Type: Seminar

Excessive force or armored restraint? Government mechanization and civilian casualties in civil conflict


Major Ryan Van Wie (International Affairs Instructor, U.S. Military Academy, West Point), Jacob Walden (PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan)

Date & time

Apr 19, 2021, 11:30 am-12:30 pm EDT


This is a Virtual Event.

Note: This event is limited to U-M students, faculty & staff.

Abstract: Does increasing government mechanization result in higher levels of civilian casualties during counterinsurgency operations? The insurgency literature predicts that mechanized forces’ enhanced firepower capabilities will result in higher levels of civilian casualties. However, this view is challenged by counterinsurgency practitioners in Iraq who cite the mechanized forces’ effectiveness in civil conflict environments. We propose a new theory detailing how disciplined, mechanized forces’ increased personal protection affords them decision space to apply greater restraint in tactical engagements. We test this theory using micro-data from Operation Iraqi Freedom and find mechanized units are associated with significantly lower civilian casualty levels compared to dismounted units.