Fighting with the air: airpower, violence, and public sentiment in irregular warfare
Capra, James L.
Sepp, Kalev I.
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What are the impacts of airstrikes on civilian sentiment and political violence? With increased air campaigns and technology proliferation in the Middle East and Africa, there exists a significant gap exploring airstrike associations within irregular warfare. In response, this thesis uses new geospatial measurements to map civilian sentiment in Yemen. Then, spatiotemporal windows are utilized to assess associations between airstrikes, sentiments, and political violence. The findings imply that airstrikes are associated with an increase in extreme sentiment—for both states, and for insurgencies—suggesting that airstrike effects mobilize bystanders to participate in the political process. Furthermore, the findings indicate that airstrikes raise the level of post-strike political violence in Yemen and Pakistan, but may decrease post-strike political violence in Afghanistan and Somalia. This gives credence to the theory that narrative distribution may be a critical link that connects secondary airstrike effects with policy goals within the human domain. In addition, information asymmetry between competing narrative campaigns and civilians may be a viable theory to connect extreme sentiment and political violence.
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