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Duke Professor: U.S. Willing To Accept War Casualties Under Certain Conditions

Posted March 31, 2003

— Flag-draped caskets of American soldiers are often a solemn reminder of the cost of war. A Duke professor claim most Americans understand that death is an unfortunate by-product of war.

Even as the death toll rises, support for the war among many Americans remain strong.

"I think if this world wants to live with any peace in the future, we've got to be willing to pay the price, whatever the price is," Surry County resident Jim Hall said.

That sentiment does not surprise Duke professor Chris Gelpi. His research shows most Americans are willing to accept war casualties under certain conditions.

"No. 1, they need to believe this is a mission worth pursuing. They need to believe there's a good chance of success," Gelpi said.

According to Gelpi's research, most Americans would tolerate 500 casualties to prevent Iraq from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. The survey was conducted before the war began. Gelpi believes the country's resolve is even stronger now.

"Those questions were asked without the president going on TV, without seeing images of the flag and soldiers going into combat, those things rally people to support," he said.

Gelpi said that support will remain strong as long as Americans believe the war is winnable and worth waging. According to Gelpi's research, Americans would tolerate the highest number of casualties to defend South Korea from North Korea.

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