Becoming a Normal Democracy: Israeli Public Opinion, Civil-Military Relations, and the Second Lebanon War

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During the Second Lebanon War of 2006, Israel's government applied a capital- and firepower-intensive military doctrine poorly suited for its ambitious, and publicly declared, goals. The paper explains this apparently non-strategic behavior with a theory of democratic militarism, arguing that a capitalized military doctrine results in a condition of moral hazard by shifting the costs away from the median voter, leading to support of a capital-intensive doctrine in conflicts where its effectiveness is low because the decreased likelihood of winning is outweighed by the lower costs of fighting. I claim the theory better explains the case than its principal competitors--elite capture of the state and military myopia--by examining Israeli public opinion before the war, and reviewing civil-military deliberation over the war's conduct during its prosecution. Jonathan Caverley's research examines the distribution of the costs of security within democracies, and its contribution to military aggressiveness. This working paper is part of a book manuscript entitled Death and Taxes: The Political Economy of Democratic Militarism. He co-chairs the Working Group on Security Studies at the Buffett Institute.

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  • 01/03/2019
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  • 11-001
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