About The role of media in asymmetric warfare

Hosted by Haishan Yuan

Voters are mainly informed about the ongoing development in a foreign war through news coverage in the media. The occurrence of other newsworthy events influences the daily amount of news coverage on the war. Actors in an asymmetric war might therefore strategically time their military actions to reduce political costs of undesired news coverage or increase the political benefits of positive news reports. This paper analyses the effect of media on the timing of military activity by ISAF/NATO forces and insurgents in the Afghanistan conflict between 2004 and 2009. The study uses a U.S. military dataset that contains about 75,000 daily records of any event of military importance in Afghanistan for the period 2004 to 2009. This dataset is combined with daily news coverage from the 5 biggest U.S. news broadcasters. An index of daily news pressure is constructed to measure the importance of other newsworthy events that are not related to the Afghanistan conflict. The results show that ISAF/NATO forces are more likely to engage in military actions, are more likely to conduct attacks in more populated areas and are more likely to use heavy weaponry (and increase the risk of collateral damage) when the news in previous days was dominated by other newsworthy events. In contrast, insurgents stage more complex and larger attacks when news pressure from other important events was lower in previous days. These results can be interpreted as an indicator that military actors in asymmetric warfare time their actions strategically in the presence of media attention.


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