Lessons from the Pandemic, Diplomacy in Ukraine, Defending Taiwan: RAND Weekly Recap

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RAND Weekly Recap

November 4, 2022

This week, we discuss preparing for future pandemics; planning now for a negotiated outcome in Ukraine; insights from Ukraine that relate to Taiwan; the need for more data to help reduce law enforcement–related deaths; how China might react to U.S. posture changes; and using statistics to improve military force planning.

COVID-19 vaccines are delivered in Tajikistan, March 2021, photo by Ruziev M/WHO

Photo by Ruziev M/World Health Organization

Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

When COVID-19 first hit, countries around the world scrambled to respond to a once-in-a-century disease outbreak. And while the pandemic continues today, it's not too early to reflect on lessons that can help the United States and other nations better prepare for public health crises.

In a new paper, RAND researchers offer analysis and recommendations on a wide range of topics, including how to warn about major outbreaks, the risks of conducting scientific research with dangerous biological materials, and increasing public support for vaccine globalism.

The authors emphasize that, in the future, U.S. strategy should rely on clearly communicating science-based guidance and countering misinformation. Otherwise, the nation's response to the next pandemic may falter once again.

Firefighters work to put out a fire in a residential building destroyed by a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, October 17, 2022, photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Firefighters work to put out a fire in a residential building destroyed by a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, October 17, 2022

Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Don't Rule Out Diplomacy in Ukraine

The White House has said that it is committed to a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine. But according to RAND experts, little has been done to produce such an outcome. Although it would be premature to push for direct negotiations today, there are steps that could pave the way for peace talks in the future. For example, Washington could consider keeping all lines of communication with Moscow open. Laying the groundwork for diplomacy now may reduce the risk of a protracted conflict or a catastrophic escalation.

CM-11 tanks fire artillery during a live-fire drill, in Pingtung county, Taiwan, September 7, 2022, photo by Ceng Shou Yi/Reuters

CM-11 tanks fire artillery during a live-fire drill, in Pingtung County, Taiwan, September 7, 2022

Photo by Ceng Shou Yi/Reuters

Taiwan May Be Even Tougher to Defend Than Ukraine

The war in Ukraine offers many insights about potential Chinese aggression against Taiwan. For instance, unlike Ukraine, the island of Taiwan shares no borders with U.S. allies, making it more difficult to supply aid. For this and other reasons, it would be a mistake to underestimate the challenge of defending Taiwan, says RAND's Michael Spirtas. Washington may want to “plan now, with urgency, and devote significant resources and organizational focus to the problem,” he says.

Two police officers standing near patrol cars behind police tape at night, photo by kali9/Getty Images

Photo by kali9/Getty Images

Reducing Deaths in Law Enforcement Custody

It's estimated that at least 1,000 people in the United States die in law enforcement custody each year. However, there is a lack of information about these incidents, and experts agree that comprehensive and robust national data collection is needed. That's according to a new RAND study. The findings may help inform strategies that reduce law enforcement–related deaths, promote public safety, and build trust with communities.

Commanding General of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force awards U.S. Marines and Soldiers a challenge coin during an award ceremony in Okinawa, Japan, February 2019, photo by Joshua Sechser/U.S. Department of Defense

Commanding General of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force awards U.S. Marines and Soldiers a challenge coin during an award ceremony in Okinawa, Japan, February 2019

Photo by Joshua Sechser/U.S. Department of Defense

How Might China React to U.S. Posture Changes?

The dramatic increase in Chinese military power over the past two decades has prompted calls for the United States to reevaluate its strategy in the Indo-Pacific, including changes to U.S. military posture. How might China respond to such changes? A new RAND report aims to answer this question by identifying key factors that appear to drive Chinese thinking and classifying potential Chinese reactions by level of intensity.

Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division board a plane to return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, March 6, 2010, U.S. Army photo

Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division board a plane to return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, March 6, 2010

Photo by U.S. Army

Statistics Can Improve Defense Planning

Military force planning is inherently difficult. The process relies on wargaming and operational analysis to estimate the type and number of forces needed. But these methods are only as good as the assumptions that underly them. If planners are wrong about the likely scenarios of future wars, then the military may end up unprepared. Statistical forecasting could help by tapping into decades of social science research and revealing insights into a wide range of possible futures.

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