Mogadishu versus Fallujah: Does the uniform matter to the public?

Audrey Ann Faber

For decades, governments of western democracies have had to contend with the casualty factor when deciding whether or not to engage in military action abroad.  Since Vietnam, the public has grown increasingly wary of military involvement in foreign conflict.  Prior research has shown that the public’s casualty aversion has caused significant shifts in the military policy of the United States, and has resulted in the development of a reliance on Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) in combat zones.  This paper seeks to understand whether or not the public’s casualty aversion applies to only US soldiers, or if the same aversion exists when the casualties are private military corporation personnel.  Specifically, it analyzes the public’s reaction to these deaths in comparison to those of US military forces in Iraq between 2008 and 2010, utilizing an analysis of popular blogs, opinion pieces, press coverage, protests and polling data.  Preliminary findings suggest that the public’s reaction to PMSC deaths is significantly muted when compared to the deaths of US forces, and that the public’s casualty aversion applies primarily to the deaths of governmental forces only.