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The Tradeoff between Force and Casualties


  • Yagil Levy

    (The Open University in Israel)


The Gaza War between Israel and Hamas in winter 2009, in which excessive use of lethal force caused the deaths of many Gazan non-combatants, shed light on how casualty shyness leads democracies to use excessive force to reduce the risk to which soldiers are exposed at the expense of the opponent’s non-combatant fatalities. This can be termed the force/casualty tradeoff (FCT). Because this tradeoff is only one manifestation of state action, a more thorough analysis is required to recognize variances in the state’s space of action. Arguably, and by drawing on the case of Gaza, the FCT reflects the interplay between two sets of legitimacies: legitimacy of sacrifice and the legitimacy to use force. The relations between these two legitimacies determine the state’s space of action in the military domain: low legitimacy of sacrifice coupled with high legitimacy to use force yields the FCT, while other variations in the profile of these legitimacies produce other results.

Suggested Citation

  • Yagil Levy, 2010. "The Tradeoff between Force and Casualties," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 27(4), pages 386-405, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:compsc:v:27:y:2010:i:4:p:386-405

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