Reports and Findings on the Will to Fight

Final Publications


  • Silhouettes of human heads with thumbs up and thumbs down symbols, photo by SIphotography/Getty Images

    American Deterrence's Missing Half

    If American deterrence fails, it may not be because adversaries doubt U.S. military capabilities so much as they doubt American willpower. Shifting those perceptions will require not just defense authorizations, but also repairing the social fabric here at home.

    Jan 24, 2022

  • The repatriation of remains of Chinese soldiers who fought in the Korean War, photo by Jeon Han, Korean Culture and Information Service/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Will to Fight: Are Americans and Chinese Ready to Die for Taiwan?

    While brinksmanship is useful for strategic deterrence, it is also very risky. The United States and China could easily stumble into an unplanned high-intensity war over Taiwan. However, it is not at all clear that either side is psychologically prepared for such a war.

    Nov 8, 2021

  • 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

  • Destroyed Iraqi Army vehicle, Mosul 2014

    The Will to Fight and the Fate of Nations

    America's military argues that "will to fight" - the disposition and decision to fight, act, or persevere - is the most important factor in war. In this view, war is a fundamentally human endeavor, and military force is used to bend and break the enemy’s will. In a War on the Rocks essay, Ben Connable and Michael McNerney argue that, in practice, America's military tends to instead treat war as a fundamentally mechanical process, driven by acquisitions and technology.

    Dec 20, 2018