Choosing Your Battles

Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force

Peter D. Feaver
Christopher Gelpi
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 268
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sfk2
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  • Book Info
    Choosing Your Battles
    Book Description:

    America's debate over whether and how to invade Iraq clustered into civilian versus military camps. Top military officials appeared reluctant to use force, the most hawkish voices in government were civilians who had not served in uniform, and everyone was worried that the American public would not tolerate casualties in war. This book shows that this civilian-military argument--which has characterized earlier debates over Bosnia, Somalia, and Kosovo--is typical, not exceptional. Indeed, the underlying pattern has shaped U.S. foreign policy at least since 1816. The new afterword by Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi traces these themes through the first two years of the current Iraq war, showing how civil-military debates and concerns about sensitivity to casualties continue to shape American foreign policy in profound ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4145-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Chapter One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    For months after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, a vigorous debate raged within the Bush administration: should the war on terrorism be expanded to go after well-known state sponsors of terrorism, especially Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq? By the summer of 2002 the internal debate had spilled out onto the front pages of the major newspapers, culminating in a historic congressional debate and vote in favor of the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.

    The public debate was lively and wide-ranging, but many commentators focused on one curious feature: how the...

  6. Chapter Two THE CIVIL-MILITARY OPINION GAP OVER THE USE OF FORCE
    (pp. 21-63)

    It is conventional wisdom that military experience colors people’s attitudes about America’s role in the world, as we noted in chapter 1. In this chapter, we use the TISS survey data of elite civilian and elite military opinion to explore the extent to which this conventional wisdom is correct. We focus specifically on civilian and military opinion on three broad foreign policy considerations. First, we assess the kinds of foreign policy goals that military and civilian elites believe are important for American foreign policy. Second, we examine the extent to which elite civilian and military respondents believe that military instruments...

  7. CHAPTER THREE THE IMPACT OF ELITE VETERANS ON AMERICAN DECISIONS TO USE FORCE
    (pp. 64-94)

    In chapter 1, we recounted the difficulties Colin Powell had in dealing with the Clinton foreign policy team. His dilemma was well expressed in his memorable exchange with Madeleine Albright, who asked him, “What is the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Powell reported that he thought he would have an aneurysm; his soldiers were not pieces on a global game board to be moved around at will (Powell 1995, 576–77).

    In this chapter we examine the extent to which such disputes are a function of an enduring civil...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR CASUALTY SENSITIVITY AND CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS
    (pp. 95-148)

    In november 1998, as negotiations reached an impasse, NATO’s supreme commander General Wesley Clark ordered his military planners to prepare for the use of force against Serbia. The mission would be to protect the Albanian Kosovars from ethnic cleansing, and although NATO officially professed hope that diplomacy might avert a conflict, it girded itself for the possibility that force might be necessary. According to reports, Clark assumed that NATO political leaders would not authorize a ground force and so ordered his planners to prepare for an air-only assault. But Clark reportedly imposed an additional restriction: that the air campaign be...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE EXPLORING THE DETERMINANTS OF CASUALTY SENSITIVITY
    (pp. 149-183)

    The previous chapter established that civilian and military elites have accepted the conventional wisdom that the general public is highly casualty phobic. The conventional wisdom is, we argue, a myth. Although a portion of the public is casualty phobic, overall the general public expresses a remarkable willingness to accept casualties (that is, combat fatalities) when necessary for victory. The public appears to be defeat phobic, not casualty phobic.

    Moreover, our analyses in chapter 4 revealed that, on the whole, civilian elites, military officers, and the mass public all generally appeared willing to tolerate casualties on the order of another Desert...

  10. CHAPTER SIX CONCLUSION
    (pp. 184-214)

    We have argued that civilians and the military in the United States have systematically different opinions on whether and how to use force and on their professed willingness to bear the human costs of war. These different opinions seem to have profoundly shaped the way the United States has used military force for most of its history, from 1816 to 1992.

    According to our data, the differences between civilian elites and elite active duty officers on when to use force are neither dramatically large nor terribly surprising. Yet a discernible pattern emerges in the survey data, and this pattern emerges...

  11. REFERENCES
    (pp. 215-228)
  12. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 229-242)

    The hardcover edition of this book went into production as the Iraq War was commencing. There has been, to put it mildly, a fair amount of “American civil-military relations and the use of force,” since then. How do our arguments hold up? While a brief afterword cannot do justice to the richness of the topic, we can suggest some areas where intervening events have conformed to the general lines of analysis presented in this book and point to others where refinements and further extensions of the argument are in order.

    The first preliminary observation is obvious, but by no means...

  13. NAME INDEX
    (pp. 243-246)
  14. SUBJECT INDEX
    (pp. 247-250)