Journal of Peace Research, Ahead of Print.
Governments involved in civil wars often seek to shape foreign perceptions of the conflict and of the government’s role in the conflict. To this end, for example, many such governments have engaged in public diplomacy campaigns (PDCs) in the United States since the end of the Cold War. Specifically, these governments have hired US public relations (PR) and lobbying firms to present favorable narratives of themselves and their role in the conflict. Through PDCs, governments seek to shape US public pronouncements about the governments and the conflict itself. Are PDCs effective tools to reach this goal? We argue that the effect of PDCs is divergent. PDCs help mobilize both supporters and opponents of the sponsoring governments. In so doing, PDCs increase both positive and negative public statements from US officials toward the civil war government. We compile data on PDCs in the United States since the end of the Cold War. Our results have implications for research on foreign influence in foreign policy, combatants’ moral hazard, and international norms about combatant behavior. Moreover, in order to gauge the influence of foreign actors on domestic narratives of civil wars, it is crucial to consider how such foreign actors can indirectly shape the discourse around conflict by mobilizing domestic factions.