Precision Weapons, Civilian Casualties, and Support for the Use of Force

Political Psychology, Forthcoming

52 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2013

See all articles by James Igoe Walsh

James Igoe Walsh

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Date Written: November 19, 2013

Abstract

Precision weapons such as drones have become increasingly important elements of the military strategies of the United States and other countries. How does the use of precision weapons influence public support for the use of force? The public is averse to casualties, mission failure, and collateral damage. I argue that that precision weapons increase the salience and importance of avoiding civilian harm. Individuals adopt their expectations about the outcomes of using these weapons, and have lower tolerance for attacks that result in civilian deaths. This proposition is consistent with the results to two survey experiments. In the first, the possibility of civilian casualties leads to larger declines in support for the use of force than do military casualties or mission failure. In the second, respondents primed with information about an attack with precision weapons exhibited less tolerance for civilian harm than those primed with other weapons systems, despite the fact that the outcomes described to all respondents were identical.

Suggested Citation

Walsh, James Igoe, Precision Weapons, Civilian Casualties, and Support for the Use of Force (November 19, 2013). Political Psychology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2356886 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2356886

James Igoe Walsh (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina at Charlotte ( email )

9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001
United States

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