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Chris Gelpi
Paying the Human Costs of War: American Public Opinion and Military Conflict
Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 12:00pm
Mershon Center
1501 Neil Ave
Columbus, OH, 43201

Chris Gelpi

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Christopher F. Gelpi (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1994) is professor of political science at Duke University.

His primary research interests are the sources of international militarized conflict and strategies for international conflict resolution. He is currently engaged in research on American public opinion and the use of military force, and on statistical models for forecasting military conflict and transnational terrorist violence.

He has also published works on American civil-military relations and the use of force, the impact of democracy and trade on international conflict, the role of norms in crisis bargaining, alliances as instruments of control, diversionary wars, deterrence theory, and the influence of the international system on the outbreak of violence.

He is author of The Power of Legitimacy: The Role of Norms in Crisis Bargaining (Princeton University Press, 2002), co-author (with Peter D. Feaver) of Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force (Princeton University Press, 2004). and co-author (with Peter Feaver and Jason Reifler) of Paying the Human Costs of War: American Public Opinion and Casualties in Military Conflicts (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Some of his other works have appeared in the American Political Science Review, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, International Organization, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the Journal of Peace Research, Political Behavior, Political Science Quarterly, and Public Opinion Quarterly.

From the Korean War to the current conflict in Iraq, Paying the Human Costs of War examines the ways in which the American public decides whether to support the use of military force.

Contrary to the conventional view, the authors demonstrate that the public does not respond reflexively and solely to the number of casualties in a conflict. Instead, the public makes reasoned and reasonable cost-benefit calculations for their continued support of a war based on the justifications for it and the likelihood it will succeed, along with the costs that have been suffered in casualties.

Of these factors, the authors find that the most important consideration for the public is the expectation of success. If the public believes that a mission will succeed, the public will support it even if the costs are high. When the public does not expect the mission to succeed, even small costs will cause the withdrawal of support.


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