Warfare and Military Operations

RAND researchers examine military and national security issues across a broad spectrum — from political dissent and military training to tactical operations and reconstruction efforts — and take a long-term, global perspective. Terrorism, types of warfare, and international intervention are among the many topics RAND explores.

  • Tank silhouette at sunset

    Blog

    Destroy ISIL's Heavy Weapons and Vehicles: Level the Playing Field

    More than any other option, employing air power decisively to deny ISIL the ability to use its armor and artillery has the potential to immediately and dramatically shift the battlefield balance against it.

    Oct 20, 2014

  • Report

    France's War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army

    This report discusses the 2013 French Army operations in Mali (Operation Serval) to provide a model for designing and operating an expeditionary force, one that has a number of attributes and competencies the United States Army is seeking.

    Oct 17, 2014

  • Smoke rises after a U.S.-led airstrike in Kobani, Syria, Ocotber 10, 2014

    Blog

    Air Campaign Against ISIS Is Just Getting Off the Ground

    More than 60 countries have joined the coalition against ISIS, with at least 12 participating in the air campaign. Eventually, this will be an impressive armada, but the campaign is still in its first stage, and most of the coalition participants joined the effort only recently.

    Oct 17, 2014

  • Scouts pull overwatch at the Chowkay Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2006

    Blog

    7 Lessons from 13 Years of War

    RAND senior international policy analyst Linda Robinson addressed the annual Army USA Conference in Washington to present new research that distills lessons learned from the U.S. experience in the last 13 years of war.

    Oct 16, 2014

  • U.S. Army boots on sand

    Blog

    What Could U.S. Boots on the Ground Do in Iraq and Syria?

    Before embracing American boots on the ground as a strategy to fight ISIS, it's essential to be clear about what they're going to do, what they may require, and what risks may be entailed.

    Oct 15, 2014

  • CH-47 Chinook helicopters land outside of the village of Abd al Hasan, Iraq, to pick up U.S. and Iraqi Army Soldiers

    Report

    Lessons from Past 13 Years of War Can Improve Future Strategy

    Lessons from the past 13 years of war provide insight into the future operating environment and identify critical requirements for land and special operations forces to collaborate successfully with various partners in future conflicts.

    Oct 14, 2014

  • U.S. Army Sgt. instructing Iraqi soldiers on individual movement techniques during a class at the Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center in 2011

    Blog

    The Foreign Policy Essay: Hearts, Minds, & ISIL

    Defeating ISIL will not come from “winning hearts and minds” and soft power, nor will it come from a handful of precision airstrikes. It will require hard, bloody ground combat. The United States may not want to admit this, but it is the grim truth nonetheless.

    Oct 13, 2014

  • A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014 is pictured in this still frame from video obtained by Reuters, October 7, 2014

    Blog

    What Are ISIS's Options Now?

    In domestic debates about what the United States should do to blunt the threat posed by ISIS, Americans often forget the adversary also has options. A determined force, ISIS will counter the bombing campaign.

    Oct 10, 2014

  • U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a briefing from top military leaders while visiting U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, September 17, 2014

    Blog

    The New Global Juggling Act

    Areas that have long been a focal point for defense planning — Europe, the Middle East and East Asia — are all facing profound and unsettling change, and the United States may no longer have the luxury of choosing among regions.

    Oct 7, 2014

  • A man holds up a knife as he rides on the back of a motorcycle in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria, August 24, 2014

    Blog

    Hit the Islamic State's Pocketbook

    The Islamic State is the world's richest terrorist group, with estimated assets of $1 billion to $2 billion. Airstrikes may disrupt the flow of oil and profits, but they won't lead to the group's financial ruin anytime soon. The Islamic State will bring in an estimated $100 million to $200 million this year.

    Oct 6, 2014

  • Report

    The Other Quiet Professionals: Lessons for Future Cyber Forces from the Evolution of Special Forces

    A review of commonalities, similarities, and differences between the still-nascent U.S. cyber force and early U.S. special operations forces, conducted in 2010, offers salient lessons for the future direction of U.S. cyber forces.

    Oct 3, 2014

  • A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells towards Zummar, controlled by the Islamic State, near Mosul, September 15, 2014

    Blog

    Does ISIL Represent a Threat to the United States?

    There are legitimate questions about how to best go about preventing ISIL from consolidating its control over Iraq and Levant. But this is very different from arguing that ISIL is not a threat and that the United States therefore should stand aside as it does so.

    Oct 3, 2014

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov shake hands at a news conference in Moscow, August 29, 2014

    Blog

    Why Iran Can't Walk Away from Nuclear Talks So Easily

    If the public inflexibility of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif isn't mere diplomatic posturing, they would be gambling not only with their own political futures, but the futures of 80 million Iranians as well.

    Sep 26, 2014

  • Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby briefs reporters on airstrikes on ISIL targets in Syria, Sept. 25, 2014

    Blog

    An Inconvenient War

    Congress has not addressed President Obama's plans to take other military steps against ISIS. Some members of Congress do not want to vote on the use of military force until after the upcoming elections. Among these are some who fear their vote could cost them votes.

    Sep 25, 2014

  • A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes against ISIL targets Sept. 23, 2014

    Blog

    War with ISIS: What Does Victory Look Like?

    We should start the campaign with an achievable definition of victory and a reasonable expectation about what that will take. We want to degrade ISIS so its ability to attack us and our interests is minimized, and to aid allies like Iraqis and Middle Eastern governments who are willing to commit even limited forces.

    Sep 25, 2014

  • News Release

    Pentagon Should Elevate the Importance of Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction in Operational Planning

    Although the United States military has determined countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to be a strategic priority, policymakers have invested too little in the forces and capabilities needed to eliminate vulnerable arsenals.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • A worker engages in decontamination procedures

    Research Brief

    Closing the Strategy-Policy Gap in Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction

    Two presidents have declared counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) a top national priority, but it has not been budgeted or resourced as such. This brief summarizes ground force capacities and capabilities needed to eliminate WMD.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • The Flying Dragons flew in support of a joint air assault in which Soldiers conducted a search for illegal weapons on various compounds throughout Nawa Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014

    Report

    Pentagon Should Elevate the Importance of Eliminating WMDs in Operational Planning

    Joint force commanders should carefully consider requirements for eliminating weapons of mass destruction in their contingency and operational planning. And DoD policy decisions involving Army force structure should consider the conventional ground force requirements of such operations.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea launches a Tomahawk cruise missile in the Persian Gulf, Sept. 23, 2014

    Blog

    RAND Experts Discuss U.S. Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria

    The United States and five of its partner nations are conducting strikes against ISIS terrorists in Syria using fighters, bombers, remotely piloted aircraft, and Tomahawk Land Attack missiles. RAND experts discuss the bombings and possible ramifications.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • French President Francois Hollande arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris to speak about French airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants, September 19, 2014

    Blog

    Does France Have the Master Plan to Defeat ISIS?

    In Mali, France stopped jihadists from taking over, ejected them from the country almost entirely, and struck a major blow to their ability to threaten France and the region. This success story provides important lessons for the U.S. debate about how to deal with ISIS.

    Sep 24, 2014