Understanding the "Third Army" of War

 Dr. Marcus Marktanner
Dr. Marcus Marktanner

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 14, 2017)Marcus Marktanner is interested in understanding the interaction of conflict and economic development. Generally speaking, it is the following question that fascinates him: “What are the socioeconomic causes and consequences of conflict and how can economic policy support peaceful socioeconomic development?”

Among his more specific research interests are questions related to the burden of war beyond the battle deaths count. The indirect deaths from war are attributed to the “third army” of conflict.  The third army of war is a metaphor for the deterioration of public health indicators as a result of declining incomes, rising unemployment, the disintegration of public health care services, and the collapse of social safety nets. The third army attacks soldiers and civilians alike.

As for the third army striking against soldiers, for example, eight times more people in the British army died during the Napoleonic war from disease than from battle wounds. Similarly, diseases killed two thirds of the estimated 660 thousand soldier deaths during the American civil war. The third army, especially when fighting in poor countries, also tends to disrupt fighting that prolongs warfare. Today, in modern warfare, the third army kills less soldiers directly, but debilitates them psychologically through post-traumatic stress disorders.

Warfare's direct impact on battle deaths is generally better documented than the third army's death toll on civilians. Deaths from direct warfare such as bomb hits and blockades are relatively easily documented by media representatives and humanitarian assistance organizations. Direct battle deaths occur in the open and are geographically highly concentrated. The third army, on the other hand, strikes in the hidden and operates geographically dispersed.

Since warfare is a trade-off between military objectives and humanitarian responsibilities for the civilian population, less information about the humanitarian consequences of war inevitably favors the pursuit of military objectives. More information about the indirect burden of war is therefore necessary for a more informed public debate. Eventually, as already Hiram Johnson (1866-1945) noted, “the first casualty when war comes is truth.”

The transmission mechanism from war to indirect casualties passes substantially through food insecurity, especially when wars take place in poor countries. Food security comprises three dimensions: Availability of, access to, and utilization of food. War affects all three aspects. War reduces food availability because of the destruction of agricultural machinery, disrupted access to input factors such as fertilizers, fuel and electricity, or because unexploded ordnances prevent farmers from cultivating their land. Access to preferred food, or food at all, may be impeded because of declining incomes, food price inflation, unemployment, or blockades. Lastly, war prevents the efficient utilization of food as a consequence of the spread of diseases (Cholera, Dysentery, Diarrhea) and the development of micronutrient deficiencies (Vitamin A, iodine, iron) from an unbalanced diet.

In the spring of 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa in Cairo, Egypt, contacted Marktanner and invited him to conduct a study on “The Effects of Conflict on Food Security – The Cases of Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.” Such a study was necessary for two reasons. First, on-the-ground surveys are increasingly difficult due to security risks and high costs. Secondly, even if surveys were ethically and financially feasible, data collected from ongoing wars has a short lifetime and may become quickly outdated in the course of new conflict dynamics.

Marktanner was asked to estimate the burden of war on food insecurity from an empirical conflict simulation framework using available data on health indicators and conflict. The basic idea of such a conflict simulation framework is that war reduces income, and that both the reduction of income and war are major predictors for the deterioration of public health indicators, including children mortality.

When estimating the indirect effects of war on the mortality of children age 0-5, for example, the case of Yemen is particularly alarming. Yemen's 2010 mortality rate for children age 0-5 already stood alarmingly high at 5.4%.  Between 2011 and 2017, however, serious warfare has reduced Yemen's annual GDP per capita by 50%, from $1,000 to $500 (constant $2005). Associated with the war and the decline of income, the public health infrastructure has crumbled and many people have lost access to health care services at the same time when diseases like Cholera spread. According to Marktanner's estimates, the number of Yemeni children at severe risk of dying as an indirect consequence of the war is today somewhere between 72 and 137 thousand children (in addition to the roughly 44 thousand children deaths that would have occurred even at the pre-war children mortality rate).

For Marktanner, conflict economics has always been a fascinating field of research. His mother came as a little refugee girl from Hungary to Germany after World War II. Together with her parents, she was banned by the Russians towards the end of World War II. His mother and grandparents were forced to abandon their home and land within a couple of days, were shoved into a cattle wagon, and then deported to Germany in a multi-day trip. Moreover, having grown up in West Germany, Germany's division in East and West had always exercised a great fascination for him. Then, at the age of 22, he witnessed the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany's unification. It was around this time when Marktanner decided that he wants to become an economist and help promote economic policies that balance market freedom with equitable and peaceful social development.

Marktanner has always been an adventurer and in 2003 he decided to accept a faculty position at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon where he worked on various aspects of conflict in the Arab world, most notably Lebanon's civil war. During this time, in addition, he also began to conduct research on food insecurity in the Arab world. As the region with the highest food import dependency, food insecurity became a sudden and severe socioeconomic and political challenge during the food price crisis of 2007/2008. He also began to consult the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) and the World Food Program (WFP) on questions related to the causes and consequences of food insecurity and policy response options.

Marcus Marktanner

Marktanner also has a close relationship with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German political think-tank and development agency with projects in many parts of the world. For the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Marktanner works on topics related to the Social Market Economy. Marktanner has spoken on the topic of the Social Market Economy as a prosperity- and peacebuilding formula in many post-conflict countries, including Afghanistan, Guatemala, East Timor, Lebanon, and Palestine.

Marcus Marktanner

For Marktanner, Kennesaw State University and Atlanta are perfect places to conduct research in conflict economics. First, in the Department of Economics, Finance and Quantitative Analysis in the Coles College of Business he has found many wonderful colleagues with a strong interest in conflict economics and homeland security. Secondly, Kennesaw State University hosts a PhD program in International Conflict Management with a great potential for building a top-brand in the area of conflict economics education. Thirdly, Atlanta is the home to major players in the arena of international conflict management and the presence of organizations such as the Carter Center, the Center for Disease Control, Care, and Lockheed Martin provide many opportunities for applied research.

Marcus Marktanner