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Monitoring Trends in Global Combat: A New Dataset of Battle Deaths

  • Bethany Lacina
  • Nils Petter Gleditsch
Article

Abstract

Both academic publications and public media often make inappropriate use of incommensurate conflict statistics, creating misleading impressions about patterns in global warfare. This article clarifies the distinction between combatant deaths, battle deaths, and war deaths. A new dataset of battle deaths in armed conflict is presented for the period 1946–2002. Global battle deaths have been decreasing over most of this period, mainly due to a decline in interstate and internationalised civil armed conflict. It is far more difficult to accurately assess the number of war deaths in conflicts both past and present. But there are compelling reasons to believe that there is a need for increased attention to non-battle causes of mortality, especially displacement and disease in conflict studies. Therefore, it is demographers, public health specialists, and epidemiologists who can best describe the true human cost of many recent armed conflicts and assess the actions necessary to reduce that toll.

Key words

battle deaths casualties combat mortality conflict war deaths 

Résumé

Que ce soit dans les publications de recherche ou les médias, l’usage de statistiques disproportionnées sur les victimes de conflits donne souvent une image déformée des conséquences des opérations de guerre. Cet article distingue les morts de combattants, des victimes des combats et des victimes de guerre. Il présente un nouvel ensemble de données sur les décès dus aux combats sur la période 1946 à 2002. Le total des décès dus aux combats a diminué sur presque toute la période du fait d’une réduction des conflits internationaux et entre états. Il est beaucoup plus difficile d’estimer le nombre total de décès dus à la guerre dans les conflits passés ou présents. Mais il y a de fortes raisons de croire qu’il est nécessaire, dans les études sur les conflits, de porter une plus grande attention aux causes de décès non directement dues aux combats, notamment celles liées au déplacement des populations et à la diffusion de maladies. C’est pourquoi ce sont les démographes, les spécialistes de santé publique et les épidémiologistes qui sont le plus à même d’estimer le véritable coût humain de beaucoup de conflits récents et d’identifier les actions nécessaires à la réduction de ce fardeau.

Mots clés

décès au combat décès de guerre conflit mortalité au combat pertes militaires 

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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford UniversityPalo AltoU.S.A.
  2. 2.Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW)International Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)OsloNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheim, Norway

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