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Inward Bound: Domestic Institutions and Military Conflicts

  • David P. Auerswald

Extract

In this article I explore the propensity of democracies to use military force when involved in international disputes. I argue that the use of force by democracies in large part results from the domestic circumstances confronting their chief executives and that those circumstances vary predictably across democracies based on the structure of their domestic institutions. For example, U.S. presidents must garner public support before elections and maintain widespread congressional support if they involve the country in long-term military conflicts. Conflicts are risky without either of these domestic prerequisites. Consider President Lyndon Johnson's decision to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Johnson and his advisors reached their decision in 1964 but waited until early 1965, after the November 1964 national election, to announce this decision publicly and implement it on the ground. President George Bush's 1990 decision to double the number of troops deployed to Kuwait and move from deterring an attack on Saudi Arabia to compelling an Iraqi withdrawal was made in a similar manner. The Bush administration decided on its new policy in early October but announced that decision only after Congress recessed and the midterm elections were completed.

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