Speak softly and carry a big stick? Veterans in the political elite and the American use of force


Journal Article (Review)

Other research has shown (1) that civilians and the military differ in their views about when and how to use military force; (2) that the opinions of veterans track more closely with military officers than with civilians who never served in the military; and (3) that U.S. civil-military relations shaped Cold War policy debates. We assess whether this opinion gap "matters" for the actual conduct of American foreign policy. We examine the impact of the presence of veterans in the U.S. political elite on the propensity to initiate and escalate militarized interstate disputes between 1816 and 1992. As the percentage of veterans serving in the executive branch and the legislature increases, the probability that the United States will initiate militarized disputes declines. Once a dispute has been initiated, however, the higher the proportion of veterans, the greater the level of force the United States will use in the dispute.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gelpi, C; Feaver, PD

Published Date

  • January 1, 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 96 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 779 - 793

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5943

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-0554

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/S000305540200045X

Citation Source

  • Scopus