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Authors: Remick, Mallory
Advisors: Shapiro, Jacob
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: In an increasingly technological world, the American public has grown to rely on 24-7 news coverage for information on various foreign policies and the many actions taken by the United States government. As technology has changed the way Americans receive their news, it has also influenced how the United States fights hostile enemies. One of the most significant defense advancements in the war on terror has been the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Informed through media reporting, the American public has expressed concerns over the loss of civilian lives and the lack of the United States’ transparency regarding the RPA program. The media’s role in United States foreign policy has long been a topic of discussion, as various theories exist on the nature and strength of that relationship. This thesis applies specific data to examine the dynamic relationship between media reporting and the United States policy on armed RPAs used in counterterrorism operations. The data is used to understand how the media discussion has shaped and evolved the United States’ counterterrorism policy of using armed RPAs for targeted killings. The specific time period analyzed is January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2015. The dependent variable, RPA policy, is measured through a combination of quantitative and qualitative variables. Quantitative variables are the number of targeted strikes and the number of reported civilian casualties. Qualitatively measured variables are the levels of control over the RPA program authorizations, constraints on the use of RPAs, and the transparency of the operations. The independent variable is news media coverage of the United States armed RPA program. News media is measured by the number of articles covering RPA operations, the positive or negative sentiment of the articles, and the intensity of that sentiment. Six RPA policy shifts are used to understand whether or not the media coverage has played a significant role in generating policy change. The results of this thesis demonstrate that although the media does not influence the operational use of RPAs in targeted killings, it does significantly contribute to the government’s transparency of and accountability for the program. The media discussion shapes public opinion, which also shapes the government response to that opinion. The paper also shows that the United States government has grown to leverage the media to help shape a positive discussion of the RPA targeted killings. This has become a necessary and important relationship for all parties. In a world where the terrorist threat continues to grow, it is increasingly important for the United States government and media to continue to work together to provide the public with accurate and up-to-date information, while still protecting America’s national security.
Extent: 95 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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