Linda Robinson

Photo of Linda Robinson
Senior International/Defense Researcher
Washington Office

Education

B.A. in political science, Swarthmore College

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

Linda Robinson is a senior researcher at the RAND Corporation and award-winning book author. Her research spans whole-of-government strategy, low-intensity conflict and post-conflict stabilization. Recent studies address political warfare by and non-state actors, ISIS, and special operations forces. She has conducted extensive field work in the Middle East, South Asia, the Philippines and Latin America and testified before the U.S. Congress. She received a RAND Gold Medal for Making Victory Count After Defeating ISIS: Stabilization Challenges in Mosul and Beyond, and a Bronze Medal for Lessons from 13 Years of War.  Other publications include a Council on Foreign Relations special report on the future of special operations forces (2013) and best-selling trade books including: One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare (2013); Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq (2008), Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces (2004). Robinson graduated summa cum laude from Swarthmore College and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She received the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal for her tenure as chair of the U.S. Army War College Board of Visitors and numerous awards during her journalism career, including the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Reporting on National Defense and the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University. She is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Previous Positions

Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Wilson Center, International Institute for Strategic Studies, adn Writer in Residence at Johns Hopkins SAIS

Recent Projects

  • Political-Military Assessment of U.S. Counter-ISIL Strategy
  • Theory and History of Political Warfare

Selected Publications

Linda Robinson, Paul D. Miller, John Gordon IV, Jeffrey Decker, Michael Schwille, Raphael S. Cohen, Improving Strategic Competence: Lessons from 13 Years of War, RAND (RR-816-A), 2014

Linda Robinson et al., Improving the Understanding of Special Operations Forces

Honors & Awards

  • Gold Medal Award 2018, RAND
  • Bronze Medal Award 2014, RAND
  • Outstanding Civilian Service Award, U.S. Army War College

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: BBC/PRI, The Takeaway; Council on Foreign Relations; C-SPAN, Washington Journal; Federal News Radio; Here and There, Santa Fe Public Radio; KJZZ-FM; KPCC-FM Online; Newstalk ZB, New Zealand; Rudaw English, Kurdistan & Iraq

Commentary: Breaking Defense; CFR; Foreign Affairs; New York Times; U.S. News & World Report; Wall Street Journal; Washington Post; USA Today

Commentary

  • A U.S. Military Transition Team leader speaks with his Iraqi counterpart during a mission to find weapons caches in the western desert near Bayji, Iraq

    Stabilization Is Essential to Accomplishing the Mission

    There's good reason to hope that the forthcoming policy on stabilization in places like Iraq will get the United States to the right middle road. But this new effort will fall short if Congress doesn't maintain the necessary funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    Apr 24, 2018 The RAND Blog

  • 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

  • Workers repair a bridge in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2018

    If We Don't Get the Peace Right, Iraq Will Slide Back into the Morass

    Actions taken now by the United States, the Iraqi government, and private parties could determine the war-torn country's future. The message the Sunnis receive in these next six months will determine whether Iraq is on the path to stability.

    Feb 12, 2018 Newsweek

  • Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service soldiers perform reloading drills with their M-4 rifles during refit training near Baghdad, Iraq, July 13, 2016

    Managing Chaos in an Era of Great Power Competition

    As Washington policymakers seek a new strategic course, U.S. national security strategy should not neglect the importance of competition short of armed conflict. A U.S. strategy that incorporates this perspective from the beginning could manage chaos at a reasonable cost.

    Sep 5, 2017 War on the Rocks

  • People walk in front of the remains of the University of Mosul, which was burned and destroyed during a battle with Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, April 10, 2017.

    Moving Beyond Mosul

    The Islamic State group has been defeated in Mosul. But this military routing isn't enough to ensure lasting stability, either in Mosul or in Iraq more broadly. What comes next will require careful planning, diplomacy, implementation, and coordination.

    Jul 18, 2017 U.S. News & World Report

  • U.S. Army Special Forces members train Iraqi fighters from Hashid Shaabi at Makhmur camp in Iraq, December 11, 2016

    SOF's Evolving Role: Warfare 'By, With, and Through' Local Forces

    U.S. special operations forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Instead, they are providing meaningful support to the various indigenous forces. If they succeed, this model could become a standard option in the U.S. military playbook.

