Ben Connable

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Senior Political Scientist; Affiliate Faculty, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Washington Office


Ph.D. in war studies, King's College London; M.A. in national security affairs, Naval Postgraduate School; M.A. in strategic intelligence, American Military University; B.A. in political science, University of Colorado, Boulder

Media Resources

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Ben Connable is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a member of the faculty at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and a retired Marine Corps intelligence and Middle East Foreign Area officer. He focuses on warfighting, European regional, Middle East regional, and national strategy issues in support of U.S. Department of Defense sponsors.

Connable has an extensive background in military cultural terrain theory and application, having served as cultural advisor to general officers in Iraq and as the head of the Marine Corps cultural intelligence program. He is currently researching will to fight, human behavior representation in modeling and simulation, and a number of regional issues.

Connable received his Ph.D. in war studies from King's College London War Studies Department, his M.A. in strategic intelligence from American Military University, his M.A. in national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School, and his B.A. in political science from the University of Colorado–Boulder. He was the 2012 General Lemuel C. Shepherd Memorial Dissertation Fellow, and his team received the 2020 Leonard Schaeffer Medal for work to help stabilize Yemen.

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University

Recent Projects

  • Will to Fight
  • Russian Measures Short of War
  • Combat Survivability
  • Human Behavior Representation
  • Middle East regional analysis

Selected Publications

Connable, B., An Enduring American Commitment in Iraq: Shaping a Long-Term Strategy with Iraqi Army Partners, RAND (PE-353), 2020

Connable, B.; Young, S.; Pezard, S.; Radin, A.; Cohen, R.; Migacheva, K.; Sladden, J., Russia's Hostile Measures: Combating Russian Gray Zone Aggression Against NATO in the Contact, Blunt, and Surge Layers of Competition, RAND (RR-2539), 2020

Connable, B.; McNerney, M.; Marcellino, W.; Frank, A.; Hargrove, H.; Posard, M.; Zimmerman, S.; Lander, N.; Castillo, J.; Sladden, J., Will to Fight: Analyzing, Modeling, and Simulating the Will to Fight of Military Units, RAND (RR-2341), 2018

Connable, B., Leveraging Development Aid to Address Root Causes in Counterinsurgency: Balancing Theory and Practice in "Hold" and "Build", RAND (WR-983), 2013

Connable, B., Embracing the Fog of War: Assessment and Metrics in Counterinsurgency, RAND (MG-1086), 2012

Connable, B., Military Intelligence Fusion for Complex Operations: A New Paradigm, RAND (OP-377), 2012

Connable, B.; Libicki, M., How Insurgencies End, RAND (MG-965), 2010

Honors & Awards

  • Lemuel C. Shepherd Memorial Dissertation Fellowship, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation
  • Two Silver Medals, one Bronze Medal for research, RAND
  • Leonard Schaeffer Medal, RAND



Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Al-Ghad, Jordan

Commentary: CNN; The Hill; Newsweek; U.S. News & World Report; War on the Rocks


  • Russian trucks on the road heading to Deir al-Zor in Kabakeb near Deir al-Zor, Syria, September 21, 2017, photo by Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

    Russian Mercenaries in Great-Power Competition: Strategic Supermen or Weak Link?

    The weaknesses within Russian mercenary forces and within the Russian state in relation to press-ganged youths, conscripts, and casualties may offer opportunities for exploitation in great-power competition. These broader weaknesses in Russian national will to fight could be examined to identify more ways to prevent Russia from aggressively undermining Western democracy.

    Mar 9, 2021 The RAND Blog

  • Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two move in a tactical formation during a training evolution to locate, identify, render safe and dispose of an IED, July 12, 2010

    Competition in Iraq

    Tensions between the United States and Iran reached a boiling point in January 2020, when Iranian-backed forces attacked U.S. military and diplomatic facilities on Iraqi soil, and the United States retaliated. Policymakers and experts again asked: Why are we in Iraq? What would happen if we left, and why would it matter?

