How do civilians react to being harmed in war? Existing studies argue that civilian casualties are strategically costly because civilian populations punish a belligerent who kills civilians and support the latter's opponent. Relying on eighty-seven semi-structured interviews with victims of coalition attacks in Afghanistan, this article shows that moral principles inform civilians’ attitudes toward their own harming. Their attitudes may therefore vary with the perceived circumstances of an attack. Civilians’ perception of harm as unintended and necessary, in accordance with the moral principles of distinction and necessity, was associated with narratives that cast an attack as relatively more legitimate and with a partial or full release of the coalition from blame. The principle of proportionality, which requires that civilian casualties are caused in pursuit of a legitimate war aim, informed their abstract attitudes toward civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Two rules of international law, which accord with the moral principles of distinction and necessity, were reflected in the civilians’ attitudes. The legal rule of proportionality, which diverges from the namesake moral principle, failed to resonate with the civilians. The article explores whether compliance with the legal rules of distinction and necessity can contribute to mitigating the strategic costs of civilian casualties.
I am greatly indebted to Hadi Marifat for providing input into this project in countless ways. I would also like to thank Nik Mohammad Sharif for his invaluable support. For comments on earlier drafts, I am grateful to Anthony Dworkin, Jennifer Erickson, Louise Fawcett, Julia Gray, Todd Hall, Edward Keene, Walter Ladwig III, Robin Markwica, Walter Mattli, Karolina Milewicz, Andrea Ruggeri, Henry Shue, Nina Silove, Steven Simon, Duncan Snidal, and Michael Walzer. This research would not have been possible without the logistical support and hospitality of the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit and the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization. The project was supported by a grant from the John Fell Fund.
1 International Security Assistance Force, Tactical Directive, July 2, 2009, www.nato.int/isaf/docu/official_texts/tactical_directive_090706.pdf; Kilcullen, David, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Nagl, John A., “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: British and American Army Counterinsurgency Learning during the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War,” World Affairs 161, no. 4 (Spring 1999), pp. 193–99; and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3–24: Counterinsurgency (Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 25, 2018), www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_24.pdf?ver=2018-05-11-102418-000; and Department of the Army, Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, FM 3-24, MCWP 3–33.5, (Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army, May 13, 2014), www.marines.mil/Portals/59/MCWP%203-33.5_Part1.pdf.
2 For this argument, see John Yoo, Point of Attack: Preventive War, International Law, and Global Welfare (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 9. Russia's military ventures are a notable exception.
3 U.S. Government Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative, U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, January 2009), p. 31; Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3–24, p. III-24 [chapter 3, p. 24]; and Department of the Army, Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, pp. 1-1–1-11, §§ 1-1–1-38. The U.S. Department of Defense's Law of War Manual likewise casts the goal of retaining the support of the local population as a reason for compliance with international law. It states that “the implementation and enforcement of the law of war are also supported by the fact that violations of the law of war are counterproductive to the political goals sought to be achieved by military operations. For example, violations of the law of war in counter-insurgency operations may diminish the support of the local population.” U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Defense Law of War Manual (Washington, D.C.: General Counsel of the Department of Defense, updated December 2016), p. 1074.
4 Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3–24, p. VII-32.
5 When referring to moral principles, this discussion refers to the now dominant account of justified killing in war based on reductive individualism. See Fabre, Cécile, Cosmopolitan War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); and McMahan, Jeff, Killing in War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). It derives principles for conduct in war from the principles that govern the permissibility of harming in general. These principles have been widely shown to inform ordinary citizens’ attitudes toward harming in peacetime and therefore allow us to shed light on the extent to which “everyday moral commitments” inform civilians’ attitudes toward their own harming in war. Moral principles, as understood here, are hence distinct from the principles of just war theory, which are derived from the deliberate theorization of permissible conduct specifically in war. For an account of how this intellectual tradition is committed to pragmatic, realist considerations, see Morkevičius, Valerie, Realist Ethics: Just War Traditions as Power Politics (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2018).
6 This article relies on moral objectivism, a position that rejects the notion that the moral permissibility of killing is “in the eye of the beholder.” It is worth stressing, however, that the relevance of the three moral principles that this study investigates does not stem from their objective validity, but from their resonance with popular attitudes toward peacetime harming, demonstrated so far mostly in Western societies.