    May 9, 2017 The Cipher Brief

  • A battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, following U.S. missile strikes, April 6, 2017

    The Need for a Strategy from the Trump Administration

    The Trump administration needs to articulate its policy toward Syria and Russia and its campaign to counter the Islamic State group. A coherent national security strategy could steer the U.S. through these complex problems.

    Apr 10, 2017 Newsweek

  • A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter watches a convoy of his forces advancing north of Raqqa, Syria, February 5, 2017

    To Take Raqqa, the U.S. Must Work with Its Partner in the Fight Against the Islamic State Group

    Turkey strongly opposes the U.S. bid to arm the Syrian Kurds. Rushing into Raqqa without reaching agreement with Turkey would jeopardize larger U.S. regional and even global geopolitical objectives.

    Mar 13, 2017 U.S. News & World Report

  • Displaced people who fled ISIS arrive at a military checkpoint before being transported to camps in eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 25, 2017

    Stabilizing Mosul After the Battle Against ISIS

    U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have retaken the east bank of Mosul and are planning to take the west soon. The military operations that oust ISIS are crucial to the city's liberation but failing to get the civilian response right risks a widening civil war.

    Feb 9, 2017 Newsweek

  • Soldiers from 7th Special Forces Group Airborne are suspended by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a training event Eglin Air Force Base, February 5, 2013

    ISIS vs Special Ops

    However critical to the fight against ISIS, using special operations forces for raids represents only half of the needed military adjustment. The other half is the effort to build indigenous forces capable of taking and holding territory in Iraq and Syria.

    Dec 8, 2015 Foreign Affairs

  • A masked American soldier in a sandstorm in Baghdad, Iraq

    Book Review: 'God Is Not Here,' by Bill Russell Edmonds

    'God Is Not Here' shows how not to send a soldier to war. The experience is searing and often brutal, and only a well-led, well-trained, cohesive unit can help servicemen and servicewomen do their duty and survive both mentally and physically.

    May 19, 2015 New York Times

  • Mark Hulkower and fellow defense attorneys speak to members of the media outside of the U.S. District Court after five Blackwater security guards were charged with killing 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 others in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad

    The Future of Blackwater and Other Guns for Hire

    The story of how private military security companies came to play a pivotal role in wartime operations is an important one, and Ann Hagedorn, a former reporter for the Journal, was right to take it on.

    Oct 28, 2014 The Wall Street Journal

  • 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

  • Afghan Uniformed Police and Afghan Border Police leading a presence patrol

    Train Afghans, Corral Al Qaeda: America's Enduring Mission in Afghanistan

    The mission of preventing al Qaeda from threatening the U.S. is an enduring one that will require a long-term commitment not just to counterterrorism, but to training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces so that they are better able to prosecute their own campaign against terrorists.

    Feb 11, 2014 Breaking Defense

  • A Special Forces Master Mountaineering Course

    Five Profound Choices Special Ops Face Next Year

    If 2013 was the year of decisions, 2014 will be the year special operations forces implement their roadmap for the future. But where exactly does that road lead? The trajectory will be determined by several budgetary and policy choices that the U.S. military, policymakers and Congress will make in 2014.

    Nov 1, 2013 Breaking Defense

  • Pakistani girl holds up a picture she drew depicting the U.S. drone strike on her village which killed her grandmother

    The Downside of Drones

    The chief political drawback is that target countries' populations view drone attacks as violations of their sovereignty every bit as much as manned raids. The chief military drawback: A drone attack destroys the critical intelligence that is needed to ensure that the tactical strike can be converted to strategic advantage.

    Nov 1, 2013 U.S. News & World Report

  • The opening of the 1st Afghan National Army Special Operations Brigade, Aug. 20, 2013

    The Future of Counterterrorism: Fewer Drones, More Partnerships

    Drones are just one of three principal U.S. counterterrorism tools. Special Operations forces are now relying on a more balanced mix of tactics: Launching raids and developing partner forces offer more versatility than drone strikes and will probably become the wave of the future as America's big wars wind down.

    Oct 21, 2013 The Washington Post

  • coalition forces in Afghanistan

    Special Ops Global Whack-a-Mole

    A new model for our nation's special forces could follow the approach used in Colombia and the Philippines, where special forces planned ongoing campaigns that use numerous advisory, civil affairs, and informational activities to address those governments' weaknesses in providing security and ending conflicts.

    Apr 8, 2013 USA Today and CFR

Publications