What Are the Trends in Armed Conflicts, and What Do They Mean for U.S. Defense Policy?
Sep 12, 2017
This report analyzes trends in violent conflict and their implications for defense planning. It presents models that estimate the incidence of violent conflict both within and between countries and projects conflict trends to 2040 under different scenarios. The report concludes that conflict is likely to gradually decline in most regions in most plausible futures, while highlighting early warning indicators of potential increases in conflict.
Regional Conflict Trends and U.S. Defense Planning
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Has the relative peace of the immediate post-Cold War era been replaced by a world of escalating conflict and threats to U.S. security? What is the security threat environment likely to look like in the long-term future?
To answer these questions, this report analyzes trends in violent conflict and discusses their broad implications for long-term defense planning. It presents statistical models that estimate the incidence of violent conflict — both within and between countries — and that project conflict trends over the next 25 years under different scenarios. The analysis concludes that violent conflict is likely to return to long-standing trends of gradual decline in most regions of the world in most plausible futures. However, certain regions are likely to experience continued high or increasing levels of violent conflict (in particular, the area stretching from the Maghreb through South Asia). A handful of plausible, though extreme, scenarios could also produce a substantial spike in the likelihood of conflict globally, leading to levels of violence approaching (although not reaching) the worst periods since World War II. This report recommends five indicators as the most important sources of warning that conflict trends may be increasing.
These findings should help inform U.S. defense decisions concerning long-term investments, such as major weapons systems and broad force structure. They also can help the Army to make decisions related to such issues as leader development and contingency access.
Grand Strategy, Long-Term Threat Projections, and the Future of War
Historical Trends in Conflict and War
Methodology for Projecting the Incidence of Conflict and War
Projecting the Future Incidence of Conflict and War
Identifying Signposts of Changing Conflict Trends
Assessing Criminal Violence: State of the Field and Implications for the Army
Analysis of U.S. Military Interventions
Conclusions and Implications for U.S. Defense Policy
Details on Conflict Projection Models
This research was sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2 (Intelligence), Headquarters, Department of the Army and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.
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