DP16269 Information Operations Increase Civilian Security Cooperation

Author(s): Konstantin Sonin, Austin L. Wright
Publication Date: June 2021
Keyword(s): Bayesian persuasion, conflict, Propaganda
JEL(s): D74, D82, O1
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16269

Information operations are considered a central element of modern warfare and counterinsurgency, yet there remains little systematic evidence of their effectiveness. Using a geographic quasi-experiment conducted during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, we demonstrate that civilians exposed to the government's information campaign resulted in more civilian security cooperation, which in turn increased bomb neutralizations. These results are robust to a number of alternative model specifications that account for troop presence, patrol-based operations, and local military aid allocation as well as a series of novel placebo tests and latent radio signal propagation approaches. The paper demonstrates that information campaigns can lead to substantive attitudinal and behavioral changes in an adversarial environment and substantially improve battlefield outcomes.