7 The principle of distinction has two dimensions. One is the distinction between persons that are liable to harming and those that are not (who is a legitimate target?). The other dimension is the distinction between intentional and unintentional harming (what is the state of mind of the attacker?). The laws of war and reductive individualist moral principles give diverging answers to the first question. However, this paper focuses only on the second dimension of the principle of distinction: the role of intentionality in making harm more wrongful and blameworthy.
8 I do not investigate whether civilians consciously draw on international law. The study examines whether moral principles inform, and whether legal rules resonate with civilians’ attitudes. As explained, a legal rule resonates if its substantive demand is reflected in a civilian's attitude.
9 “Harm” here refers to physical injury or death, not mental trauma or property damage. The coalition, as understood here, includes forces belonging to the NATO-led ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission, operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support, and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Although interviewees differentiated between international and Afghan troops, they universally referred to the former only as “Americans,” even though they may have come in contact with British and Canadian forces as well.
10 The failure of the legal rule of proportionality to resonate with the interviewed civilians’ attitudes appears to be due to civilians not considering the importance of the military advantage an attack pursued when making sense of their attack. Alternatively, a legal rule could fail to resonate (in other words, its substantive demand could not be reflected in civilians’ attitudes) because individuals actively reject its substantive proposition. Here this would mean civilians believe that the military importance of an attack should not matter for its legitimacy. I do not investigate whether the latter is the case.
11 As I go on to explain, the association between the perceived circumstances of an attack and civilians’ narratives or allocation of blame should not be thought of as indicative of a causal relationship.
12 Among others, see Gelpi, Christopher, Feaver, Peter D., and Reifler, Jason, Paying the Human Costs of War: American Public Opinion and Casualties in Military Conflicts (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009); Johns, Robert and Davies, Graeme A. M., “Civilian Casualties and Public Support for Military Action: Experimental Evidence,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 63, no. 1 (January 2019), pp. 251–81; Kreps, Sarah E. and Wallace, Geoffrey P. R., “International Law, Military Effectiveness, and Public Support for Drone Strikes,” Journal of Peace Research 53, no. 6 (November 2016), pp. 830–44; Press, Daryl G., Sagan, Scott D., and Valentino, Benjamin A., “Atomic Aversion: Experimental Evidence on Taboos, Traditions, and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons,” American Political Science Review 107, no. 1 (February 2013), pp. 188–206; and Sagan, Scott D. and Valentino, Benjamin A., “Revisiting Hiroshima in Iran: What Americans Really Think about Using Nuclear Weapons and Killing Noncombatants,” International Security 42, no. 1 (Summer 2017), pp. 41–79.
13 Carr, Caleb, The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare against Civilians (London: Little, Brown, 2002), p. 12. For studies that focus specifically on the use of deliberate violence against civilians by nonstate armed groups, see Abrahms, Max, “Why Terrorism Does Not Work,” International Security 31, no. 2 (Fall 2006), pp. 42–78; and Fortna, Virginia Page, “Do Terrorists Win? Rebels’ Use of Terrorism and Civil War Outcomes,” International Organization 69, no. 3 (Summer 2015), pp. 519–56. For articles on the adverse strategic implications of civilian casualties caused by air strikes, see Kocher, Matthew Adam, Pepinsky, Thomas B., and Kalyvas, Stathis N., “Aerial Bombing and Counterinsurgency in the Vietnam War,” American Journal of Political Science 55, no. 2 (April 2011), pp. 201–18; and Pape, Robert A., Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996). For studies of the effects of civilian victimization specifically in insurgency/counterinsurgency operations, see Kalyvas, Stathis N., The Logic of Violence in Civil War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and Schutte, Sebastian, “Violence and Civilian Loyalties: Evidence from Afghanistan,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 61, no. 8 (September 2017), pp. 1595–625. For studies that, in opposition to the former, connect civilian victimization to military success, see Downes, Alexander B., “Draining the Sea by Filling the Graves: Investigating the Effectiveness of Indiscriminate Violence as a Counterinsurgency Strategy,” Civil Wars 9, no. 4 (December 2007), pp. 420–44; and Lyall, Jason, “Does Indiscriminate Violence Incite Insurgent Attacks? Evidence from Chechnya,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53, no. 3 (June 2009), pp. 331–62. For a rare exception of a direct study of civilians’ attitudes, see Lyall, Jason, Blair, Graeme, and Imai, Kosuke, “Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime: A Survey Experiment in Afghanistan,” American Political Science Review 107, no. 4 (November 2013), pp. 679–705.
