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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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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