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Framing the U.S. Troop Surge in Iraq: An Application of Robert Entman's Cascade Model Open Access

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This paper explores the 2006-2008 U.S. troop surge in Iraq and its coverage in the U.S. media. By studying the surge as covered in the New York Times over a two-year period (December 2006 through December 2008), the paper hopes to glean an understanding of how the narrative of the troop surge was told to the American public, or how it was "framed." When it was conceived, the surge was described to the American people as having both security and political components: namely, the influx of extra U.S. troops into Baghdad was meant to create space for an improvement in governance. This paper explores how the surge was framed in the media - whether it was characterized as being a strategy to merely reduce violence in Baghdad or as a larger strategy to eventually lead to a functional government for the country of Iraq. This paper uses Robert Entman's Cascade Model, as outlined in his 2004 book Projections of Power, as its analytical framework in accomplishing these goals. This study finds that the surge was far more often than not described by elites and in the media in terms of its security aims. These aims came to be the defining goals of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, while the goals of political change and stabilization went relatively ignored. The evidence in this paper also points to a sustained effort on the part of Republicans - most notably, President Bush and John McCain - to frame the surge as a purely military/security-related effort. Thus, when casualties dropped, the surge could be deemed "successful."

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