Michael Shurkin

Photo of Michael Shurkin
Senior Political Scientist
Washington Office

Education

Ph.D., M.Phil, and M.A. in modern European history, Yale University; B.A. in history, Stanford University

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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Overview

Michael Shurkin is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He previously worked in the Intelligence Community, where he served as a political analyst with a focus on West Africa and Afghanistan. Prior to that he was a lecturer in the history department at Johns Hopkins University. Shurkin received his M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in modern European history from Yale University, and his B.A. in history from Stanford University; and he also studied at l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

Recent Projects

  • French Army operations in Mali
  • Army Readiness
  • Expeditionary Army operations
  • Intelligence and strategic warning
  • Strategic planning in the intelligence community

Selected Publications

Shurkin, Michael with Stephanie Pezard, Achieving Peace in Northern Mali, RAND Corporation (RR-892) (forthcoming)

Shurkin, Michael, France's War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army, RAND Corporation (RR-770), 2014

Shurkin, Michael, Setting Priorities in the Age of Austerity: British, French, and German Experiences, RAND Corporation (RR-222), 2013

Shurkin, Michael with Stephanie Pezard, Toward a Secure and Stable Northern Mali: Approaches to Engaging Local Actors, RAND Corporation (RR-296), 2013

Shurkin, Michael, Subnational Government in Afghanistan, RAND Corporation (OP-318), 2011

Commentary

  • French President Francois Hollande and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian review troops at the fort of Vincennes, France, July 25, 2016

    Emergencies: France, Mali, and Turkey Are Playing with Fire

    The leaders of France, Mali, and Turkey have declared formal states of emergency. France's Hollande and Mali's Keïta, while responding to real threats, are risking democracy. Erdogan appears to be targeting democracy and using Turkey's recent failed coup as a pretext.

    Aug 15, 2016 Breaking Defense

  • Kalashnikov assault rifle with ammunition

    A Brief History of the Assault Rifle

    The assault rifle is a class of weapon that emerged in the middle of the last century to meet the needs of combat soldiers on the modern battlefield, where the level of violence had reached such heights that an entirely new way of fighting had emerged.

    Jun 30, 2016 The Atlantic

  • Niger's incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou speaks to journalists after voting during the country's presidential and legislative elections in Niamey, Niger, February 21, 2016

    An African Country the West Has Ignored Could Have a Big Impact on the Global War on Terror

    This week's presidential election in Niger is of real importance for U.S. interests in Africa and the global campaign against militant Islamists. A clean and peaceful election would constitute a step forward that could help secure an effective counterterrorism partner in both the short and long term.

    Feb 26, 2016 Quartz

  • Afghan National Army officers stand at attention at the Kabul Military Training Center, Afghanistan, October 7, 2015

    Improving the U.S. Security Assistance Model

    The United States often approaches security assistance the same way it did in Vietnam, with the same results. A better way would be to focus on politics and shaping the political context.

    Nov 18, 2015 The Cipher Brief

  • A man holds a cross that reads "death to the president" as he marches with other protesters who are against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term, June 3, 2015

    Flirting with Genocide in Burundi: Paying Attention Could Save Lives

    Burundi has been afflicted by political violence since April. President Pierre Nkurunziza, who helped bring peace to the country in the last decade, is risking everything for the sake of staying in power. He is dragging the country backwards after 10 years of progress.

    Nov 18, 2015 Newsweek

  • A French soldier from Operation Barkhane rides in an armoured vehicle in Timbuktu, November 5, 2014

    The French Way of War

    There is a French way of warfare that reflects the French military's lack of resources and its modest sense of what it can achieve. They specialize in carefully apportioned and usually small but lethal operations, often behind the scenes.

    Nov 17, 2015 Politico

  • Cameroonian soldiers in Mabass, northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram militants kidnapped 80 people on January 18, 2015

    A Good Move in Cameroon

    President Obama's decision to deploy 300 soldiers to Cameroon to help combat the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram is welcome news. The U.S. is stepping in at the right time, in the right way, by providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support that will greatly enhance Cameroon's and others' chances.

    Oct 18, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • A Malian gendarme climbs stairs at the Byblos hotel, site of a siege over the weekend in which 17 people died in Sevare, Mali, August 11, 2015

    How to Defeat a New Boko Haram in Mali

    While there is a need for stepped up military and police efforts against the self-proclaimed Macina Liberation Front, Mali's policymakers and their international partners need to focus on countering revivalist Islam, ideally by promoting Mali's other Islamic traditions, while finding ways to calm the inter-communal competition.

    Sep 8, 2015 Newsweek

  • French President Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama, and British Prime Minister David Cameron discuss the situation in Ukraine at the G20 in Brisbane, November 16, 2014

    France Is Replacing the UK as America's Top Ally in Europe

    The United States' relationship with France should be recognized and strengthened. France retains the military capability and the political moxie to contribute significantly and aggressively to collective responses to security threats to the Atlantic Alliance.

