Michael J. Mazarr

Photo of Michael Mazarr
Senior Political Scientist
Washington Office

Education

Ph.D. in public policy, University of Maryland; MA in security studies, Georgetown University; BA in government, Georgetown 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 J. Mazarr is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Previously he worked at the U.S. National War College, where he was professor and associate dean of academics; as president of the Henry L. Stimson Center; senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; senior defense aide on Capitol Hill; and as a special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His primary interests are U.S. defense policy and force structure, disinformation and information manipulation, East Asian security, nuclear weapons and deterrence, and judgment and decisionmaking under uncertainty. Mazarr holds a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Maryland.

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Bearing Drift; BNN/Business News Network Online; CBS News Online; Center for Strategic and International Studies; Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Formiche; Government Matters; History Does You; Korea Herald Online; Kristendom.dk; Lowy Institute for International Policy; MSNBC; Niskanen Center; Reconsider Podcast; The Smerconish Podcast, SiriusXM; War on the Rocks; The World, PRI; WhoWhatWhy

Commentary

  • International Diplomacy

    The Wisdom of U.S. Restraint on Russia

    The United States has been gradually increasing assistance to Ukraine without provoking a wider war. Although this approach has frustrated Ukrainian leaders and many observers, it reflects the best traditions of Cold War–era crisis diplomacy—pursuing U.S. interests while avoiding a direct clash with a rival, always with an eye on the long term.

    Sep 12, 2022

    Foreign Affairs

  • International Diplomacy

    How to Save the Postwar Order

    For the last decade or so, debate has raged among scholars and policymakers about the significance of the post–World War II, rules-based international order. Is it a feeble myth, or is it a powerful influence on state behavior? Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the global response to it has put these competing claims into sharp relief.

    May 6, 2022

    Foreign Affairs

  • International Diplomacy

    Duty Bound to Disaster: Beware the Imperative in Foreign Policymaking

    Appeals for bolder action in Ukraine will understandably only grow more intense as the appalling humanitarian toll mounts. But imperative-driven action almost always leads countries astray—and in the days and weeks ahead, it will be critical for the United States to stay alert for its symptoms.

    Mar 22, 2022

    War on the Rocks

  • China

    Shaping China's Ambitions

    Managing a rivalry with a regionally ambitious, globally engaged peer competitor of China's economic heft and technological sophistication will be one of the most profound strategic tests the United States has ever faced. A major lesson from its last global rivalry is that mistaken impressions about the nature of the rival and the character of the rivalry can create momentum for dangerous policies.

    Jan 24, 2022

    9DASHLINE.com

  • International Diplomacy

    Avoiding a New Surge of Regime Change

    As competition with China in the developing world heats up, the United States need not repeat the sad legacy of the Cold War with a surge of new efforts at covert regime change and harassment. Instead, America could maximize the systemic advantages it has long enjoyed, meet reformist leaders and movements in the developing world on their own terms, and trust the long-term appeal of American norms and values.

    Dec 8, 2021

    Modern War Institute at West Point

  • Taiwan

    Can the United States Avoid Getting Trapped in a War Over Taiwan?

    Neither abandonment nor a more unconditional U.S. commitment to defend Taiwan from invasion by China makes sense. Between the stark choices of fleeing and fighting, what options does the United States have to bolster its position?

    Jun 14, 2021

    Australian Financial Review

  • Globalization

    Humility and Limits

    When it spurns global institutions and norms and throws its considerable military weight around, the United States destroys its greatest competitive advantage—the prized role as the hub of a predominant network of global power.

    Feb 9, 2021

    Lowy Institute for International Policy

  • Globalization

    Lead from Behind

    Support for a reformed rules-based order may be the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. But the word “reformed” is crucial in that statement. The U.S. approach to strengthening global order will have to change in ways that will sit uneasily with the expectations and habits of the world's leading power.

    Feb 9, 2021

    Lowy Institute for International Policy

  • Taiwan

    Ambiguity Has Its Uses

    As China's thirst to resolve the Taiwan issue intensifies, the United States' halfhearted commitment to the island will become increasingly perilous: too weak to deter Chinese aggression but strong enough to drag the United States into a war. No U.S. approach to Taiwan will offer a perfect guarantee of peace. But the United States has many options short of the provocative, costly, and diplomatically risky step of an unconditional security pledge.

    Sep 24, 2020

    Foreign Affairs

  • United States

    Power and Legitimacy Go Hand in Hand

    The United States has a truly distinct approach to power which has made all the difference in the post-war world. We abandon it at our peril.

