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Gaining Momentum: How Media Influences Public Opinion To Push Civil-Military Decision Makers Into Formulating Foreign Policy

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Technical Report

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Air War College Montgomery United States

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Throughout history, media has played a major role in society. The way media sways people tends to have an impact on the decisions of our civil-military leaders. When analyzing the military engagements from the past, evidence suggest the media or press does have an influence over public opinion, especially during times of war and humanitarian operations, which eventually pushes our leaders into the formation and exercise of foreign policy.Looking at trends throughout history between the media, public opinion, and decision makers, it appears that a correlation exists between all three. Analyzing and interpreting public opinion polls and surveys can be further deciphered by looking at what the media pushed people towards in times of crisis. Media coverage on the battlefield and humanitarian missions has gained momentum over the last fifty years especially, due to the fact that the importance of the media is all the greater in times of crisis that are liable to drag the United States into military intervention.1The purpose of this paper is to analyze and compare the impact public opinion has on civil-military decision makers. The positive and negative outcomes of operations over the last fifty years provide evidence that military and decision makers are either making choices for the good of the country, or for themselves. By going back into history where the media first stepped onto the battlefield in Vietnam to where the media is today, this paper will take a look at the impact media and public opinion had on the decisions made by our civil-military leaders in formulating and exercising foreign policy during six U.S. military operations the Vietnam War 1967-75, Desert Storm 1991, the humanitarian missions of Somalia 1992 and Bosnia 1992-95, Global War on Terrorism 2001, and the Afghanistan War 2001

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law

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