Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict



Jake Shapiro, Professor, Princeton University and Eli Berman, Professor, UC San Diego

Date and Time

November 1, 2018 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Jake Shapiro Bio: Jacob N. Shapiro is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and co-directs the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project. His research focuses on political violence, economic development in conflict zones, and security policy. He is the author of The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations. His research has been published in Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Review, American Journal of Political Science, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Perspectives on Politics, Political Analysis, Public Opinion Quarterly, Security Studies, World Politics, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Military Operations Research, Terrorism and Political Violence, and a number of edited volumes. Shapiro is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an Associate Editor of World Politics, a Faculty Fellow of the Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS), a Research Fellow at the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP), and served in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve. Ph.D. Political Science, M.A. Economics, Stanford University. B.A. Political Science, University of Michigan.

Eli Berman Bio: Eli Berman is chair and professor of economics at UC San Diego, research director for international security studies at the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, faculty member at the UCSD school of Global Policy and Strategy, member of the Empirical Studies of Conflict research project, and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His book Radical, Religious and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism was published in 2009 by the MIT Press. Berman received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. His latest publications are “The Empiricists’ Insurgency” (with Aila Matanock), and "Modest, Secure and Employed: Successful Development in Conflict Zones," (with Joseph Felter, Jacob Shapiro and Erin Troland). Grants supporting his research have come from the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Science Foundation. His research interests include economic development and conflict, the economics of religion, labor economics, technological change, and economic demography.

Abstract: The way wars are fought has changed starkly over the past sixty years. International military campaigns used to play out between large armies at central fronts. Today's conflicts find major powers facing rebel insurgencies that deploy elusive methods, from improvised explosives to terrorist attacks. Small Wars, Big Data presents a transformative understanding of these contemporary confrontations and how they should be fought. The authors show that a revolution in the study of conflict--enabled by vast data, rich qualitative evidence, and modern methods—yields new insights into terrorism, civil wars, and foreign interventions. Modern warfare is not about struggles over territory but over people; civilians—and the information they might choose to provide—can turn the tide at critical junctures.The authors draw practical lessons from the past two decades of conflict in locations ranging from Latin America and the Middle East to Central and Southeast Asia. Building an information-centric understanding of insurgencies, the authors examine the relationships between rebels, the government, and civilians. This approach serves as a springboard for exploring other aspects of modern conflict, including the suppression of rebel activity, the role of mobile communications networks, the links between aid and violence, and why conventional military methods might provide short-term success but undermine lasting peace. Ultimately the authorsshow how the stronger side can almost always win the villages, but why that does not guarantee winning the war.