Are insurgents affected by information on US casualty sensitivity? Using data on attacks and variation in access to international news across Iraqi provinces, we identify an "emboldenment" effect by comparing the rate of insurgent attacks in areas with higher and lower access to information about U.S news after public statements critical of the war. We find in periods after a spike in war-critical statements, insurgent attacks increases by 5-10 percent. The results suggest that insurgent groups respond rationally to expected probability of US withdrawal. As such counterinsurgency should consider deterrence and incapacitation rather than simply search and destroy missions.
Their recommendation is a little bit behind the curve, as General Petraeus has been working on that and more with his new COIN strategies. Obviously, this could have implications for our efforts in Afghanistan.
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