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51 J. Conflict Resol. 3 (2007)

handle is hein.journals/jcfltr51 and id is 1 raw text is: 










U.S. Elite Support for
                                                                journal of Conflict Resohution







the 1991 Persian Gulf War

Peter Liberman
Department   of Political Science, Queens College
and  Graduate  Center  City University of New York



   There is a substantial moralistic streak in U.S. elite attitudes about war against states
   perceived as evil. Among opinion leaders, death penalty supporters were substantially
   more likely than opponents to support the 1991 Gulf War, condone the Iraqi death toll,
   and favor escalating the war to topple Saddam Hussein. These relationships persist after
   controlling for ideology, nationalism, and instrumental beliefs about force and thus
   probably result from individual differences in retributiveness and humanitarianism,
   moral values known to underlie death penalty attitudes. Foreign policy expertise mod-
   erated this effect only on the regime change issue, and ten only moderately, suggest-
   ing that moral punitiveness might also influence the thinking of decision makers.
   President George H. W. Bush evidently felt real moral outrage during the crisis about
   Iraq's aggression, but he refrained from escalating the war to punish Saddam more
   severely for it.

   Keywords:   1991  Persian Gulf War;  retribution; death penaly; Foreign Policy
   Leadership Project; opinion leaders; George H. W Bush


D    o states go to war to exact retribution for international crimes? Some scholars
     have noticed that political leaders' rhetoric and policies appear to seek revenge
for past defeats, affronts to honor, or violations of international norms (Harkavy
2000; Nossal  1989;  Offer 1995; Rosen  2004;  Sherry 2005;  Steinberg 1991; Welch
1993). But  research on norms  and  security has generally focused on humanitarian
motives and policies, such as the abolition of the slave trade, decolonization, human-
itarian intervention, human  rights and foreign aid policies, nuclear and  chemical
weapons  taboos, and noncombatant   immunity.  This emphasis  results partly from the
preeminence  of humanitarian  values in contemporary  moral discourse. But it is also
due to the difficulty of differentiating the retributive from instrumental aims of mil-
itary punishment. States often punish to deter, coerce, and weaken  others, and it is
hard to show  that moral outrage had any real impact. It is thus perhaps understand-
able that some scholars simply assume  that rational self-interested calculation under-
lies punitive behavior (e.g., Gelpi 2002).


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