    Feb 21, 2020

    Lowy Institute's Interpreter

  • China

    The Real U.S.-China Competition: Theories of Influence

    Strategic competition between the United States and China has come to dominate U.S. foreign policy debates. That competition is multifaceted, but it may turn on a basic question: Which country has a more sustainable concept of national influence?

    Jan 29, 2020

    Lowy Institute's Interpreter

  • Warfare and Military Operations

    Changing the Way America Goes to War

    America's vast power, and the weakness of most of its enemies, has allowed it to get away with a striking absence of deliberative judgment when deciding on war, as the Iraq case makes clear. But that free pass is coming to an end. It's time for the United States to rethink the way it decides on wars of choice.

    Jun 25, 2019

    Fox News Channel

  • Geopolitical Strategic Competition

    This Is Not a Great-Power Competition

    The emerging conventional wisdom among foreign policy analysts in Washington is that a new era of great-power competition is upon us. But does that phrase really capture today's reality?

    May 29, 2019

    Foreign Affairs

  • Warfare and Military Operations

    Yes, the U.S. Could Be Drawn Into Yet Another Big War

    The outcome of the Iraq invasion has done little to alter the factors that have led American leaders and the public into unwise military adventures. Today's big idea of America's mission is not so different from what it was in 2003. Any number of events could spark a new moral imperative to act.

    Apr 19, 2019

    The Wall Street Journal

  • North Korea

    The Hidden Components of the North Korean Military Challenge

    In an era of global competition in which U.S. military resources are stretched thin, the United States should consider looking for opportunities to scale back potential overcommitment. The current inter-Korean dialogue presents such an opportunity.

    Mar 12, 2019

    The National Interest

  • International Diplomacy

    The Roots—and Purpose—of the Post-War Order

    As the world enters an era of greater international competition, U.S. policymakers should take care not to underestimate the importance of the postwar system. The order is far from a myth; it is the United States' most important competitive advantage.

    Aug 7, 2018

    Foreign Affairs

  • International Diplomacy

    We Need a New International Order. Here's Why

    The postwar, rule-based international order is under unprecedented strain. The U.S. predominance so characteristic of the current order must give way to a more multilateral system, one that takes seriously the sometimes-differing perspectives of other major powers.

    Jun 25, 2018

    World Economic Forum

  • International Diplomacy

    Without Reform and Cooperation with China, the International System Cannot Hold

    No rule-based international order can survive without Chinese support. Reforms are needed to address Beijing's concerns and provide it with a continued stake in the order. The trick is to decide where compromise is acceptable for U.S. interests and to draw clear lines around principles where it is not.

    Jun 25, 2018

    The National Interest

  • Security Cooperation

    Kim-Trump Summit Rife with Opportunity for U.S.

    The growing costs of planning for Korean military contingencies place a burden on U.S. defense resources. If Tuesday's summit becomes a step toward eventual guarantees against aggression, the U.S. could remove a major Korean conflict from the top rungs of its defense planning roster, freeing resources for other worries.

    Jun 11, 2018

    The Hill

  • Global Security

    Military Power Cannot Close the Defense Strategy Gap

    As defense debates heat up this season, most of the noise will be around how to use defense investments. But it’s time to consider the radical notion that the best answer to strategic insolvency isn’t budgetary. It’s not even military. It is geopolitical and diplomatic.

    Oct 30, 2017

    War on the Rocks

  • Threat Assessment

    On North Korea, Past Foreign Policy Fiascoes Show U.S. What Not to Do

    Foreign policy disasters are often the sum of two basic errors: embracing exaggerated claims about the need to act, and inventing a conceptual magic wand to wish away potential consequences. Both are apparent in U.S. policy toward North Korea's nuclear aspirations.

    Oct 5, 2017

    CNN

  • International Diplomacy

    The Multilateral Order Makes America Stronger

    Skeptics have suggested that U.S. interests and support for the international community are somehow mutually exclusive. In fact, international institutions, rules, and norms have mostly worked in the U.S. interest, not against it. The Trump administration has an opportunity to build on that record with a strong agenda of reform and support.

    Sep 26, 2017

    U.S. News & World Report

  • Arms Proliferation and Control

    How We Can Keep Iran from Becoming the Next North Korea

    The United States brokered an agreement to constrain North Korea's nuclear program 25 years ago, but hard-liners abandoned it with vague intentions of coercing the North into something better. They never did, and now a runaway North Korean program poses real danger. This offers a powerful reason to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

    Aug 22, 2017

    Fortune

  • Nuclear Deterrence

    Contain, Deter, Transform: A Winning Strategy on North Korea

    North Korea's missile tests and reported progress in nuclear warhead design have produced a volatile new urgency in U.S. policy. Contain, deter, and transform isn't a radical solution, but it's one that has worked before. This approach could preserve U.S. interests while avoiding war.

