Paying the Human Costs of War: American Public Opinion and Casualties in Military Conflicts

Paying the Human Costs of War: American Public Opinion and Casualties in Military Conflicts

by Christopher Gelpi, Peter D. Feaver, Jason Reifler
     
 

From the Korean War to the current conflict in Iraq, Paying the Human Costs of War examines the ways in which the American public decides whether to support the use of military force. Contrary to the conventional view, the authors demonstrate that the public does not respond reflexively and solely to the number of casualties in a conflict. Instead, the book argues… See more details below

Overview

From the Korean War to the current conflict in Iraq, Paying the Human Costs of War examines the ways in which the American public decides whether to support the use of military force. Contrary to the conventional view, the authors demonstrate that the public does not respond reflexively and solely to the number of casualties in a conflict. Instead, the book argues that the public makes reasoned and reasonable cost-benefit calculations for their continued support of a war based on the justifications for it and the likelihood it will succeed, along with the costs that have been suffered in casualties. Of these factors, the book finds that the most important consideration for the public is the expectation of success. If the public believes that a mission will succeed, the public will support it even if the costs are high. When the public does not expect the mission to succeed, even small costs will cause the with-drawal of support.

Editorial Reviews

Military History
Policy makers would be wise to heed the authors' findings regarding how to gain public trust and support when contemplating the future use of military power in achieving national objectives. For the citizenry, however, a warning also emerges: national leaders may attempt to keep a sinking policy ship afloat by remaining publically optimistic even when nothing can be done to save it.
— Walter E. Kretchik
American Review of Politics
[T]he book is straightforward, well organized and a pleasure to read.
— Thomas C. Shaw
Perspectives on Politics
One measure of a book's quality is whether it generates questions for future research, and this one certainly fits the bill.
— Jennifer L. Merolla
Journal of American Studies of Turkey
[T]his is a well-thought-out, well-organized and well-written book. In particular, the concluding summaries at the end of each chapter provide excellent reviews and syntheses of the arguments. The authors have posed many questions that should open new horizons for scholars and policy makers.
— Cigdem Pakel Atahan
Military History - Walter E. Kretchik
Policy makers would be wise to heed the authors' findings regarding how to gain public trust and support when contemplating the future use of military power in achieving national objectives. For the citizenry, however, a warning also emerges: national leaders may attempt to keep a sinking policy ship afloat by remaining publically optimistic even when nothing can be done to save it.
American Review of Politics - Thomas C. Shaw
[T]he book is straightforward, well organized and a pleasure to read.
Perspectives on Politics - Jennifer L. Merolla
One measure of a book's quality is whether it generates questions for future research, and this one certainly fits the bill.
Journal of American Studies of Turkey - Cigdem Pakel Atahan
[T]his is a well-thought-out, well-organized and well-written book. In particular, the concluding summaries at the end of each chapter provide excellent reviews and syntheses of the arguments. The authors have posed many questions that should open new horizons for scholars and policy makers.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009

"Gelpi and Feaver, and Reifler have produced a most fascinating volume on the human costs of waging war. They set out to understand under what conditions Americans would support their leaders' decision to use military force. . . . Well researched and thoughtfully written."Choice

"Policy makers would be wise to heed the authors' findings regarding how to gain public trust and support when contemplating the future use of military power in achieving national objectives. For the citizenry, however, a warning also emerges: national leaders may attempt to keep a sinking policy ship afloat by remaining publically optimistic even when nothing can be done to save it."—Walter E. Kretchik, Military History

"[T]he book is straightforward, well organized and a pleasure to read."—Thomas C. Shaw, American Review of Politics

"One measure of a book's quality is whether it generates questions for future research, and this one certainly fits the bill."—Jennifer L. Merolla, Perspectives on Politics

"[T]his is a well-thought-out, well-organized and well-written book. In particular, the concluding summaries at the end of each chapter provide excellent reviews and syntheses of the arguments. The authors have posed many questions that should open new horizons for scholars and policy makers."—Cigdem Pakel Atahan, Journal of American Studies of Turkey

Choice
Gelpi and Feaver, and Reifler have produced a most fascinating volume on the human costs of waging war. They set out to understand under what conditions Americans would support their leaders' decision to use military force. . . . Well researched and thoughtfully written.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691139029
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/09/2009
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Michael O'Hanlon
Gelpi, Feaver, and Reifler have written the most rigorous and thorough—yet also readable and accessible—study of Americans' stomach for war yet published. It is well grounded in Feaver's recent real-world political experience, though there is nothing partisan or self-serving about the book. The practical touch his experience provides is the perfect complement to the academic sophistication underlying the core of the authors' analysis. The new survey data, careful review of the existing literature, commonsense analysis of recent U.S. warfighting operations, and logical clarity of the authors' thinking make the book's main arguments very persuasive.
Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings Institution
Campbell
Paying the Human Costs of War, an ambitious and provocative new book by three distinguished military commentators, takes on the conventional wisdom that Americans are skittish about casualty numbers, and argues instead that the American people have a much more sophisticated calculus about decisions associated with fighting and dying. A deeply important read for policymakers, military commanders, and the interested public alike.
Kurt M. Campbell, Center for a New American Security
Richard Herrmann
This book shows that although the U.S. public is sensitive to U.S. casualties suffered in war, the public is more sensitive to perceived defeat and will continue to support operations abroad as long as they are persuaded victory is still likely. The book's arguments are well presented and bolstered with an impressive array of first-rate empirical evidence.
Richard Herrmann, Ohio State University
Helmut Norpoth
This is a superb, profound, and most timely study of wartime opinion. It offers a compelling antidote to the conventional wisdom that popular support for military missions inevitably collapses with rising casualties. The wide historical sweep along with rigorous statistical tests places this work in a class by itself.
Helmut Norpoth, Stony Brook University

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