    Jun 5, 2020 Rudaw

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, Russia, November 20, 2017

    The Limits of Russian Strategy in the Middle East

    The greatest limitation of Russia's Middle East strategy is that it is not Russia, but the Middle Eastern states themselves that determine the depth of their relations with Moscow. Just as Russia seeks to engage in the Middle East for its own benefit, these states also seek to use Russia to their advantage.

    May 10, 2018 London School of Economics

  • The Sinjar Resistance Units, an offshoot of a leftist Kurdish organization, and Abdulkhaleq al-Jarba, a Arab tribal militia, have opened up a new front against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, April 30, 2016

    Partitioning Iraq: Make a Detailed Case, or Cease and Desist

    The mostly non-Iraqi voices who want to divide the country into three ethno-sectarian cantonments—Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd—owe the Iraqi people extensive, detailed clarification. If neither the Iraqi Arab polity nor Iraq's most powerful political factions seek three-way partition, then the case should be closed.

    May 16, 2016 War on the Rocks

  • U.S. and Iraqi officers checking IDs in Baghdad, Iraq, October 2006

    Iraq Reconciliation Requires American Help

    It is time for the United States to step in and take the lead on the crucial process of reconciling the Sunnis with their government in order to bolster the tactical fight against ISIL and to ensure Iraq does not further destabilize.

    May 5, 2016 The National Interest

  • A Syrian refugee carries his son through a rainstorm at the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni, November 27, 2015

    To Undermine ISIS, We Should Welcome Syrian Refugees

    Demonstrating American goodwill to Syrian refugees is the best way to help defeat ISIS and rehabilitate America's image in the chaotic Middle East.

    Dec 3, 2015 Newsweek

  • U.S. Army Specialist visits his former high school as part of the Army Special Recruiter Assistance Program

    Go Slow on Arming Recruiters

    Several important voices have argued for arming military recruiters in the wake of the recent shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Giving them a chance to fight back against an active shooter may be a sound proposition, but practicalities of military recruiting suggest a patient and thoughtful policy review.

    Jul 31, 2015 The Hill

  • Kurdish Peshmerga forces guard their position near Tal Afar, west of Mosul against Islamic State militants

    RAND Experts Discuss U.S. Strategy on ISIS

    President Obama outlined a strategy last week to deal with the threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIS. RAND experts discuss the speech and the follow-up efforts so far.

    Sep 15, 2014

  • Mehdi Army fighters loyal to a Shi'ite cleric march during a military-style training in Najaf, June 18, 2014

    A Long-Term Strategy for a Democratic Iraq

    Unfortunately, no strategic option for a unified, democratic Iraq has a good chance of success. But any well-considered option that doesn't involve ineffective killing or risking U.S. lives is preferable to simply allowing Iraq to disintegrate and feed broader regional instability.

    Jun 30, 2014 War on the Rocks

  • Masked Sunni Muslim gunmen take up positions with their weapons during a patrol in the city of Falluja

    Iraq Picture May Not Be as Bleak as It Seems

    Over the past month, al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has made a concerted effort to seize the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The attacks have received a lot of attention, but ISIS does not represent a majority of Iraqi Sunni in Anbar. Many Sunni Anbari leaders continue to reject al Qaeda.

    Jan 31, 2014 CNN

  • Syrian Americans rally in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime and against proposed U.S. military action against Syria

    A Smarter Way to Stop Syria WMD Attacks

    President Obama made a strong case that the U.S. should take the lead in punishing the Syrian regime for its use of chemical weapons and actively enforce the near-global ban on these weapons. Now, the possibility of a diplomatic solution to this problem offers an opportunity to improve the request for the authorization of force currently before Congress.

    Sep 19, 2013 CNN

  • Combat Camera,Makinano,OIF,Patrol,3/3ACR,Al Zarai,Saddam Mosque

    The Deeply Mixed Results of the Iraq War

    Ten years after the United States and its allies invaded Iraq, it seems appropriate to ask a bottom-line question: Did the U.S. succeed? The U.S. came very close to losing the Iraq war of 2003-2011, writes Ben Connable.

    Mar 21, 2013 U.S. News & World Report