Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Casualties and Use of Force Decisions

Mark Penn's polling firm is out with a public opinion survey of Americans regarding genocide. You can review the complete results here (free SlideShare account required). The survey includes a question about U.S. military intervention to stop genocide, as well as a follow-up question about whether that opinion would change given the death of at least 100 U.S. troops. 

Remarkably, more than 30% of those in favor of using force to stop genocide cease favoring it faced with that prospect. These results ought to give pause to those who downplay the importance of casualty aversion to policymakers deciding whether and when to use force. While some have downplayed the practical significance of drones being pilot-less--given that drones are used in permissive environments--these data should serve as a reminder that even broadly popular reasons for using force will be undercut by U.S. casualties. Uses of force that receive far more ambiguous popular endorsements may suffer even more from casualties. 

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