The gap of legitimacies syndrome: A conceptual framework

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Since the 1970s, military policies in liberal democracies have been potentially affected by the gap of legitimacies syndrome, that is, the widening of the gap between high levels of political legitimacy for using force and low levels of social legitimacy for making the attendant sacrifices. Military policies are stretched between the poles of these values. While a high level of legitimation for using force encourages bellicosity, the attenuated legitimacy of sacrifice permits only low-cost military build-ups, both in economic and human terms. Deviations from this approach may recreate legitimacy problems. EU countries, as well as Canada and Australia, have managed to adopt a policy without a legitimacy gap by limiting their use of force, but, as countries that often activate their armed forces, the US and Israel have remained very much affected by this syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Political Science Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Casualty-aversion
  • Conscription
  • Legitimacy
  • Militarism
  • War costs
  • War goals


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