14 Condra, Luke N. and Shapiro, Jacob N., “Who Takes the Blame? The Strategic Effects of Collateral Damage,” American Journal of Political Science 56, no. 1 (January 2012), pp. 167–87; and Kalyvas, Logic of Violence in Civil War, p. 106.
15 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla; and Nagl, “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife.”
16 Condra and Shapiro, “Who Takes the Blame?,” p. 168.
17 Lyall, Blair, and Imai, “Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime.”
18 Kalyvas, Logic of Violence in Civil War, p. 118ff.
19 See Benbaji, Yitzhak, Falk, Amir, and Feldman, Yuval, “Commonsense Morality and the Ethics of Killing in War: An Experimental Survey of the Israeli Population,” Law & Ethics of Human Rights 9, no. 2 (November 2015), pp. 195–227; Huff, Connor and Kertzer, Joshua D., “How the Public Defines Terrorism,” American Journal of Political Science 62, no. 1 (January 2018), pp. 55–71; and Sagan, Scott D. and Valentino, Benjamin A., “Not Just a War Theory: American Public Opinion on Ethics in Armed Combat,” International Studies Quarterly 62, no. 3 (September 2018), pp. 548–61.
20 The stated aims of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, for instance, include “defeat[ing] the ideology of ISIS,” not merely defeating its military capacity. “About CTJF-OIR,” Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, n.d., www.inherentresolve.mil/About-Us/.
21 Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3–24, p. xiii. The U.S. Army's field manual, Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, describes insurgency and counterinsurgency as a “struggle for legitimacy.” Department of the Army, Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, pp. 1-1–1-9, §§ 1-1–1-31, quote at p. 1–9.
22 Joint Publication 3–24 contains the caution that “in some contexts, populations have proven tolerant of increased civilian casualties as a result of aggressive offensive operations against insurgents when those operations helped produce a significant overall improvement in civil security. In other contexts, every civilian casualty resulting from COIN operations has undermined support for the government and its allies.” Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3–24, p. III-13, §5.
23 Ibid, p. III-13.
24 Ibid., p. VII-7.
25 Ibid., p. VII-32.
26 Survey experiments with Western respondents consistently find that framing the use of force as illegal reduces support for it. See, among others, Chaudoin, Stephen, “Promises or Policies? An Experimental Analysis of International Agreements and Audience Reactions,” International Organization 68, no. 1 (January 2014), pp. 235–56; and Wallace, Geoffrey P. R., “International Law and Public Attitudes toward Torture: An Experimental Study,” International Organization 67, no. 1 (January 2013), pp. 105–40. For civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan to judge an attack as more legitimate because it conformed to international law, these civilians would have to be familiar not only with the existence of the laws of war but also with their precise content. This is highly unlikely.
27 Brunnée, Jutta and Toope, Stephen J., Legitimacy and Legality in International Law (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 271ff; Dill, Janina, Legitimate Targets? Social Construction, International Law and US Bombing (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 28f; and Finnemore, Martha, “Are Legal Norms Distinctive?,” New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 32, no. 3 (Spring 2000), pp. 699–706.
28 For an investigation of the legitimacy of the laws of war, see Clark, Ian, Kaempf, Sebastian, Reus-Smit, Christian, and Tannock, Emily, “Crisis in the Laws of War? Beyond Compliance and Effectiveness,” European Journal of International Relations 24, no. 2 (June 2018), pp. 319–43.
29 Hauser, Marc D., Young, Liane, and Cushman, Fiery, “Reviving Rawls’ Linguistic Analogy: Operative Principles and the Causal Structure of Moral Actions,” in Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter and Miller, Christian B., ed., Moral Psychology, Vol. 5, Virtue and Character (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 107–79; Cushman, Fiery, Young, Liane, and Hauser, Marc D., “The Role of Conscious Reasoning and Intuition in Moral Judgment: Testing Three Principles of Harm,” Psychological Science 17, no. 12 (January 2007), pp. 1082–89; and Mikhail, John, “Universal Moral Grammar: Theory, Evidence, and the Future,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11, no. 4 (May 2007), pp. 143–52.
