This week, we discuss the complex legacy of the Iraq War; why China and Russia are getting closer; how the pandemic affected correctional education; understanding the Russian General Staff; tensions between the U.S. and North Korea; and how teachers feel about restrictions on classroom discussions about race and gender.
Photo by Reuters
Twenty Years After the Iraq War: RAND Experts Reflect
On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, setting off a long, costly, and bloody conflict—the effects of which are still being felt around the world today. We asked a group of RAND experts about the complicated legacy of the Iraq War, lessons the U.S. military learned (or didn't learn), the state of the Middle East today, and more.
Here's just a sample of what they had to say:
- “We should remember that we are only just beginning to understand the legacy,” said senior policy researcher Michelle Grisé. “We will gradually learn more about how the war has shaped the future of Iraq, geopolitical dynamics in the region, and our own political discourse.”
- Senior political scientist Michael Mazarr: “Iraq was the worst symptom of a larger malady—the Global War on Terror—which…ought to be viewed as one of the most disastrous strategic misjudgments in U.S. history.”
- Ambassador Charles Ries pointed out that the continued existence of party-based militias in Iraq is “grounds for deep concern as they seek to establish and defend specific territories in Iraq to the detriment of national development.”
- Kayla Williams, a senior policy researcher, former assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and an Iraq War veteran, emphasized the physical, mental, and emotional wounds experienced by those who served—and the long-term costs of providing veterans the care that they need.
- Jonathan Wong, associate director of the RAND Arroyo Center's Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program, is a former Marine Corps infantryman with two combat tours in Iraq. He said that he sees “little enthusiasm for thinking deeply about the lessons that could be learned and adapted to current adversaries.”
- Raphael Cohen, director of RAND Project AIR FORCE's Strategy and Doctrine Program and an Iraq War veteran, said the conflict has left Americans questioning not only the viability of armed nation-building but whether “the United States should be militarily involved abroad at all.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week. A 2021 RAND report provides some context for this visit. Overall, the findings suggest that the China-Russia relationship is likely to keep growing stronger. Not only do the two countries share a perceived threat from the United States, but they also benefit from cooperation on key issues. Further, as lead author Andrew Radin pointed out on Twitter this week, sanctions from the war in Ukraine could make Russia more dependent on China.
The pandemic continues to have profound effects on society. However, discussions about these lingering impacts often omit the 1.2 million incarcerated adults in federal and state prisons. A new RAND report examines COVID-19 infection rates in U.S. prisons, assesses the immediate effects of COVID-19 on prison education programs, and considers potential long-term changes to correctional education that may result from the pandemic.
The Russian General Staff has broad authority to ensure the defense of the Russian state. It is unlike any single organization within the U.S. defense establishment. A new RAND report looks at this institution's capacity to influence Russia's national security decisionmaking. Although the analysis focuses on fighting in Ukraine from 2014 to 2021 and in Syria from 2015 to 2019, the authors identify issues that may at least partly explain the Russian military's struggles since the wider invasion of Ukraine began in early 2022.
Photo by KCNA/Pool/Latin America News Agency/Reuters
North Korea Is Forcing U.S. Military Counters
According to recent reports, U.S. Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John Aquilino has said that the United States would “immediately” shoot down any intercontinental ballistic missile fired over Guam or into the Pacific region. North Korean officials responded, stating that such an act would be “regarded as a clear declaration of war against the DPRK.” Is Pyongyang forcing Washington's hand? RAND's Bruce Bennett breaks down the latest tense exchange in U.S.-North Korea relations.
Photo by Getty Images
Amplifying Teachers' Voices: Q&A with RAND's Ashley Woo
At least 18 U.S. states have restricted how teachers can address topics related to race, gender, and other “divisive concepts” in the classroom. A recent RAND survey asked more than 8,000 teachers how these restrictions—and the national debate surrounding them—affect their work. In a new Q&A, lead author Ashley Woo, a former elementary school teacher, discusses the study findings, why the data is meaningful to policymakers, and how she hopes to continue highlighting educators' voices through her research.
Listen to the Recap
Get Weekly Updates from RAND
If you enjoyed this weekly recap, consider subscribing to Policy Currents, our newsletter and podcast.