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The acceptance of military force in general

We start our analysis with an examination of two questions that address the issue of the acceptance of military force in general, in very general terms: the role of military vis-a-vis economic power in international relations and the role of war in foreign policy.

The question of what constitutes the main or dominant source of power in the international system is a well-known bone of contention. This is an admittedly complex issue, since Realism first started to discuss its source and manifestations. With no pretence to settle the theoretical issue, and being aware of the limitations of existing secondary data in measuring what we intend to measure,25 one question first asked in CCFR in 1998 and then replicated in the CCFR-GMFUS Worldviews 2002 for Europe, asked 'Which of the following do you think is more important in determining a country's overall power and influence in the world - a country's economic strength, or its military strength?' Despite America's reputation for relying heavily on military power, a majority of Americans, just like their European counterparts, believed that economic strength is more important than military might in determining a country's overall power and influence in the world. In 1998, 65 percent of the Americans answered that economic power was more important and in 2002 this number was at 68 percent, while only a stable 26 percent answered that military power was more important than economic power. On the other hand, in 2002 the percentage of Americans that thought that military might is 'more important' was more than double the European figure (26 to 11 percent).

Since 2003 a similar question was asked every year in a Likert agree/ disagree format: 'Economic power is more important in world affairs than military power'. Over the years (with the exception of 2010) Europeans were considerably more likely than Americans to think that economic power is more important in international affairs than military power. These fundamental views remained rather stable over time in the period concerned (Table 3.6).26

A second question measuring general attitudes toward the use of force asks, always on an agree-disagree scale, whether 'Under some conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice.' Table 3.6 reports the trends for

Table 3.6 The role of power and force in international affairs (2003-2011) (in % 'agree strongly' and 'agree somewhat') Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with each of the following statements:

United States

Europe (EU-7)

Agree strongly

Agree somewhat

Agree strongly

Agree somewhat

'Economic power is more important in world affairs than military power'

2003

31

38

40

40

2004

28

34

45

39

2005

32

36

43

42

2006

34

38

46

41

2007

33

38

45

40

2008

34

36

46

40

2009

30

31

45

37

2010

37

31

47

31

2011

31

40

45

39

'Under some conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice'

2003

55

29

18

30

2004

47

35

14

28

2005

42

36

10

26

2006

42

36

10

25

2007

39

35

9

22

2008

40

35

8

21

2009

37

34

8

17

2010

49

28

9

20

2011

35

39

11

24

Source: GMFUS, Transatlantic Trends, 2003-2011.

both the US and the EU-7 from 2003, when this question was first asked in TTS, until 2010.

Three conclusions stand out from this table. First, both Europeans and Americans tend to agree that nowadays economic power is more important than military power, although Europeans are slightly more likely to answer this way than Americans (the average percentage over the seven years is 72 percent in the US and 83 percent in Europe). Second, both Europeans and Americans are divided on the issue of war. An average 43 percent of the Americans agree that war is sometimes necessary to obtain justice, while only 34 percent do so in Europe. Third, while attitudes toward economic power have remained stable over time, there is a slight tendency of pro-war attitudes to decline, in both Europe and the United States, at a quicker rate in the former than in the latter (making the gap among the two sides gradually bigger).

While both Americans and Europeans are thus strong believers in the idea that military power has become less and less relevant in present world politics, Americans are still more convinced than Europeans that, sometimes, war might be a tool of foreign policy. This difference is confirmed by other data as well. Americans are more likely to respond affirmatively to other statements referring to the idea that force is indispensable and useful in international affairs. Compared to Europeans more than double the number of Americans (54 percent in 2004 and 44 percent in 2005) agreed (strongly) with the statement: 'The best way to ensure peace is through military strength'. In Europe, percentages were respectively 29 percent and 23 percent. More than three-in-four Americans (77 percent) agreed with the statement 'It is sometimes necessary to use military force to maintain order in the world', while only 59 percent of the public in nine EU coun- tries27 did so (Pew Global Attitude Survey, Spring 2007).

 
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