Civilian Harm and Military Legitimacy in War

66 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2023 Last revised: 11 Dec 2023

See all articles by Benjamin Krick

Benjamin Krick

Duke University, Graduate School, Students

Jonathan Petkun

Duke University School of Law

Mara Redlich Revkin

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: November 14, 2023

Abstract

The legitimacy of armed forces in the eyes of civilians is increasingly recognized as crucial not only for battlefield effectiveness but also for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. However, the micro-determinants of “military legitimacy” are poorly understood. We argue that perceptions of military legitimacy are shaped by two key dimensions of warfare: just cause and just conduct. Leveraging naturally occurring variation during one of the most deadly urban battles in recent history—the multinational campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq—we evaluate our theory with a mixed-methods design combining original survey data, satellite imagery, and interviews. Civilians living in neighborhoods where armed forces were less careful to protect civilians view those forces as less legitimate than civilians elsewhere. Surprisingly, these results persist after conditioning for personal experiences with harm, suggesting that perceptions are influenced not only by victimization—consistent with previous studies—but also by beliefs about the morality of armed forces’ conduct and the cause for which they are fighting.

Keywords: Natural Experiments, Iraq, Legitimacy, Civilian Harm, Counterinsurgency, Civil Wars

Suggested Citation

Krick, Benjamin and Petkun, Jonathan and Revkin, Mara Redlich, Civilian Harm and Military Legitimacy in War (November 14, 2023). Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2023-67, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4633249

Benjamin Krick

Duke University, Graduate School, Students ( email )

Durham, NC
United States

Jonathan Petkun

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Mara Redlich Revkin (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.duke.edu/fac/revkin/

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