Pat Kelly

Department of Political Science

US Military Leaders and the Politics of War Termination

My research focuses on US civil-military relations in the context of war termination. During the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, senior military leaders have publicly resisted presidents’ attempts to draw down or terminate America’s military involvement. While a growing body of research has investigated the effects of military cues on support for initiating conflicts, less empirical attention has been paid to the so-called civil-military bargain over war termination. I examine whether senior military leaders can shape public support for persisting in ongoing wars with commitment “frames,” like appealing to prospects for success or to consequences for the national interest, in response to civilian leaders’ announced withdrawal plans. I also investigate whether critical responses, like disparaging civilian leaders’ draw-down proposals, can shape public opinion. Finally, I examine the effects of this resistance on perceptions of the military’s legitimacy and consistency with democratic norms.