ABSTRACT

In wars of attrition, particularly of LIC nature, the societies on both sides are involved at one level of intensity or another, either directly or indirectly. Terror, in particular, is a method often used by the militarily weaker side in order to influence the willpower of the enemy’s society, not just by killing people but also by disrupting societal and economic life, changing the society’s behavior significantly, and generating societal pressure on the political echelon. Another means of pressuring the society is indirect – via inflicting casualties on enemy troops, either by using guerrilla tactics or “conventional” means, building on the sensitivity of the enemy’s society to casualties among its troops. Since World War II, Western democracies have been engaged in the third or fourth model of attrition (see Chapter 1). Do Western democracies tire in wars of attrition more easily than other societies? Mao Tse-tung thought that democracies simply could not tolerate a war of attrition, either economically or psychologically.1 One of the main hypotheses of war weariness theory is that Western democracies are more prone to war weariness than Third World societies and authoritarian players due to moral, societal and political constraints.2 Other arguments claim that war aversion is particularly relevant to wars Western democracies think they are unable to win, and that they attempt to win wars in which they have already been engaged in as quickly as possible;3 that although it is true that casualties in themselves do not necessarily undermine public support,4 Western democracies have been less inclined to pay a high price in wars in which their stakes have not been sufficiently high, and their cost tolerance has tended to decline over time;5 and that their publics have been more supportive of the use of force to restrain aggressors, but less supportive of the use of force directed at internal political or regime change within another country.6 Many wars of attrition of an asymmetrical nature fall into these categories, which explains why Western democracies have lost much of their incentive to be involved – let alone intervene – in wars that were likely to become wars of attrition, except in extreme cases.7