Book Review of How Democracies Lose Small Wars by Gil Meron. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003
Wirtz, James J.
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The title of Gil Merom’s theoretical foray into the small-wars literature is only slightly misleading. His purpose is to explain why militarily powerful democracies fail to achieve their objectives against weaker opponents, despite the success they enjoy on the battleªeld. Merom suggests that democracies fail to enforce their will against weaker adversaries because a gap emerges between state policy and public sentiment toward the war effort, a gap that widens into a chasm of domestic unrest when governments attempt to cover up the material, human, and moral costs of war. He suggests that this unease about the war effort is often concentrated in key segments of society— among the media, intellectuals, and the urban middle class, or even within the military itself. To illustrate his theory, Merom explores the French effort to suppress the Algerian Front for National Liberation, the Israeli punitive expedition into Lebanon in the 1980s, and the U.S. experience in Vietnam.
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