In the midst of the flurry of anti-war articles like this one we’ve been seeing over the last week as the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war came and went, the renewed focus from the mediots and their liberal allies in the punditocracy and blogosphere on US war casualities in Iraq coming after the 4,000th death, and the hopeful tone of news outlets like the liberal McClatchy organization, which asked today “Is ‘success’ of U.S. surge in Iraq about to unravel?”, UPI reported on a study done by Harvard University which linked increased insurgent activity with … negative media coverage of the Iraq war:
Researchers at Harvard say that publicly voiced doubts about the U.S. occupation of Iraq have a measurable “emboldenment effect” on insurgents there.
Periods of intense news media coverage in the United States of criticism about the war, or of polling about public opinion on the conflict, are followed by a small but quantifiable increases in the number of attacks on civilians and U.S. forces in Iraq, according to a study by Radha Iyengar, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in health policy research at Harvard and Jonathan Monten of the Belfer Center at the university’s Kennedy School of Government.
The increase in attacks is more pronounced in areas of Iraq that have better access to international news media, the authors conclude in a report titled “Is There an ‘Emboldenment’ Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq.”
The researchers studied data about insurgent attacks and U.S. media coverage up to November, tracking what they called “anti-resolve statements” by U.S. politicians and reports about American public opinion on the war.
“We find that in periods immediately after a spike in anti-resolve statements, the level of insurgent attacks increases,” says the study, published earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a leading U.S. nonprofit economic research organization.
In Iraqi provinces that were broadly comparable in social and economic terms, attacks increased between 7 percent and 10 percent following what the researchers call “high-mention weeks,” like the two just before the November 2006 election.
The study also found that attacks increased more in parts of Iraq like Anbar province, where there is greater access to international news media, measured by the proportion of households with satellite TV, which its authors say increases the credibility of their findings.
The researchers conclude that the increases in attacks are a necessary cost of the way democratic societies fight wars and say they are concerned that the research may be seized upon by the Iraq war’s supporters to try and silence its critics.
As has been argued by myself and others many times before, it’s not mere criticism alone that concerns me about the Iraq war, it’s the type of criticism. When the press, and many liberal Democrats act in concert by making blanket assertions abour our CIC and our military along the lines of “baby killers!” and “war criminals” and assert they are no better than the likes of Nazis and Pol Pot, well, alot of us are rightly going to take serious exception to that. Condemning the President for not sending enough troops in or criticizing him for a lack of adequate post-war planning is one thing. But making both him and our entire military out to be “new managers” carrying out Saddam’s torturous ways is something else entirely.
It’s not about having the right to say something, but whether it’s right to say it in the first place. I’m not trying to silence anyone, but instead to point out to them that with that freedom to speak their minds comes responsibility to speak responsibly. I don’t think with over 130K US troops stationed over in Iraq putting their lives on the line for our freedoms, that asking people – pundits and media alike – to be responsible with what they say is too much to ask.
Hat tip: Amy Proctor