Academic journal article
By Smaldone, Joseph P
Political and Military Sociology , Vol. 32, No. 1
How Democracies Lose Small Wars: State, Society, and the Failures of France in Algeria, Israel in Lebanon, and the United States in Vietnam by Gil Merom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. (pp. 295 / $65.00 [cloth] / $23 [paper])
The ongoing debate about democracy, war, and peace has been enlivened and enriched by this exceptional book. Studies show that democracies tend to win the wars they fight, but until now there has been no coherent empirically based theory of the wars they lose. Merom explains the paradox of why militarily superior democracies lose small wars in terms of domestic structure and processes that, over time, inhibit the ability of governments to escalate violence and brutality and bear the higher costs of achieving military victory.
Probing deeply into these contested issues surrounding the democratic peace thesis, Merom examines two modern case studies - France in Algeria, 1954-1962, and Israel in Lebanon, 1982-1986. (Despite the subtitle, the Vietnam war is mentioned only briefly, as is the unadvertised Israeli-Palestinian conflict!) His carefully constructed comparative analysis contends that social and ideological developments in both cases - specifically, the political ascendance of the educated middle class - led to a rift between state and society rooted in a normative gap regarding prosecution of the counterinsurgency. …