To react or deliberate? : the utility of New Zealand's counterinsurgent communication during the international campaign against terrorism.
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis examines New Zealand’s counterinsurgent communication – that is, its press releases that focus on the ‘war on terror’ – from 9/11 for a period of ten years. The aim is to understand the effectiveness of a counterinsurgent’s press releases in an era where the number of key audiences in a counterinsurgency has grown and targeting any of them is near-impossible, with a particular focus on how the different requirements of each key audience compromises the utility of communication for others. The thesis identifies two narratives present in New Zealand’s counterinsurgent communication: the ‘deliberative’ and ‘reactive’. The former is understood to be honed by technocrats over time in a measured fashion – it is deliberated upon – while the latter is quickly crafted by politicians during the emotive shockwave that follows an attack – it is a reaction. It also proposes that these two narratives have differing functions, the deliberative serves to justify the counterinsurgent’s cause and legitimise them as an actor to both their own support population and the insurgent support population while the reactive helps control and direct the negative emotions generated by a terrorist attack within the counterinsurgent’s support audience, mobilises domestic support for action and also reinforces ingroup bonds with international allies. Using population-centric counterinsurgency theory combined with insights on insurgent’s strategies and the characteristics of counterinsurgents, it outlines five key opposing qualities that define these narratives. The thesis creates an analytical framework that fuses framing theory with these five opposing qualities and extracts the necessary data from a decade’s worth New Zealand government press releases given by the Prime Minster, Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister of Defence using content analysis. Each deliberative and reactive framing task is examined using a combination of qualitative and quantitative assessments to provide a comprehensive understanding of the utility of these two narratives with regard to three key audiences: the insurgent support population, the domestic audience and the allied audience. The findings suggest that these two different narratives to some degree, compromised the overall utility of New Zealand’s communication, specifically the justness of New Zealand’s cause and, consequently, their legitimacy as a counterinsurgent. Furthermore, the thesis argues that the reactive was of limited utility for the insurgent support audience, mixed utility for the domestic audience and utility for the allied audience, while the deliberative narrative was of utility for the insurgent support audience, mixed utility for the domestic audience and limited utility for allied audience. It also concludes that the reactive was used more frequently following attacks, to a wider international rather than domestic audience and its use declined over time while the deliberative was used more for the domestic audience and was used more consistently over the period than the reactive. Finally, it warns that while democracies may be suited to fighting conventional conflicts, they are not so well placed with regard to communicating in counterinsurgencies, particularly when they have low direct stakes and high indirect stakes.