30 Compared to the fundamental moral principles associated with reductive individualism, the laws of war more faithfully reflect principles of conventional just war theory. The latter incorporates pragmatic as well as moral considerations. For a discussion of the relationship between the normative propositions of conventional just war theory and international law, see Morkevičius, Valerie, “Looking Inward Together: Just War Thinking and Our Shared Moral Emotions,” Ethics & International Affairs 31, no. 4 (December 2017), pp. 441–51; and Luban, David, “Just War Theory and the Laws of War as Nonidentical Twins,” Ethics & International Affairs 31, no. 4 (December 2017), pp. 433–440.
31 In conducting the interviews for this study, I established that all interviewees met the definition of a “civilian” for the purposes of international law and had never directly participated in hostilities. As mentioned, this study does not investigate whom civilians perceive as liable to harming or immune from attack.
32 See, for instance, Cavanaugh, Thomas A., “Double Effect and the End-Not-Means Principle: A Response to Bennett,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 16, no. 2 (1999), pp. 181–185; Quinn, Warren, “Actions, Intentions, and Consequences: The Doctrine of Double Effect,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 18, no. 4 (1989), pp. 334–351.
33 Hauser et al., “Reviving Rawls’ Linguistic Analogy”; and Mikhail, John M., Elements of Moral Cognition: Rawls’ Linguistic Analogy and the Cognitive Science of Moral and Legal Judgment (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
34 The legal rule, enshrined in Article 57(2) (a) ii of the First Additional Protocol, tasks attackers with taking “all feasible precautions . . . with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing” incidental civilian harm. It is sometimes referred to as the “precautionary principle.” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), June 8, 1977, 1125 UNTS 3, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b36b4.html
35 Martin, Justin W. and Cushman, Fiery, “Why We Forgive What Can't Be Controlled,” Cognition 147 (February 2016), pp. 133–43.
36 Fletcher, George P. and Ohlin, Jens David, Defending Humanity: When Force Is Justified and Why (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 20.
37 The legal rule and moral principle of proportionality not only propose that an attack that is expected to cause civilian casualties is more legitimate if it pursues a more important military advantage (the rule) and contributes to a morally just aim (the principle); they also, respectively, require a balance between the civilian harm associated with an attack and the importance of the military advantage and contribution of an attack to a just aim. In this study, I focus on the first dimension of the rule/principle only, as I explain later in the article.
38 As previously noted, interviewees invariably referred to international forces as “Americans” even though some may well have encountered British and Canadian forces as well. Seventeen of the eighty-seven interviewed civilians thought they had been attacked by coalition forces involving Afghan troops.
39 Future research might fruitfully compare whether civilians hold different belligerent parties in a war to the same moral principles. In 2015 and the years leading up to it, more direct war-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan were caused by anti-government insurgent groups than by coalition forces. This trend has recently been reversed. See United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and United Nations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: 2015 (Kabul: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 2016), unama.unmissions.org/protection-of-civilians-reports; United Nations Security Council, “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Report of the Secretary-General,” S/2019/373, May 7, 2019, unama.unmissions.org/protection-of-civilians-reports.
40 This is not to say that insurgent groups do not or should not follow codes of conduct inspired by ethical and legal thinking. For a rare systematic inquiry into this phenomenon, see Michael L. Gross, The Ethics of Insurgency: A Critical Guide to Just Guerilla Warfare (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
41 Interview with member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, April 25, 2015, Kabul. All interviews in this study were conducted confidentially and the interviewees’ names withheld by agreement between both parties.
42 For more information about the interview process, please consult the online supplement.
43 I conducted the first half of the interviews myself. The second half were conducted by the translators alone without any foreigner in the room.
44 The need to repeat and explain questions in different ways would have made relying on a survey rather than interviews highly problematic.
