side and then calculate an average sentiment. An alternative macro tool would be to examine the situation through more macro tools: e.g. see if common conditions of revolution are met, examine the factors that might make the average fighter fight on or give up (e.g. fighting for their homeland increased their determination), etc.
--Data Gathering for CBA
Besides the obvious challenges to collecting data during subvert resistance or open fighting, there are still challenges
Pricing the priceless & troubling trade-offs* – while policy wonks are willing to quantify and balance the number of acceptable deaths to the cost of increased car safety requirements, the average person can’t or won’t. Especially people who are not trained in cost-benefit analysis will not be willing to answer questions. Certain things are absolute and can’t or won’t be viewed in a trading mindset.
Survival mindset – Alternatively, the participants would give logically inconsistent answers because of their absolutist framework (e.g. willing to sacrifice anything for family and for homeland). I’m not calling these people stupid. I’m saying that in the world they live in, filled with propaganda, death, next-to-zero knowledge of the future, and human bonds as tough as life, promotes absolutist thinking and discourages those that spread doubt. Again, these weren’t trained soldiers prepared for the trauma of war but average people doing whatever they could to survive. They very much do actions that an hour before or an hour later they recognize were wrong but still did (rationally wrong, not morally wrong. Such as killing your supervisor because he won’t let you sleep in the middle of a battle even though you haven’t slept for three days [almost true story, in reality the guy couldn’t reposition his gun to shoot his supervisor before his supervisor walked away]).
What looks like a relevant article on the issue is here: http://www.springerlink.com/content/gtew18wmc577440k/
. Unfortunately, I could only read the abstract.
I looked and couldn’t find any cost-benefit analysis of combatants in an armed struggle or revolutionary movement. Using the lack of evidence as support for my view is the weakest kind of support possible, but it’s still support. Whatever degree the lack of articles is caused because of useless data or results and not from the logistical challenges of data gathering would be relevant.
While all of this is technically separate from CBA, it’s an absolute essential requirement to applying CBA. Thus, as the data gathering becomes harder and harder, CBA becomes more and more useless.
On the macro side are hundreds of political science pieces on ethnic conflict, revolutionary movements, etc. While political science is generally poor at predicting, I won’t discount the entire field. The macro side involves applying these political science theories to the situation. Understanding Revolution (http://www.themontrealreview.com/2009/the-paradox-of-understanding-revolution.php
) is an example of a book that develops these theories that one can apply.
While Macro tools are not foolproof (and generally not preferable when more detailed data is available), in situations of fomenting revolution or open conflict by irregulars protecting their homeland, it seems like a much better tool than CBA because it’s not hampered by the need for detailed data gathering.
*Names from this essay: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Ack_UK_CBAcritique.pdf