Raphael S. Cohen

Photo of Raphael Cohen
Associate Director, Strategy and Doctrine Program, Project Air Force; Senior Political Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Washington Office

Education

Ph.D. in government, Georgetown University; M.A. in security studies, Georgetown University; B.A. in government, Harvard University

Overview

Raphael "Rafi" Cohen is the associate director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program, Project Air Force and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He works on a broad range of defense and foreign policy issues, including defense strategy and force planning, Middle East and European security and civil-military relations.

Cohen previously held research fellowships at the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute and the National Defense University’s Center for Complex Operations. He has written for a variety of forums, including the Journal of Strategic Studies, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, Orbis, Armed Forces Journal, The Weekly Standard, The National Interest, The American Interest, Time and other publications. He also served as a staffer on the Congressionally-appointed 2018 National Defense Strategy Commission.

A military intelligence branched lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, Cohen has held a variety of command and staff positions in both the active and reserve components, including during two combat tours in Iraq from 2005 to 2006 and again from 2007 to 2008. He also is an adjunct professor of Security Studies in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He holds a B.A. magna cum laude in government from Harvard University and an M.A. in security studies and Ph.D. in government from Georgetown University.

Commentary

  • The purported wreckage of an American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2019, photo by Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency via Reuters

    The Flawed Logic of Proportionality

    President Trump halted a retaliatory strike against Iran on the basis that it would have claimed many Iranian lives and was not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. There are many good reasons to avoid attacking Iran, but if Washington must resort to force in the future, it should avoid the flawed logic of proportionality.

    Jul 1, 2019 The Hill

  • U.S. President Ronald Reagan (R) and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in the White House, Washington, DC, December 8, 1987, photo by Str Old/Reuters

    What Ronald Reagan Can Teach Us About Dealing with Contemporary Russia

    Politics loves its historical analogies and today, perhaps, there is no more common a comparison to the Trump presidency than the Reagan administration. Reagan's tenure was marked by his successful competition with the Soviet Union. Does Reagan provide a blueprint for triumphing over modern Russia?

    May 13, 2019 Lawfare

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, photo by the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

    Russia's Soft Strategy to Hostile Measures in Europe

    They've been called political warfare, measures short of war, gray zone warfare, and a host of other terms. Russia has used a wide range of hostile measures to expand its influence and undermine governments across the European continent. These tactics should be appreciated for what they are: part of a larger, coherent Russian effort, but ultimately not an insurmountable one.

    Feb 26, 2019 War on the Rocks

  • After crossing from Mexico by jumping a border fence, migrants run next to a prototype of the border wall in Otay County, California, December 21, 2018

    What Border Walls Can and Cannot Accomplish

    States have been building walls since ancient times. Some were arguably quite successful, others less so. At the core of prudent policy lies a basic question: What can walls realistically accomplish?

    Jan 8, 2019 Fox News Channel

  • Four F-15E Strike Eagles fly in formation above the Nevada Test and Training Range June 21, 2011

    The More Things Change: Explaining Continuity in Defense Strategy

    United States presidential administrations from Clinton to Trump have championed different approaches to military and defense policy. The verbiage of the National Defense Strategy, however, remains relatively the same and the numbers reflect more incremental rather than monumental shifts.

    Apr 25, 2018 War on the Rocks

  • Birds silhouetted over the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol at sunrise in Washington, D.C., November 8, 2016

    Political Warfare Is Back with a Vengeance

    The United States' principal adversaries are fighting and gaining ground by employing a host of tactics short of all-out war. This form of warfare, once called political warfare, is back with a vengeance, empowered by new tools and techniques.

    Apr 13, 2018 The National Interest

  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (left) speaks with U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster at U.N. headquarters in New York City, September 18, 2017

    Minding the Gap: The Military, Politics, and American Democracy

    The gap between Americans' confidence in the military versus its civilian counterparts has widened over the last several decades. This has led former military officers to play an increasingly prominent role in politics and changed the civil-military balance in potentially unhealthy ways.

    Dec 18, 2017 Lawfare

  • Israeli soldiers training for urban wafare

    Five Lessons from Israel's Wars in Gaza

    After a decade of operating against Hamas in Gaza, the Israel Defense Force has learned many lessons about urban warfare against hybrid adversaries. The last confrontation teaches five basic lessons that apply well beyond Gaza.

    Aug 3, 2017 War on the Rocks

  • Risk board game

    Why Strategies Disappoint — and How to Fix Them

    Strategies fail because leaders are unwilling to make difficult decisions at the risk of being wrong. Can the new U.S. administration succeed in fixing the strategy process?

    Mar 20, 2017 Lawfare

  • New U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is greeted by Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he arrives at the Pentagon outside Washington, U.S.,  January 21, 2017

    Five Simple Strategy Lessons for a New Secretary of Defense

    Secretary of Defense James Mattis will need to lay the intellectual groundwork to fulfill President Trump's promise of “a great rebuilding” of the United States military. History suggests that how the strategies are developed may be as important to their success as what they say.

    Mar 2, 2017 RealClearDefense

  • A U.S. Army crew chief scans his sector from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, May 8, 2015

    Understanding the U.S. Military's Morale 'Crisis'

    The military's discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results. Those wars arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

    Jun 29, 2015 Lawfare

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

    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 Lawfare

  • Palestinians walk past a mosque and water tower damaged by Israeli air strikes and shelling in Khuzaa, in the southern Gaza Strip

    The Grim Lessons of 'Protective Edge'

    For all the attempts to find technological quick fixes or enforce a permanent settlement, Operation Protective Edge has highlighted that a war of attrition, known as a 'long war,' remains the only viable strategy in the current environment.

    Sep 3, 2014 The American Interest

Publications