45 Many interviewees acknowledged that their reported age was a rounded estimate. Reported ages ranged from eighteen to eighty, with a median age of forty. The median age in the Afghan population is eighteen. Most public opinion polls in Afghanistan exclude women due to the difficulty of integrating them into a representative sample. Given that this study does not seek to make generalizable claims about the attitudes of all Afghans, but to uncover the process of how civilians affected by war form attitudes towards their own harming, I thought it was both possible and highly preferable not to exclude women's stories. Eighteen of the interviewees were women.
46 Out of eighty-seven interviewees, one was half-Tajik and all the others identified as Pashtun. Both provinces are 99 percent Pashtun.
47 Giustozzi, Antonio, Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan (London: Hurst, 2007), pp. 46ff; and Mili, Hayder and Townsend, Jacob, “Tribal Dynamics of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Insurgencies,” Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel 2, no. 8 (August 2009), pp. 1–4.
48 The final section of this article addresses why some individuals may perceive an attack as unintentional while others perceive it as intentional.
49 Differences in moral judgments have, for instance, been linked to divergent thinking styles (Greene, Joshua D., “Why Are VMPFC Patients More Utilitarian?” A Dual-Process Theory of Moral Judgment Explains,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11, no. 8 [August 2007], pp. 322–23); to empathy and perspective taking (Bartels, Daniel M. and Pizarro, David A., “The Mismeasure of Morals: Antisocial Personality Traits Predict Utilitarian Responses to Moral Dilemmas,” Cognition 121, no. 1 [October 2011], pp. 154–61); and to cognitive capacity (Moore, Adam B., Clark, Brian A., and Kane, Michael J., “Who Shalt Not Kill? Individual Differences in Working Memory Capacity, Executive Control, and Moral Judgment,” Psychological Science 19, no. 6 [July 2008], pp. 549–57).
50 If interviewees were unsure about what “intentional” or “deliberate” meant, we asked whether harming them was part of what they thought the coalition was trying to achieve with the attack.
51 Female civilian, forty years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, July 30, 2015.
52 Male civilian, forty years old, Panjwayi, Kandahār Province, April 19, 2015.
53 Male civilian, forty-three years old, Zhari, Kandahār Province, April 20, 2015.
54 Male civilian, thirty-nine years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 21, 2015.
55 Male civilian, twenty-two years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 21, 2015.
56 Male civilian, eighty years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 25, 2015.
57 Male civilian, thirty-five years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 20, 2015.
58 Janina Dill, “Supplementary Information about the Collection of Interview Data for ‘Distinction, Necessity, and Proportionality: Afghan Civilians’ Attitudes toward Wartime Harm,’” Online Supplement, Cambridge University Press, doi.org/10.1017/S0892679419000376.
59 Female civilian, forty-five years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 19, 2015.
60 Female civilian, fifty-five years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, August 1, 2015.
61 One interviewee reported being unsure about whom to blame.
62 Male civilian, nineteen years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 20, 2015.
63 Male civilian, twenty-two years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 21, 2015.
64 As one interviewee described, “If they did respect our lives, they would have the war in the desert.” Male civilian, forty-three years old, Zhari, Kandahār Province, April 20, 2015. According to another, “They don't respect us as human beings.” Male civilian, thirty-five years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 20, 2015.
65 Female civilian, fifty years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 20, 2015. According to another one of the interviewees: “The problem was they were just responding in the middle of the night. They were shooting from wherever they received fire.” Male civilian, fifty-five years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, July 28, 2015. And, as another woman explained, “You do not know what the war in Helmand is like. It was not possible to distinguish as the Taliban had coerced us into accepting them into our houses.” Female civilian, seventy years old, Kajaki, Helmand Province, April 20, 2015.
66 Male civilian, twenty-two years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, July 30, 2015.
67 Male civilian, forty-eight years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 20, 2015. As another of the interviewees saw it: “They have very good technology. I am sure they can separate the Taliban if they want.” Male civilian, twenty-eight years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, July 29, 2015. And another put it this way: “They have modern planes. So, they could be more careful.” Male civilian, twenty-seven years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, July 29, 2015.
68 Male civilian, forty-seven years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, July 28, 2015.
69 When interviewees did not understand what we meant by “a legitimate aim,” we asked about peace and stability in their province or district or the country at large. We counted a yes to any of these questions as the recognition of a legitimate aim.
70 Seventy-seven percent of the interviewed civilians attributed a legitimate aim to Afghan government forces and five percent to the Taliban. Eighteen percent thought none of the parties had a legitimate overall aim.
