Avoiding a Long War in Ukraine, Gun Violence, Migrant Surges: RAND Weekly Recap

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Jan 27, 2023

RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss how the United States can help avoid a drawn-out war in Ukraine; what the evidence says about the effects of gun laws; how teachers feel about limits on their instruction; why America's policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan may be doing more harm than good; policies that could help address migrant surges; and homelessness in Los Angeles.

Ukrainian servicemen are seen near the frontline in Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, January 23, 2023, photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters

Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters

Avoiding a Long War in Ukraine

Discussions about Russia's war in Ukraine are increasingly focused on how the conflict might end. In a new paper, RAND experts identify ways the war could evolve and potential effects on U.S. interests.

They argue that the United States has a strong interest in avoiding a drawn-out war in Ukraine. And while Washington cannot alone determine the duration of the conflict, it can take steps to make a negotiated resolution more likely. These include clarifying plans for future aid to Ukraine, making commitments to Ukraine's security, issuing assurances regarding Ukraine's neutrality, and setting conditions for sanctions relief for Russia.

Taking such steps may be key to pushing Russia and Ukraine toward peace talks. The alternative is “a long war that poses major challenges for the United States, Ukraine, and the rest of the world.”

Weapons seized in Westchester and Putnam counties on display at Westchester Police Academy in Valhalla, New York, January 27, 2022, photo by Tania Savayan/USA Today via Reuters

Seized weapons on display at Westchester Police Academy in Valhalla, New York, January 27, 2022

Photo by Tania Savayan/USA Today via Reuters

Responding to the Gun Violence Crisis

More than 120 people are killed by guns every day in the United States. As the tragedies mount, the science is increasingly clear: Some restrictive gun laws appear to reduce firearm violence, and other more permissive gun laws worsen it. For instance, a new RAND analysis shows that stand-your-ground laws and “shall-issue” concealed-carry laws increase gun violence. “Where the science is strong, lawmakers would be wise to consider it when making decisions about how to protect public safety,” say RAND experts.

A student reads The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss during a peaceful demonstration at the Olentangy Schools Administration Building after a teacher who was reading Dr. Seuss on an NPR podcast was stopped by an administrator because questions about race came up, in Columbus, Ohio, January 16, 2023, photo by Barbara J. Perenic/USA Today via Reuters

A student reads from a Dr. Seuss book to demonstrate support for a teacher who discussed themes of racial discrimination from the book but was stopped by an administrator, Columbus, Ohio, January 16, 2023

Photo by Barbara J. Perenic/USA Today via Reuters

What Do Teachers Think of Limits on Their Instruction?

At least 17 states have passed policies restricting how teachers can address topics related to race, gender, and other “divisive concepts” in the classroom. A new RAND survey finds that, overall, teachers believe these limitations negatively affect their working conditions. Teachers are also concerned about how the restrictions may influence their ability to engage students in learning and support students' critical thinking and empathy-building skills.

Soldiers release gasoline canisters on the Tamsui river simulating countering a Chinese invasion during asymmetric warfare drills in Taipei, Taiwan, July 19, 2022, photo by Ann Wang/Reuters

Soldiers release gasoline canisters on the Tamsui River to simulate countering a Chinese invasion, Taipei, Taiwan, July 19, 2022

Photo by Ann Wang/Reuters

The Downside of 'Strategic Ambiguity'

America's policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan may no longer be the best approach. That's according to RAND's Raymond Kuo. To start, this policy cannot adapt to the disruptive growth of China's military power. Further, strategic ambiguity is largely irrelevant to whether China decides to attack Taiwan. (Beijing already assumes the United States would intervene.) Washington could consider pivoting to a policy of strategic clarity instead, Kuo says.

Pedro Luis Ruiz buys a bus ticket to go to Miami after crossing from Mexico into the U.S. to continue his asylum request, El Paso, Texas, March 11, 2021, photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Pedro Luis Ruiz buys a bus ticket to go to Miami after crossing from Mexico into the United States to seek asylum, El Paso, Texas, March 11, 2021

Photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Immigrant Location Policies Can Be Done Right

Apprehensions of migrants at the U.S. southwestern border totaled nearly 2.4 million for the last fiscal year. Some American cities have been overwhelmed, prompting governors in several border states to send migrants to other parts of the country—often with little coordination. This is not the ideal solution, say RAND experts. However, relocation policies can address migrant surges if conducted “in a more organized, humane, and thoughtful way,” the researchers say, “instead of as political theater.”

Tent encampments, where people experiencing homelessness live, line the boardwalk on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, April 14, 2021, photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Tents line a bike path on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, April 14, 2021

Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Monitoring Homelessness in Los Angeles

RAND conducted a yearlong count of people experiencing homelessness in three Los Angeles neighborhoods: Hollywood, Venice, and Skid Row. Despite encampment cleanups and other clearance activities in these “hot spots,” the number of unhoused people rose by an average of 18 percent. The findings may help inform the development of effective homelessness policy.

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