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[casi] US Casualty Tolerance Study - Note from Authors

I recently corresponded with Peter Feaver, Duke University Professor of
Political Science <> and Triangle Institute for
Security Studies, Project on the Gap between the Military and Civilian
Society 1999 study co-author.  He further commented on the study and
authorized me to release his comments.  Comment attribution and quotation
belongs to Feaver and another study author, Christopher Gelpi, Duke
University Associate Professor of Political Science

Below are the comments.  Please note that the remark, "I am not sure we
would fully agree with the way the unnamed Bush administration source used
that finding.", is a response to the Nicholas Lehmann New Yorker quote.

Best wishes,


Source: Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi, e-mail note to Nathaniel Hurd,
14 October 2002


I am not sure we would fully agree with the way the unnamed Bush
administration source used that finding.  That figure represents the "mean"
response to our question, which surely represents an upper-bound estimate.
We used means and mean-based estimators in our initial analyses (one version
of which was published in the Wash Post in Oct/Nov 1999), but since then
have switched to median and median-based estimators which better capture
public attitudes on casualty sensitivity.  When one uses median-based
estimators, the figures drop dramatically, into the several thousands.

That said, our analysis certainly supports the larger points:

* the public is not casualty-phobic, knee-jerk opposed to any casualties and
eager to cut and run at the first sight of blood.  The public is better
described as "defeat phobic" rather than "casualty phobic."  If the
casualties are necessary to produce a clear victory, the public will accept

* public attitudes towards casualties fit a rational calculus.  They would
prefer to win with fewer casualties, so any poll that asks about casualties
will see a drop off in support.  But even with warnings of high casualties,
there is still a very large reservoir of support for military action --
especially against perceived threats like Hussein -- and a capable
Administration can readily mobilize that support.

* In any case, the military seem more casualty averse than the general
public.  This may be because the military is more doubtful about political
leadership or more convinced that the public is truly casualty phobic.  It
is not simply because the military are the ones who are going to die (i.e.
mere self-interested self-preservation).

Would the public turn on the Iraqi mission if U.S. casualties climbed into
the tens of thousands?  They might, especially if the casualties were framed
as evidence the US was botching the mission, making stupid mistakes, etc.
If the Bush administration was as inept in framing the mission as was the
Clinton administration in Somalia, then that number could be catastrophic
for public support.  But if the Bush Administration was able to frame those
casualties as proof that Hussein was a menace and needed to be eliminated,
then public support could be maintained.


Nathaniel Hurd
90 7th Ave.
Apt. #6
Brooklyn, NY  11217
Tel. (M): 917-407-3389
Tel. (H): 718-857-7639
Fax: 718-504-4224

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