    Mar 30, 2015 Newsweek

  • A soldier stands outside La Terrasse restaurant where militants killed five people in a gun attack in Bamako, Mali, March 7, 2015

    Help Malians Fight Back

    The March 7 terrorist attack that killed five people in a nightclub in Bamako, Mali, underscores the importance of international support for the West African country, which has become another front in the struggle against Islamist radicalism.

    Mar 13, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • Fighters from the Tuareg separatist rebel group MNLA take shade under a tree in the desert near Tabankort, February 13, 2015

    Mali's Peace Accord Offers Little More Than an Opportunity

    The good news is that Mali's latest attempt at peace presents a real opportunity. The bad news is that all the reasons that previous agreements failed are still present.

    Mar 11, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • French soldiers patrol a Jewish neighborhood near a religious school and a synagogue as part of the highest level of 'Vigipirate' security plan

    Vive France's Defense of Its Jewish Citizens

    France is not the problem when it comes to defending Jewish lives and Jewish rights. With a few exceptions, the French state and nation have been stalwart on these issues, if only because the French government has understood that those who strike at Jews usually are striking at values dear to France.

    Feb 13, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • U.S. Army soldiers, earmarked for the fight against Ebola, put on protective suits during training before their deployment to West Africa, October 9, 2014

    Declaring War on Ebola

    Operation United Assistance, which includes the deployment of 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to respond to the Ebola crisis, is a welcome recognition of the range of missions the military is increasingly able to tackle, particularly in disaster-management assistance.

    Oct 10, 2014 Modern Healthcare

  • French Army General Bernard Barrera (L) speaks with a soldier during a patrol in northern Mali, March 23, 2013

    France Gets Tougher on Terrorism

    The launch of Barkhane, a new military operation by France, signals a change. Rather than simply reacting to an emergency as it did in Mali, France is committing to a long-term counterterrorism campaign, a much greater and more public commitment. This is welcome news for the United States.

    Jul 29, 2014 U.S. News & World Report

  • The Joint Multinational Training Command regularly trains U.S. and multi-national soldiers, during sophisticated and complex mission rehearsal exercises throughout Europe

    Pentagon's Reliance on Europe Is 'Wishful Thinking'

    There needs to be more frank and precise thinking about the kind of support allies are able and willing to provide. Counting on Europeans even just to pull as much weight as they have in the past is an increasingly doubtful proposition.

    Apr 9, 2014 Defense One

  • Soldiers of the Multinational Force of Central Africa watch over a crowd during a religious reconciliation tour in the outskirts of Bangui, December 11, 2013

    The Central African Republic Must Save Itself

    The coincidence of the passing of Nelson Mandela last week with France's decision to intervene in the Central African Republic highlights a number of inconvenient truths about Africa and the role of the international community in its affairs.

    Dec 13, 2013 U.S. News & World Report

  • Malians attending a concert for their upcoming elections

    Remembering What Mali Needs

    Free and fair elections are important, to be sure, but what Mali really needs is a leader who is dedicated to democracy, unity and reform of Mali's politics and institutions, write Stephanie Pezard and Michael Shurkin.

    Jul 26, 2013 U.S. News & World Report

  • Touareg rebels in Mali hoist a flag

    The al Qaeda Threat in North Africa

    Last week's terrorist attack at the In Amenas gas complex in Algeria, along with the recent success of the militant groups fighting government forces in Mali, indicate al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are gaining influence in North Africa. RAND experts weigh in on the latest developments.

    Jan 24, 2013

  • A Tuareg rebel in Mali poses with an assault rifle.

    Hostage Taking Exposes Terror Threat in Africa

    There is a danger in viewing Mali through the prism of counter-terrorism, since the rebel element there is tangled up in movements and groups with a wide variety of interests and motives, ranging from sincere religious conviction to local political rivalries to base economic opportunism, writes Michael Shurkin.

    Jan 18, 2013 USA Today

  • Malian refugees

    The French Intervention in Mali Is Necessary, but Risky

    No solution is likely to offer more than a short-term reprise if it is not accompanied by real progress toward resolving Mali's political crisis and strengthening the Malian state and Malian democracy, write Stephanie Pezard and Michael Shurkin.

    Jan 17, 2013 U.S. News & World Report

  • Malian troops stand guard outside Kati Barracks in Bamako, the headquarters of coup leader Amadou Sanogo

    France Needs More Than Force in Mali

    France should coordinate military action with efforts to engage with local factions to use as partners and proxies, write Stephanie Pezard and Michael Shurkin. This is, in effect, how France conquered and secured northern Mali in the first place a century ago.

    Jan 17, 2013 CNN

Publications

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