Armed Forces, Alcohol Abuse and Responsibility for War-time Violence: Applying the Attention-Allocation Model

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Abstract

Several historical and contemporary examples involving the relationship between alcohol use and the commission of atrocities can be identified. During the Second World War, for instance, alcohol was supplied to men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 (RPB 101) in order to make their participation in mass murder at Jozefow easier. Similarly, in the context of the ethnic wars of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, ordinary Serb soldiers were reported to have been plied with alcohol as a measure of official policy. Moreover, alcohol use has been linked to the Rwandan Genocide. And more recently, alcohol and drug-related charges were reported to have been involved in more than a third of all Army criminal prosecutions of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and to have been used by guards at Abu Ghraib. Yet, the relationship between substance abuse and war-time atrocities is unclear. Drawing on accepted social psychological phenomena such as conformity, obedience to authority and the construction of social norms, it is contended that alcohol does not cause aggression directly through its pharmacological effects alone and an argument is raised against the general use of dispositional causal explanations of alcohol-related violence in the war-time context. I propose that intoxicated aggression in the context of war is primarily the product of contextual variables interacting with the pharmacodynamics of alcohol. I develop an integrated theoretical framework showing the pathways through which alcohol affects aggressive tendencies in the context of war and suggest preventive measures. The proposed integrated theoretical framework is made up of three main propositions: combat stressors; drinking as a coping strategy; and situational risk factors. It offers a socio psychological description and explanation of the dynamics of alcohol intoxication and aggression in the context of war.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-122
Number of pages18
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2012

Keywords

  • ALCOHOL
  • attention
  • criminal responsibility
  • international criminal law
  • prevention
  • war-time violence
  • alcohol

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