Clio-Combinatorics: A Novel Framework to Analyze Military Logistics Choices Using Operations Research Techniques

Clio-Combinatorics: A Novel Framework to Analyze Military Logistics Choices Using Operations Research Techniques

Jesus Gonzalez-Feliu (Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne, France) and Antoine Parent (Sciences Po Lyon, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9779-9.ch005


This chapter proposes to apply combinatorial optimization to past military conflicts with the aim of producing quantitative data that help explaining history. To do this, we can go beyond the classical “problem solving” vision of operations research that focuses on algorithmic development and computation analysis to privilege solution analysis and the needs of matching the obtained solution to the reality we aim to represent, study and analyze. In particular, we propose an iterative logic search method that aims to identify and analyze military strategic logic in terms of logistics. Then, to illustrate it, an application to the French troop assignment plan (Plan XVII of Joffre, 1932) is made to analyze which could be the subjacent logic behind the defense plan of French troops and state on the consequences of the optimization choices in terms of regional distribution of troops. A discussion of the proposed framework and the directions to generalize it will be presented as a conclusion.
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2. Explaining Historical Facts By Quantitative Methods: From Cliometrics To Clio-Sciences

A good definition of cliometrics to start with is the one by Avner Greif, ‘Cliometrics after 40 years’ (1997): “As an intellectual movement, cliometrics aspired to enhance the study of past economies by subjecting them to the rigor of economic theory and quantitative analysis, while utilizing the richness of history to evaluate and stimulate economic theory and improve our comprehension of long-run economic processes. The contribution of this approach is immeasurable: it has altered and enriched our perceptions regarding numerous issues in economic history (p. 400)”.

It has to be noted that the topic of economics of transportation became the heart of the development of cliometric, since Fogel’s (1964) seminal book Railroads and American economic growth. Curiously, the usual methodology in this field of research, namely operational research which currently applies to spatial economics and economics of transportation today, is totally absent of Fogel’s approach. We want here to fill a gap in the cliometric literature by emphasizing the necessity to revisit standard cliometrics of transportion by introducing in this approach the means of operation research. By doing so, we are in line with the original cliometric purpose as developed by Fogel and North, since we wish to innovate by developing a new branch of cliometrics of transports, that we call clio-combinatorics. We shall explicit below what makes the originality and continuity of our research program. Fundamentally, we rely on the distinction initially established by Fogel, between theory and modeling, and argue that the operation research delivers a good methodological framework to assess the behavior of the agent in the past, whatever the type of action he undertakes.

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