How Casualty Sensitivity Affects Civilian Control: The Israeli Experience

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In an effort to enhance the dialog between the literature on casualty sensitivity and that on civilian control, this article offers an integrative analysis that shows how high levels of casualty sensitivity affect the balance of power between civilians and the military. By drawing on the case of Israel during the Second Lebanon War (2006) and the Gaza War (2009), the article demonstrates that casualty sensitivity has a double effect. Initially, it restrains military action because the military internalizes this casualty shyness and, in response, adopts policies of casualty aversion. Thus, casualty sensitivity empowers civilians (at least, dovish civilians) vis á vis the military. However, the military and political leaders' efforts to compensate for these restraints ultimately give the military even more latitude. These efforts involve military doctrines that allow rapid decision making, contingency plans that weaken civilian control, and the military's control over the cost-informed discourse. Casualty aversion thus affects civilian control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-88
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Studies Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Casualty aversion
  • Casualty sensitivity
  • Civilian control
  • Military-civilian relations


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