An Apathetic Public: How Dubik’s Legitimacy Principle Applies To A Disengaged Citizenry

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West Point Press
In his book Just War Reconsidered: Strategy, Ethics and Theory, LTG(R) James M. Dubik lays out the standards a country must meet for a war to be considered “legitimate.” Primary among these standards is that a nation must have the support of its populace if it is to begin, and continue, fighting a war. However, Dubik’s book does not address the case of when a public is “apathetic,” “ignorant,” or “misled” as to the state of a war. Using case studies from the United States’ engagement in various international conflicts, this article discusses Dubik’s Principle of Legitimacy and how it is challenged by the three publics above. Taking an acute focus on “apathetic” publics, this article argues that in these cases, the government has a moral obligation to provide relevant, timely information and to incentivize citizenry to engage with the war (that is, to understand its origins and consequences) or else withdraw from it entirely. Practical steps toward encouraging citizen engagement include making winning the war the government’s primary priority, increasing communication about the status of the war, and as a last resort, moving toward a conscription army. If the public does not become engaged, then it is the duty of a government to end the war as quickly as possible.
Cadet Reed Bauer is a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, from Pottstown, Pennsylvania. As an International Affairs and Chinese major, he has focused his work on strengthening democratic institutions. He is also a STAMPs scholar. Following graduation, he will serve as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
Political Science and Security Studies
Bauer, Reed. “An Apathetic Public: How Dubik’s Legitimacy Principle Applies To A Disengaged Citizenry.” West Point Journal of Politics and Security 1, no. 1 (2021): 24-31.