Karl P. Mueller

Photo of Karl Mueller
Senior Political Scientist
Washington Office


Ph.D. in politics, Princeton University; B.A. in political science, University of Chicago

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Karl P. Mueller is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He specializes in research related to military and national security strategy, particularly coercion and deterrence. Mueller has written and lectured on a wide variety of national security subjects, including airpower theory, grand strategy, economic sanctions, nuclear proliferation, counterterrorism policy, space weapons, and wargaming. Among his recent RAND publications are Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War (2015), Denying Flight: Strategic Options for Employing No-Fly Zones (2013), Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation in the 21st Century (Forrest E. Morgan et al., 2008), and Striking First: Preemptive and Preventive Attack in U.S. National Security Policy (2006). He is currently working on projects about defending the Baltic States, managing crisis escalation, and the future of U.S. airpower. Before joining RAND in 2001, Mueller was a professor of comparative military studies at the U.S. Air Force's School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS). He is currently an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. Mueller received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University.

Recent Projects

  • Escalation and crisis stability
  • Use of Airpower in Libya and the Middle East
  • Preemptive War
  • Defense of the Baltic States
  • Deterrence Strategies for Small Nations

Selected Publications

Karl P. Mueller, ed., Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War, RAND (RR-676), 2015

Karl P. Mueller, Jeffery Martini, and Thomas Hamilton, Airpower Options for Syria: Assessing Objectives and Missions for Aerial Intervention, RAND (RR-466), 2013

Karl P. Mueller, Denying Flight: Strategic Options for Employing No-Fly Zones, RAND (RR-423), 2013

Forrest E. Morgan et al., Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation in the 21st Century, RAND (RR-614), 2008

Alan J. Vick et al., Air Power in the New Counterinsurgency Era: The Strategic Importance of USAF Advisory and Assistance Missions, RAND Corporation (MG-509), 2006

Karl P. Mueller et al., Striking First: Preemptive and Preventive Attack in U.S. National Security Policy, RAND Corporation (MG-403), 2006

Karl P. Mueller, "Totem and Taboo: Depolarizing the Space Weaponization Debate," Astropolitics, 1(1), 2003

David E. Johnson, Karl P. Mueller, and William H. Taft V, Conventional Coercion Across the Spectrum of Operations: The Utility of Military Force in the Emerging Security Environment, RAND Corporation (MR-1494), 2002

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Aftenposten (Oslo); Atlantic Monthly; Boston Globe; Houston Chronicle; Issues in Science and Technology; Kansas City Star; Los Angeles Times; Newsweek; New York Times; NPR; Pacifica Radio Network; Washington Times

Commentary: CNN; Defense One; U.S. News & World Report


  • Men search for survivors at a site hit by shelling in Damascus, Syria, June 16, 2015

    A No-Fly Zone Over Syria: Q&A with Karl Mueller

    Some are advocating a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians from both ISIS and forces loyal to Assad. What constraints complicate establishing a no-fly zone and realizing its expected benefits? And how might Assad supporters, such as Russia, respond?

    Oct 15, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • An explosion following an air strike in central Kobani, Syria, November 9, 2014

    NATO's Campaign in Libya Offers Salient Lessons for the Air War Against ISIL

    The NATO air campaign that helped defeat Qaddafi's regime in Libya has received relatively little mention in public discussion of the ongoing air strikes against ISIS. But the campaign in Libya offers at least five lessons that deserve greater attention today.

    Nov 25, 2014 Defense One

  • Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from the Islamic State, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, August 11, 2014

    What's Going on in Iraq?

    While the United States could embark on a much wider war in Iraq, there's little reason to think it will rush to do so or that using airpower to help defend the Kurds will make such an escalation inevitable.

    Aug 14, 2014 U.S. News & World Report

  • Northrop Grumman test pilots with arm-mounted controllers after successfully launching a drone combat aircraft on the USS George H. W. Bush, May 14, 2013

    Would U.S. Air Power Work in Iraq?

    With the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) making significant gains over the past week, including advancing closer to Baghdad, U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly considering whether to deploy U.S. air power to assist Iraq's armed forces. But what would such an intervention mean in practical terms? And how effective an option would it be?

    Jun 18, 2014 CNN