Karl P. Mueller

Karl P. Mueller
Senior Political Scientist; Faculty Member, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Washington Office


Ph.D. in politics, Princeton University; B.A. in political science, University of Chicago

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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Karl P. Mueller is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He specializes in research related to military and national security strategy, particularly coercion, deterrence, and escalation.

Mueller has written and lectured on a wide variety of subjects, including airpower theory, grand strategy, economic sanctions, nuclear weapons, Baltic and Nordic defense issues, space deterrence, and wargaming. Among his recent unclassified RAND publications are The Air War Against the Islamic State (2021), Innovation in the United States Air Force: Evidence from Six Cases (2016), Precision and Purpose: Airpower in the Libyan Civil War (2015), Denying Flight: Strategic Options for Employing No-Fly Zones (2013), Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation in the 21st Century (Forrest E. Morgan et al., 2008), and Striking First: Preemptive and Preventive Attack in U.S. National Security Policy (2006).

His current projects focus on the use of airpower in the Russia-Ukraine War, strategic competition with Russia and China, defense and deterrence strategies for middle powers and small states, and developing expert-adjudicated wargames for examining future conflict scenarios in Europe and Asia.

Before joining RAND in 2001, Mueller was a professor of comparative military studies at the U.S. Air Force's School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS). He is also a faculty member in the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. He earned his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University.

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins University

Previous Positions

Professor of Comparative Military Studies, USAF School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS); Adjunct Professor, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University

Recent Projects

  • Russia's Air War in Ukraine
  • Wargaming Future Conflicts
  • Deterrence, Escalation, and Crisis Stability
  • Alternative U.S. Grand Strategies
  • Defense of the Baltic States

Selected Publications

Priebe, Miranda, Kristen Gunness, Karl P. Mueller, and Zachary Burdette, The Limits of Restraint: The Military Implications of a Restrained U.S. Grand Strategy in the Asia-Pacific, RAND Corporation (RR-A739-4), 2022

Frederick, Bryan, Samuel Charap, Scott Boston, Stephen J. Flanagan, Michael J. Mazarr, Jennifer D. P. Moroney, and Karl P. Mueller, Pathways to Russian Escalation Against NATO from the Ukraine War, RAND Corporation (PE-A1971-1), 2022

Wasser, Becca, Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Jeffrey Martini, Alexandra T. Evans, Karl P. Mueller, Nathaniel Edenfield, Gabrielle Tarini, Ryan Haberman, and Jalen Zeman, The Air War Against the Islamic State: The Role of Airpower in Operation Inherent Resolve, RAND Corporation (RR-A388-1), 2021

Mueller, Karl P., Paper Wargames and Policy Making: Filling the Baltic Gap or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the D6, Battles Magazine (EP-66660), 2016

Grissom, Adam R., Caitlin Lee, and Karl P. Mueller, Innovation in the United States Air Force: Evidence from Six Cases, RAND Corporation (RR-1207), 2016

Mueller, Karl P., Denying Flight: Strategic Options for Employing No-Fly Zones, RAND Corporation (RR-423), 2013

Karl P. Mueller "The Nature of Escalation," in Morgan, Forrest E., Karl P. Mueller, Evan S. Medeiros, Kevin L. Pollpeter, and Roger Cliff, Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation in the 21st Century, RAND Corporation (MG-614), 2008

Mueller, Karl P., Jasen J. Castillo, Forrest E. Morgan, Negeen Pegahi, and Brian Rosen, Striking First: Preemptive and Preventive Attack in U.S. National Security Policy, RAND Corporation (MG-403), 2006

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Aftenposten (Oslo); Apostrophe International, Ukraine; Atlantic Monthly; Boston Globe; Houston Chronicle; Issues in Science and Technology; Kansas City Star; Los Angeles Times; Newsweek; New York Times; NPR; Pacifica Radio Network; Washington Times

Commentary: CNN; Defense One; U.S. News & World Report


  • Ukraine

    One Year After Russia's Invasion of Ukraine: Experts React

    We asked nearly 30 RAND experts to highlight takeaways from the first year of Russia's all-out war—and share what they're watching as the conflict in Ukraine grinds on. Here's what they said.

    Feb 20, 2023

  • Military Strategy

    Might Russia Turn to Terror Bombing Civilians in Ukraine?

    Recent Russian missile attacks against civilian targets in cities far away from the front lines have killed scores of Ukrainians, leading to widespread outrage. These events raise the question of whether the war in Ukraine is entering a new phase in which terror attacks might become common.

    Jul 29, 2022

    The RAND Blog

  • International Diplomacy

    North Korea Is Not Like Libya

    The prospect of a U.S.-North Korea summit has led to analogies between the present case and that of Libya, which abandoned its longstanding quest to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. But a better precedent would be the 2015 deal that froze Iran's nuclear weapons program.

    Jun 1, 2018


  • Wargaming

    In Defense of a Wargame: Bolstering Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank

    A series of wargames examined the potential results of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states. While such an invasion appears unlikely, its consequences would be so dangerous that not taking steps to deter it more robustly would be imprudent.

    Jun 14, 2016

    War on the Rocks

  • Syria

    A No-Fly Zone Over Syria: Q&A with Karl Mueller

    Some are advocating a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians from both ISIS and forces loyal to Assad. What constraints complicate establishing a no-fly zone and realizing its expected benefits? And how might Assad supporters, such as Russia, respond?

    Oct 15, 2015

  • Air Warfare

    NATO's Campaign in Libya Offers Salient Lessons for the Air War Against ISIL

    The NATO air campaign that helped defeat Qaddafi's regime in Libya has received relatively little mention in public discussion of the ongoing air strikes against ISIS. But the campaign in Libya offers at least five lessons that deserve greater attention today.

    Nov 25, 2014

    Defense One

  • Iraq

    What's Going on in Iraq?

    While the United States could embark on a much wider war in Iraq, there's little reason to think it will rush to do so or that using airpower to help defend the Kurds will make such an escalation inevitable.

    Aug 14, 2014

    U.S. News & World Report

  • Iraq

    Would U.S. Air Power Work in Iraq?

    With the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) making significant gains over the past week, including advancing closer to Baghdad, U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly considering whether to deploy U.S. air power to assist Iraq's armed forces. But what would such an intervention mean in practical terms? And how effective an option would it be?

    Jun 18, 2014