International Studies Quarterly just published Yagil Levy‘s most recent work on the reshaping of military conflict due to democracy, technology, and now protest. I have posted elsewhere about his work on casualty aversion due to the intersection of democracy and technology (and also on related work by Jonathan Caverley). This piece, titled “How Military Recruitment Affects Collective Action and its Outcomes” [gated] explores the impact of military recruitment on a public’s willingness to “absorb” casualties among its soldiers during military conflict. In other words, Levy wants to know the extent to which recruitment impacts the collective action opportunities of those who would (de)mobilize public opinion in democracies regarding casualties, and thereby support for the war.
Building most closely on Paul Vasquez’s work (2005 [gated]), Levy argues that in a country with a volunteer army we are less likely to see anti-war mobilization due to casualties aversion. Why? Because the opportunity structure is poor relative to a country with conscription: fewer people are touched by death, those who did not have family members serving can rationalize the loss knowing that people volunteered, and elites are less likely than non-elites to have family at risk. To bring evidence to bear on the issue, Levy focuses upon the mobilization of two “mother” groups—grass roots anti-war movements led by bereaved mothers—in Israel and the US, and finds that the US group was far less successful mobilizing anti-war sentiment than the Israeli group.
Levy’s work on this topic is interesting and warrants consideration and discussion.