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October 25, 2019

The Syria Withdrawal, Climate Policy, Drones: RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss the effects of the abrupt U.S. withdrawal from Syria; how drones could help get blood to soldiers who need it; insights on climate policy; a historical look at impeachment; how U.S. pressure on China can weaken North Korea; and an alternative to zero-tolerance discipline in schools.

A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, in Erbil, Iraq October 21, 2019, photo by  Azad Lashkari/Reuters

A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, in Erbil, Iraq, October 21, 2019

Photo by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Effects of the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria

What choices did the Trump administration have in eastern Syria? According to RAND experts, there were three: staying indefinitely; preparing an orderly exit, thereby opening the way for the return of the Syrian state and its allies; or leaving suddenly without warning.

Lacking an orderly process for planning and executing national security decisions, the administration “ultimately defaulted to the worst of these alternatives,” they say. There are two distinct grounds for criticizing the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops. First, it has provided an opening for Russia, along with Assad and Iran, to fill the power vacuum. And second, it left the Kurds, a U.S. partner, to fend off a Turkish assault.

A solider using an RQ-11B Raven, a small hand-launched remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle, in 2006, photo by SFC Michael Guillory/U.S. Army

A solider using an RQ-11B Raven, a small hand-launched remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle, in 2006

Photo by SFC Michael Guillory/U.S. Army

Can Autonomous Drones Make Blood Deliveries?

Autonomous drones may be an effective way to deliver blood that helps save the lives of U.S. military personnel. Drones could get blood to difficult-to-access areas faster and help bolster the military's blood supply network. A new RAND report examines key questions about this emerging form of blood transport. What's the optimal design for these drones? What are the cost and efficiency considerations? And how might factors such as delivery times and extreme temperatures affect blood quality?

Senior Policy Researcher Benjamin Preston, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Benjamin Preston is director of RAND's Community Health and Environmental Policy Program

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Understanding Climate Policy with Benjamin Preston

RAND's Benjamin Preston specializes in climate risk and adaptation, and its flip side, disaster recovery and resilience. In a new Q&A, he explains why we need science to help understand the risks of climate change and to better inform tough decisions. Specifically, he debunks common misconceptions about climate change, makes the case for climate change “triage,” and describes what individual communities can do right now to mitigate future threats.

U.S. President Bill Clinton on his way to making a statement regarding the conclusion of his impeachment trial in Washington, D.C., February 12, 1999, photo by Win McNamee/Reuters

U.S. President Bill Clinton on his way to making a statement regarding the conclusion of his impeachment trial in Washington, D.C., February 12, 1999

Photo by Win McNamee/Reuters

Looking Back at the Last Impeachment

What's it like to work in the White House during an impeachment? RAND's James Dobbins, who served as a special assistant to President Clinton in the late '90s, has firsthand experience. He recalls “impeachment season” as a time when President Clinton seemed to redouble his attention to international issues. His strategy was to focus on the nation's business and leave his defense to others, says Dobbins. But unlike the Clinton impeachment, foreign affairs are at the heart of today's controversy.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea

Photo by KCNA/Reuters

Pressure on China Can Weaken North Korea

Chinese support of North Korea boosts the legitimacy of Pyongyang's growing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. This makes the U.S. goal of denuclearization even harder to achieve. But according to RAND's Soo Kim, it may also give Washington a point of leverage. Exerting consistent and targeted political, economic, and security pressure on China could weaken the potency of North Korea's nuclear weapons and bargaining power, she says.

Teacher helps students resolve conflict, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

How Do Restorative Practices Help Students?

Restorative practices are methods for resolving conflict that focus on building and repairing relationships. In schools, these approaches are emerging as an alternative to zero-tolerance policies. RAND experts say that restorative practices are not a cure-all, but they can contribute to an overall solution when they're implemented well. Teaching children to treat one another with respect has the potential to make schools safer—and help kids get along better throughout their lives.

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