    Aug 9, 2017

    The Hill

  • International Diplomacy

    U.S. Interests and World Community

    Evidence shows that many countries consider themselves part of an emerging global community. This represents America's most potent competitive advantage. U.S. strategy is stronger when it works to reflect and build such a community.

    Jun 14, 2017

    The Cipher Brief

  • China

    China's Opportunity—and Ours

    A pivotal moment could be nearing for China's global role and its relationship with the United States. And America may be able to seize a historic opportunity to test Beijing's willingness to act as the co-sponsor of a stable world order.

    Feb 19, 2017

    U.S. News & World Report

  • The World Has Passed the Old Grand Strategies By

    The international order is in the midst of an epochal shift, and a new administration will have to rethink basic organizing concepts for America's role in the world. The truth about grand strategy today is that the United States badly needs new options.

    Oct 5, 2016

    War on the Rocks

  • International Diplomacy

    Russia and America: The World Is Big Enough for Both of Us

    The United States' approach to Russia — and any other great power — over the coming decade will ultimately be more effective if grounded in the rules, norms, and institutions that have come to characterize the postwar global system.

    Jun 23, 2016

    The National Interest

  • Global Security

    Will the New President Risk the Stability of the World?

    America's next leader will confront one of the most profound tasks of any post-war U.S. president: reimagining a threatened international order. Mishandled, the challenge could throw world politics into a tailspin. Done right, it could help keep the peace for another half-century.

    Jun 1, 2016

    Newsweek

  • Military Strategy

    Presence vs. Warfighting: A Looming Dilemma in Defense Planning

    Presence involves global military deployments to counter potential aggressors, reassure allies, underwrite extended deterrence, build partner capacity, and more. It is now as important, in terms of its stabilizing and deterrent effect, as warfighting capabilities. Yet U.S. force posture falls short.

    Apr 26, 2016

    War on the Rocks

  • Military Strategy

    The Strange Debates of Strategy

    The United States and its allies confront a specific form of statecraft; not new, in all its characteristics, but real and relevant. And most observers who have looked at the problem tend to agree that the U.S. is ill-prepared for such tactics, in part because it simply has not thought of them as a coherent approach worthy of a tailored response.

    Jan 14, 2016

    War on the Rocks

  • Military Strategy

    Struggle in the Gray Zone and World Order

    Recent experience suggests that the targets of gray zone campaigns recognize them for what they are — aggressive efforts to overturn the status quo. Gray zone aggression often prompts exactly the sort of reactions it's meant to avoid.

    Dec 22, 2015

    War on the Rocks

  • Arms Proliferation and Control

    We Face a New, Dangerous Age of Nuclear Weapons Rivalry

    Escalating competition among major powers is amplifying the role of nuclear weapons in defense policies, including more easily used — and thus especially dangerous — tactical nuclear forces. Before it becomes too late, the U.S. should design and lead a new campaign to control nuclear risk.

    Jul 16, 2015

    Newsweek

  • Military Strategy

    Land Power and a Third Offset Through a Wide-Angle Lens

    The so-called 'third offset' is intended to guide U.S. defense strategy. The right way to view it is as part of a comprehensive vision for competitive advantage, one in which land power, often minimized in offset analyses, can play a central role.

    May 21, 2015

    War on the Rocks

  • United States Department of Defense

    Fixes for Risk Assessment in Defense

    Defense Department approaches to risk management could be improved if they focused on complex strategic judgments — questions on which information is imperfect, dozens of variables interact in nonlinear ways, and human choice and agency generate unpredictable patterns.

    Apr 22, 2015

    War on the Rocks

  • Threat Assessment

    Rethinking Risk in Defense

    The way the United States uses risk in national security has too often been ill-defined and misleading. The country needs a more focused and precise understanding of risk at the highest levels. In the process of developing one, risk processes should be judged by how they contribute to the making of effective strategy.

    Apr 20, 2015

    War on the Rocks

  • Military Personnel

    The Most Enduring Lesson: People

    Given the complex, technology-heavy, and conceptually-nuanced environment of today's military, the quality of military personnel is the dominant form of competitive advantage. All the services today place maintaining a high-quality force at the top of their list of priorities.

    Apr 10, 2015

    Army Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Magazine

  • Military Strategy

    The Pros and Cons of Obama's Restraint

    The signal achievement of the Obama foreign policy — fully on display in the new National Security Strategy — has been to avoid further missteps and lay the groundwork for progress by husbanding U.S. power, restoring the economic foundations of influence, and repairing the U.S. global image.

    Feb 6, 2015

    U.S. News & World Report

Publications