Harvard researchers have determined that the broadcasting of American doubt about the war has an “emboldenment effect” on insurgents. Here’s the Washington Times:
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.
Not exactly shocking. But maybe the media executives who’ve been so eager to run photos of flag-draped coffins and the journalists who start each day thinking of a fresh way to cover America’s demise could keep this in mind.
Particularly now. We are in the midst of a “five years on” media riot. The number 4000 is suddenly everywhere. Yes, a free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. But it shouldn’t be exploited for the sole purpose of lamenting out military efforts. The success of the troop surge was barely acknowledged for half a year, and yet the 4000th U.S. casualty in Iraq made it into the headlines at the speed of light. And here’s something worth considering: If random criticism of the war causes spikes of insurgent violence, imagine the effect of a U.S. president whose guiding principle is the wrongness of this war.