Producing Death: Estimating the Offense-Defense Balance from the Production Function of Battle Casualties"


250 years ago wars were fought with muskets. Today they are fought with missiles. Yet most empirical and theoretical literature has treated war as a homogeneous process across time. This paper develops a theoretical and quantitative apparatus to describe a key source of heterogeneity in wars, the technology of combat. The technology of combat is the shape of the function that takes military forces as inputs and produces casualties as its outputs, i.e. the production function of war. Using a Bayesian hierarchical model, I estimate the coefficients of this function at the war level. These estimates provide theoretically derived empirical estimates of the offense-defense balance and the relationship between the quantity and quality of forces over time and across wars