This week, we discuss the potential value of an insurgent campaign in Ukraine; addressing L.A.’s housing crisis; lessons from the 2017 battle for Raqqa; a look at U.S. hospital prices; Americans’ options for reaching the middle class; and how to help single mothers get out of poverty.
Can Insurgency Give Ukraine an Edge?
Insurgency has become the world's most common form of warfare, but it rarely offers a path to early victory in a conflict. In fact, these campaigns of resistance have often become endurance contests that take decades to resolve.
But according to RAND's James Dobbins, insurgency could be an effective tool in Ukraine's fight against Russian occupiers—if it is used as a complement to conventional battle. When employed in this manner, insurgency can yield much quicker results by threatening an enemy's lines of communication and drawing off its forces from the main battle.
“Insurgency alone offers, at best, the prospect of distant success at tremendous cost,” Dobbins says. “When combined with a stalemated but still active conventional battle, however, it may provide the defender the decisive edge.”
More RAND Insights on the War in Ukraine
- So far, Ukraine appears to have Russia beat in the information war. But this is not a reason for U.S. leaders to deprioritize investments in informational capabilities, warn RAND's Alyssa Demus and Christopher Paul. Russian disinformation may already be gaining traction among some segments of the American public, and more propaganda is sure to come from Moscow.
- In an interview, Paul discussed Russia's model for disseminating propaganda. Just this week, the Kremlin called footage uncovering horrors in the Ukrainian city of Bucha a “forgery aimed at denigrating the Russian army.” These claims align with Russia's unrelenting use of disinformation to distract, distort, dismay, and obfuscate, says Paul.
- Also this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke remotely at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. He questioned the international body's lack of action in the face of growing evidence of Russian war crimes. The security council's failure to act should not surprise anyone, says RAND's Rafiq Dossani. It is “merely the latest demonstration of a two-decade-long trend of the growing ineffectiveness of global multilateral institutions.”
- How might the war in Ukraine eventually end? The answer comes down to three “internal clocks,” says RAND's Raphael Cohen. Ukraine's clock revolves around how long it will continue to fight; Russia's clock will keep ticking as long as Putin feels he is securely in power, and if his military can endure its losses; and the West's clock is about whether and when to intervene in the conflict.
- Cohen and coauthor Gian Gentile write that, while history can offer lessons about the war in Ukraine, those who draw on the past would do well to consider how today's conflict differs. They should also resist the temptation to view historical analogies as a “playbook” to divine the future. “Treating them as such can have the opposite effect,” Gentile and Cohen write.
Can Repurposing Commercial Buildings Help Solve L.A.'s Housing Crisis?
A new RAND study finds that repurposing commercial properties such as hotels and vacant office buildings could provide Los Angeles with about 9 to 14 percent of the housing it needs over the next eight years. However, to realize the full benefits of adaptive reuse in a high-cost city like Los Angeles, officials may need to offer incentives—rather than mandates—to developers of both market-rate and affordable housing.
Understanding Civilian Harm in Raqqa
America's strategic choices in the battle to liberate Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS in 2017 likely increased civilian harm despite considerable efforts to avoid such casualties. That's according to a new RAND report. “The battle for Raqqa is a cautionary tale about civilian harm in urban combat,” says lead author Michael McNerney. These findings build on a broader assessment released in January that found the Pentagon is not equipped to sufficiently assess, reduce, and respond to civilian-harm incidents.
Hospital Prices Vary Widely in the U.S.
In 2019, U.S. spending on hospital care totaled $1.2 trillion, accounting for 32 percent of all health care expenditures. But according to a new RAND analysis of national data, hospital prices are not consistent across the country. In fact, the study revealed large variation in trends from region to region. This suggests that there may be opportunities to constrain rising hospital prices.
How to Reach the Middle Class? Americans Have Options
Is college the best path to the middle class? It's complicated, says RAND's Lindsay Daugherty. Although college credentials still lead many to increased earnings, the high price of tuition, coupled with a strong labor market, means that the payoff of a four-year degree is no longer a sure thing. Shorter-term technical certificates and associate degrees can also lead to the middle class, and these options may be especially appealing to Americans with limited time and financial resources.
Marriage Isn't the Answer to Help Single Mothers Get Out of Poverty
Poor, single mothers in the United States have historically been viewed by some legislators as a social problem that can be addressed with a social solution: marriage. But the persistence of poverty among single mothers over the last 25 years is a reminder that “economic problems need economic solutions,” says RAND's Kathryn Edwards. Policies such as paid family leave and subsidized childcare would do more to help single moms get back into the workforce—and lift their families out of poverty—than policies that promote marriage, Edwards says.
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