Thursday, March 13, 2008

American News Media's Antiwar Reporting
Sparks Terrorist Attacks?!

According to a couple of Harvard economists, it does. Or, rather, spikes in "antiresolve" news reporting are followed by an increase in "insurgent" attacks in Iraq. I was astonished, and pleased, that Harvard scholars would take a serious look at this topic, and that a traditional news publication would pick up the story.

"Are Iraqi Insurgents Emboldened by Antiwar Reporting?" U.S. News and World Report (March 12, 2008). Short answer: yes, but.
  • Yes, there's a definite, consistent correlation between American news broadasting and publishing a spike in "antiresolve" statements, and the number of "insurgent" attacks in Iraq. The attacks increase by 7% to 10%
  • But, the study isn't exhaustive
    • Baghdad attacks weren't included
    • "The study does not take into account overall cost and benefit of public debate." (public debate=better military strategy, previous studies said, apparently1)
    • Maybe insurgents were going to attack anyway, and were just waiting for American media to start an "anti-resolve" spike.
The Harvard economists, Radha Iyengar and Jonathan Monten, got "Is There an "Emboldenment" Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq" (NBER Working Paper No. 13839 Issued in March 2008) published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The U.S. News article is a sort of digest of it.

"It shows that the various insurgent groups do respond to incentives and shows that a successful counter insurgency strategy should take that reality into account," is what one of the authors, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Jonathan Monten, explained. U.S. News said it this way, "their results show that insurgent groups are not devoid of reason and unresponsive to outside pressures and stimuli."

It also shows that what editors decide to publish makes a difference.
1 The idea, apparently, is that the news media, by giving free publicity to people of the "out now" persuasion, helped by "forcing the Iraqi government to more quickly accept responsibility for internal security." U.S. News may be right.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.