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October 4, 2019

China's 70th Anniversary, Wargaming, Fentanyl: RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss what the future holds for China; the importance of gender diversity in wargaming; how Army families address life's challenges; al Shabaab in Somalia; preparing for the future of fentanyl; and kidnapping as a 50-year-old terrorist innovation.

People's Liberation Army soldiers are seen in front of a sign marking China's 70th anniversary before a military parade in Beijing, October 1, 2019, photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

People's Liberation Army soldiers are seen in front of a sign marking China's 70th anniversary before a military parade in Beijing, October 1, 2019

Photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

The China Dream: Never Closer, Never More Elusive

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The next few decades may see the country's impact on the world reach new heights, says RAND's Timothy Heath. But Beijing also faces some serious obstacles on its path to becoming a dominant global leader. "With its economy softening and its politics gridlocked, an increasingly besieged China seems less and less likely to realize all of its goals," he says.

Becca Wasser with her RAND colleagues, during a wargame they designed for teen girls and young women, photo by Dori Walker/RAND Corporation

Becca Wasser (second from left) with her RAND colleagues, during a wargame they designed for teen girls and young women

Photo by Dori Walker/RAND Corporation

'I Run Wargames. Too Often, I Am the Only Woman in the Room'

RAND's Becca Wasser designs, runs, and manages wargames for U.S. military and government officials. In wargaming, you have to learn by doing, she says. But women face significant barriers to entering—and advancing in—the field. Why is it important to have gender diversity in wargaming? Without women leaders, designers, or players in these games, opportunities to uncover new and innovative strategies are falling by the wayside. Plus, she says: "If women have a place on the battlefield…then I have a place in wargaming."

An Army couple reacts to local residents' posts regarding housing issues on a community Facebook group at their army base home in Fort Hood, Texas, May 16, 2019, photo by Amanda Voisard/Reuters

An Army couple reacts to posts about housing issues on a community Facebook group at their army base home in Fort Hood, Texas, May 16, 2019

Photo by Amanda Voisard/Reuters

How Army Families Address Life's Challenges

What are the biggest challenges facing U.S. Army families? To find out, RAND researchers surveyed more than 8,500 Army spouses. The most-reported problem was feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or tired (applying to both the spouse and the soldier). When asked where they turned for support, respondents' top answers included personal networks, other military spouses, a military-covered medical provider, and the internet. Notably, Army spouses' most-common reason for not using a resource for support was not knowing whom to contact for help.

New recruits belonging to Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group march during a parade at a military training base in Afgoye, Somalia, February 17, 2011

New recruits belonging to Somalia's al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group march during a parade at a military training base in Afgoye, Somalia, February 17, 2011

Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters

Al Shabaab Weakened but Not Defeated in Somalia

In light of recent attacks on Western military bases in Somalia, it's worth revisiting a 2016 RAND report on al Shabaab. Our findings indicated that the United States did make some strides in weakening the group, but progress could slip without continued pressure and reform. The authors warned that the group could bounce back if U.S. and other Western governments did not address Somalia's political, economic, and governance challenges at the heart of the conflict.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer talks about plastic bags of Fentanyl being discovered in the mail at the International Mail Facility at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, November 29, 2017, photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer talks about bags of fentanyl discovered at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, November 29, 2017

Photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters

Preparing for the Future of Fentanyl

The rates of overdose fatalities involving heroin or prescription opioids have slowed in recent years. But those deaths are now outnumbered by overdoses involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. In a recent congressional briefing, RAND experts explain what's behind this trend—and what could be done to help reverse it. They highlight three key areas to focus on: reducing exposure to fentanyl, finding creative ways to disrupt the supply, and improving surveillance and monitoring of synthetic opioids.

A relative grieves at Beslan school No.1 at a wall with portraits of victims of school siege that took the lives of 331 people, in Beslan, Russia, September 1, 2005, photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

A man grieves looking at a wall with portraits of victims of school siege that took the lives of 331 people, in Beslan, Russia, September 1, 2005

Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Kidnapping: A 50-Year-Old Terrorist Innovation

Fifty years ago, terrorists kidnapped the American ambassador to Brazil, Charles Burke Elbrick, setting off a wave of terrorist kidnappings. In fact, there were 150 kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of diplomats in the 15 years that followed that incident. Kidnapping remains a mainstay of the terrorist tool kit today, says RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins. Why? Seizing hostages can help fund terrorist operations, but it also attracts worldwide attention to their causes.

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