Taiwan, Gun Violence, Fishing in the Arctic: RAND Weekly Recap


RAND Weekly Recap

July 7, 2023

This week, we discuss what might happen if China attacked Taiwan; America's gun violence problem; whether Wagner Group fighters will stay on after Prigozhin’s failed mutiny; addressing the opioid crisis; the benefits of providing legal counsel to defendants at bail hearings; managing Arctic fisheries.

Soldiers in Taiwan, July 6, 2020, photo by Wang Yu Ching/Office of the President, Taiwan/CC BY 2.0

Photo by Wang Yu Ching/Office of the President, Taiwan/CC BY 2.0

Could Taiwan Fend Off a Chinese Attack?

It's essential for U.S. decisionmakers to understand Taiwan's ability to sustain a defense against a potential invasion by Beijing. A new RAND report examines this topic, assessing key factors that affect a country's ability to resist a large-scale military attack.

The authors find that, without a robust U.S. military intervention, China's enormous advantage in military resources would likely allow it to eventually subjugate the island. That's why U.S. officials should continue to help Taiwan strengthen its military and counter Chinese information operations and economic coercion.

Importantly, the report also notes that the speed, clarity, and credibility of any pledged U.S. military support could be a critical factor in sustaining Taiwan's ability to resist a Chinese incursion.

More Insights on Taiwan

  • In a RAND paper published this week, Timothy Bonds looks at the vulnerabilities of Taiwan's information networks. He proposes actions to help build the island’s “digital resilience” in the event of an attack by China.
  • Small, light, inexpensive drones may be key to frustrating China's attempts to invade Taiwan, say RAND's Andrew Hoehn and Thom Shanker, director of the Project for Media and National Security at George Washington University.
  • RAND's Jeffrey Hornung writes about the role Japan could play in a Taiwan conflict—and draws lessons from the Ukraine war to help defense planners better prepare for such a contingency.
RAND Gun Policy in America logo

Image by Chara Williams/RAND Corporation

Addressing Gun Violence in America

The long Fourth of July weekend saw several deadly mass shootings across the United States. Meanwhile, residents of Highland Park, Illinois, mourned those who were killed one year ago when a gunman opened fire during an Independence Day parade. These tragedies are yet another reminder of America's unacceptably high rates of gun violence. Since 2018, the RAND Gun Policy in America initiative has analyzed scientific evidence to support the development of fair and effective gun policies—and help save lives.

Wagner Group fighters pull out of the headquarters of the Southern Military District to return to base, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023, photo by Stringer/Reuters

Wagner Group fighters in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023.

Photo by Stringer/Reuters

'Finances, Freedom, and Fear' Motivate Wagner Fighters to Stay

It’s been two weeks since Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s aborted “march of justice” against Moscow. What will become of the tens of thousands of fighters he leads? RAND's Molly Dunigan expects that few will quit. Most Wagner mercenaries joined up for a paycheck or for a ticket out of jail. Thus, they will likely remain loyal to Prigozhin—or his successor—not because they want to but because they have few better options.

A network illustration with icons for different elements like medical care and the criminal justice system, image by Dori Walker/RAND Corporation from bagotaj, Chainarong Prasertthai, JakeOlimb, A Digit, 4x6, and Hakan Gider/Getty Images

Design by Dori Walker/RAND Corporation from images by bagotaj, Chainarong Prasertthai, JakeOlimb, A Digit, 4x6, and Hakan Gider/Getty Images

America's Opioid Crisis: Adopting an Ecosystem Approach

More than 109,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in the 12 months ending in January 2023. Research often zooms in on specific aspects of the opioid crisis, such as the police response or the lack of treatment options. But a recent RAND study zoomed out, approaching it as an ecosystem where all parts of the crisis are interconnected. Viewing the problem in this way reveals barriers that may not be apparent otherwise. It also highlights the need for innovative solutions that can reduce the harms associated with opioid use.

A male public defender presents his case in a wood-paneled courtroom. Photo by Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

Photo by Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

The Impact of Defense Counsel at Bail Hearings

Roughly half of U.S. counties do not provide defense counsel at bail hearings. But according to a recent RAND study, providing counsel can decrease the use of monetary bail and pretrial detention. These findings are especially significant because pretrial detention is associated with worse outcomes for defendants—and society—including longer jail stays and higher chances of conviction in the short term, as well as lower employment and higher rates of rearrest over the long term.

A fishing boat off the coast of Pond Inlet, in the Canadian Arctic, August 15, 2019, photo by Kay Nietfeld/Reuters

A fishing boat off the coast of Pond Inlet, in the Canadian Arctic, August 15, 2019.

Photo by Kay Nietfeld/Reuters

It's Time for a Plan to Manage Arctic Fisheries

A moratorium on fishing in the Arctic high seas will sunset in 2037. According to RAND's Katherine Anania, when this happens, a combination of overfishing and climate change may lead to the collapse of multiple fish stocks, decreasing supply and increasing prices. At the same time, demand is expected to keep rising. A multilateral fisheries management plan can help, Anania says. This would boost economic and food security, whereas a lack of coordination could result in conflict and further environmental degradation.

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