Foreign Policy Digital

Americans Want Their Leaders to Obey the Laws of War

New research claims that the U.S. public doesn’t care about protecting enemy civilians. It is wrong—and dangerous.

This week, the Washington Post reported on a paper by Stanford University and Dartmouth College researchers showing that “One-third of Americans would support a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea.” The Post emphasized in particular the finding, based in part on an earlier study on Iran, that “the U.S. public exhibits … a shocking willingness to support the killing of enemy civilians.” Other news sources are already picking up on this “terrifying” story.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s not actually true. By replicating the earlier Iran study, we’ve found that most Americans do not approve of killing enemy civilians. In fact, Americans. Although a few supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump and others are sanguine about war crimes, the U.S. public is generally not.

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