Combat Experience and Foreign Policy Attitudes: Evidence from World War II

56 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2021 Last revised: 27 Jan 2022

See all articles by Christopher W. Blair

Christopher W. Blair

University of Pennsylvania; Princeton University

Michael C. Horowitz

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 29, 2021

Abstract

How does combat exposure affect political attitudes? In the realm of foreign policy, some scholars view violence as promoting belligerence, while others argue military experience fosters caution and restraint. We adjudicate this debate using archival military surveys fielded by the US War Department during World War II. Drawing on a large, representative sample of active-duty, enlisted US soldiers in 1945, we assess the consequences of combat. We find that combat reduces support for an active US role in world affairs, Marshall Plan aid, and the formation of the United Nations, and increases support for a punitive peace imposed on Axis powers. We find no evidence that combat veterans hold more negative views of the enemy in general. Overall, this study offers microlevel evidence for existing theories about how combat experience fosters conservatism about foreign policy in general, but hardens attitudes in support of military action to preserve hard-won victories.

Keywords: Combat, Violence Exposure, Foreign Policy, Military Service

JEL Classification: F51, F52, H56

Suggested Citation

Blair, Christopher and Horowitz, Michael C., Combat Experience and Foreign Policy Attitudes: Evidence from World War II (July 29, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3895940 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3895940

Christopher Blair (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Princeton University ( email )

Michael C. Horowitz

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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