Military strategy and public support for war
- This dissertation explores the endogenous relationship between military strategy and public support for war, focusing on the effects of military operations on public support and the resulting incentives for leaders to shape and adjust the conduct of war. When making decisions about military strategy, leaders have an opportunity to forecast the effects of operations on future public support. The choice of military strategy and operations directly influences battlefield events, and some of these events are more or less likely to receive media coverage and public attention. Conditional on learning about an operation, the public may even respond better to the success and progress of certain types of operations. Anticipation of the public's future response can influence a leader's current decisions about military strategy; differences between operation types in media coverage, public consumption, and public response can generate incentives for leaders to focus on one type over another to produce results that will best maintain or bolster public support. The degree of this influence is likely to increase or decrease with the current salience of public support among the many concerns leaders face. The project consists of three papers and applies text-as-data methods, survey experiments, time-series statistical analyses, and a qualitative case study to address this process in the context of U.S. counterinsurgency operations. I argue that military strategy should be conceptualized as a selection of operational components, chosen from a menu of options that are applicable to a particular policy goal, and that the balance of operational components can be continuously adjusted. In counterinsurgency, the primary variation occurs in the balance between offensive and stability operations. The first paper examines which kinds of battlefield information are communicated to the public through the media and which kinds of wartime news individuals prefer to consume. Using text-as-data methods, I show that press coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was skewed toward combat and violence, making it more likely for the public to be exposed to the successes of offensive operations than to those of stability operations, and that the coverage given to casualties increased over time, creating a "stickiness" in the prevalence of casualty coverage, which could potentially inflate perceptions of the human costs of war. A conjoint analysis experiment shows that respondents, especially Republicans, choose reports about the good outcomes of both offensive and stability operations at high rates, but choose to read reports about the human costs of war at much lower rates. The second paper explores how individuals might respond differently to offensive and stability operations, conditional on actually learning of an operation. Using four survey experiments, I show that offensive operations increase support among Republicans, while stability operations increase support among Democrats. This conditional partisan effect is partly driven by differences in militant internationalism, but partisan differences remain even when controlling for these beliefs about the use of force. In the third paper, I discuss how the previous results contribute to incentives to shift the balance toward offensive operations when civilian leaders -- especially those interested in maintaining Republican support -- are pressured to maintain or bolster public support. Using quantitative and qualitative evidence, I show that the balance of U.S. operations in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 shifted toward offensive operations during election years and that the conduct of operations continued to be influenced by domestic factors even after the broader context of the conflict changed after 2008. I conclude with a discussion of why the influence of domestic political considerations on military strategy may, in fact, be appropriate, and suggest areas for future research in the study of military strategy and American civil-military relations.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Bonheim, Jeffrey M
|Stanford University, Department of Political Science.
|Schultz, Kenneth A
|Schultz, Kenneth A
|Segura, Gary M, 1963-
|Segura, Gary M, 1963-
|Statement of responsibility
|Jeffrey M. Bonheim.
|Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2015.
- © 2015 by Jeffrey Michael Bonheim
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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