71 Ten interviewees either ended the interview before we reached this abstract question or did not fully understand it.
72 Male civilian, nineteen years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 23, 2015.
73 Male civilian, twenty years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 23, 2015.
74 Male civilian, twenty-two years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 21, 2015.
75 Male civilian, fifty years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 21, 2015.
76 Male civilian, eighteen years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 23, 2015.
77 Male civilian, thirty-two years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, July 28, 2015.
78 Legally speaking, the substance of an attack's aim, such as whether it is directed against combatants or seeks to achieve a military advantage, is a matter of distinction. The military importance of the aim (compared to the expected civilian harm) determines its proportionality.
79 It is important to note that this question was only asked in the first half of the interviews (forty-seven of the reported interviews). The question often confused and sometimes upset interviewees, which is why I instructed the translators not to ask it in the interviews they conducted on their own.
80 For the role of cognitive schemas and analogies in shaping the interpretation of political events, see Hemmer, Christopher M., Which Lessons Matter? American Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Middle East, 1979–1987 (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2000); Houghton, David Patrick, “Historical Analogies and the Cognitive Dimension of Domestic Policymaking,” Political Psychology 19, no. 2 (June 1998), pp. 279–303; and Khong, Yuen Foong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992). For a theorization of the role of schemas and related concepts in cognitive processing, see Fiske, Susan T. and Linville, Patricia W., “What Does the Schema Concept Buy Us?,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 6, no. 4 (December 1980), pp. 543–57.
81 Tetlock, Phillip E., “Close-Call Counterfactuals and Belief System Defenses: I Was Not Almost Wrong, But I Was Almost Right,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75, no. 3 (September 1998), pp. 639–52.
82 As mentioned previously, how the perceived circumstances of an attack affect civilians’ attitudes is unlikely to be systematically different for individuals with different demographic backgrounds. In contrast, how individuals perceive similar circumstances may well systematically vary with demographic factors that are correlated with political preferences and ideological commitments.
83 Mercer, Jonathan, “Rationality and Psychology in International Politics,” International Organization 59, no. 1 (Winter 2005), pp. 77–106; and Larson, Deborah Welch, “The Role of Belief Systems and Schemas in Foreign Policy Decision-Making,” in “Political Psychology and the Work of Alexander L. George,” special issue, Political Psychology 15, no. 1 (March 1994), pp. 17–33.
84 Stein, Janice Gross, “Foreign Policy Decision Making: Rational, Psychological, and Neurological Models,” in Smith, Steve, Hadfield, Amelia, and Dunne, Tim, eds., Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 135; and Jervis, Robert, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 288ff.
85 Crawford, Neta C., “Homo Politicus and Argument (Nearly) All the Way Down: Persuasion in Politics,” Perspectives on Politics 7, no. 1 (March 2009), pp. 103–24; and Mercer, Jonathan, “Emotional Beliefs,” International Organization 64, no. 1 (January 2010), pp. 1–31.
86 Male civilian, forty-three years old, Zhari, Kandahār Province, April 20, 2015.
87 Male civilian, thirty-five years old, Gereshk, Helmand Province, April 20, 2015.
88 Male civilian, thirty years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 18, 2015.
89 Male civilian, forty-eight years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 19, 2015. As another man explained, “I used to think, maybe they are good, but now, how can I forgive them now?” Male civilian, fifty years old, Sangin, Helmand Province, April 21, 2015.
90 Male civilian, forty years old, Panjwayi, Kandahār Province, April 19, 2015.
* I am greatly indebted to Hadi Marifat for providing input into this project in countless ways. I would also like to thank Nik Mohammad Sharif for his invaluable support. For comments on earlier drafts, I am grateful to Anthony Dworkin, Jennifer Erickson, Louise Fawcett, Julia Gray, Todd Hall, Edward Keene, Walter Ladwig III, Robin Markwica, Walter Mattli, Karolina Milewicz, Andrea Ruggeri, Henry Shue, Nina Silove, Steven Simon, Duncan Snidal, and Michael Walzer. This research would not have been possible without the logistical support and hospitality of the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit and the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization. The project was supported by a grant from the John Fell Fund.
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