Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force

In This Review

Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force

By Peter D. Feaver and Christopher Gelpi
Princeton University Press, 2003
256 pp. $37.50
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Feaver and Gelpi clearly set out the results of a widely cited study on the differing attitudes of military and civilian elites toward war. The study, conducted in 1998 and 1999 by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, disproves glib assumptions about how the public views military operations and military casualties. Contrary to popular belief, public opinion is often quite strong in the face of bloodshed; military elites are more cautious than their civilian counterparts about intervening in conflicts when national security is not at stake, and more insistent on using overwhelming force when an operation is authorized. These conclusions are perhaps not surprising given the history of post-1945 U.S. foreign policy; there is also no sign that events since 1999 have altered them. Feaver and Gelpi address some of the methodological issues of the study and locate its results in the broader question of civil-military relations.