Asymmetric Warfare


The 9/11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan are among the best-known recent examples of asymmetric warfare: conflicts between nations or groups that have disparate military capabilities and strategies. RAND investigates political and military responses to — and the impacts of — counterinsurgency, terrorism, and other forms of irregular warfare.

  • A Delta IV rocket successfully launches the Global Positioning System IIF-5 satellite from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, February 20, 2014, photo by Ben Cooper/United Launch Alliance

    Research Brief

    What Will the Future of Warfare Look Like?

    May 11, 2020

    Poor predictions about wars stem from failing to think holistically about the factors that drive changes in the global environment and their implications for warfare. Geopolitical, economic, military, space, nuclear, cyber, and other trends will shape the contours of conflict through 2030.

  • Flags of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia are raised in a ceremony outside the presidential palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, during the country's centenary celebration, February 16, 2018, photo by Birute/Getty Images


    Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States

    Apr 15, 2019

    Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are vulnerable to low-level, hybrid, and full-scale attacks by Russian forces. Which unconventional strategies could they use to deter aggression and buy time for conventional military responses? And how can NATO allies help develop and fund these efforts?

Explore Asymmetric Warfare

  • Commentary

    Ad Men for U.S. Defense

    Improving the U.S. military's brand identity demands more than just a catchy new slogan. While communications can help explain U.S. policies, the behavior of every soldier, sailor, airman and marine is what ultimately determines how civilians view U.S. forces, write Todd Helmus, Russell Glenn and Christopher ...

    Aug 20, 2007

  • News Release

    RAND Study Finds Terrorist Groups Teach Each Other Deadly Skills

    May 9, 2007 news release: RAND Study Finds Terrorist Groups Teach Each Other Deadly Skills.

    May 9, 2007

  • Commentary

    The View from Ground Zero: Is America Safer?

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Sep 12, 2004

  • Commentary

    Mao as Guide to Fight in Iraq

    And strange as it may seem, a look at the thoughts of Chairman Mao on battling an occupying army from 66 years ago may help us make some educated guesses about the challenges facing the United States and the next government of Iraq.

    Jan 4, 2004

  • Commercial Book

    The Dynamics of Coercion: American Foreign Policy and the Limits of Military Might

    Despite the lopsided U.S. edge in raw power, regional foes persist in defying the threats and ultimatums brought by the United States and its allies. This book examines why some attempts to strong-arm an adversary work while others do not.

    Jan 1, 2002

  • Commentary

    Violence Unraveling the Fabric of Society

    Threats to democracy and stability in the Andean region of South America could confront the United States with its most serious security crisis in this hemisphere since the Central American wars of the 1980s.

    Jun 17, 2001

  • Commentary

    A Confounding, Complex Tragedy

    Without external assistance, Colombia cannot defeat the guerrilla-gangster Minotaur that consumes it. It is in our national interest to help. At the same time, it is necessary that we fully comprehend the harsh realities we and our Colombian allies face.

    Jun 17, 2001

  • Report

    The Centennial Air Force: The Future of Air Power at the Air Force's 100th Birthday

    The authors imagine that in the year 2047, the U.S. Air Force will be the service of choice for attacking and defending against asymmetric warfare and near-peer competitors.

    Jan 1, 2001

  • Report

    Colombia's Bold Gamble For Peace

    Colombia's recent rash of kidnappings and terrorism has given rise to government efforts to put an end to the guerrilla warfare and political violence that have plagued the country for twenty years.

    Jan 1, 1985

  • Report

    Commando Raids: 1946-1983

    This Note assesses the effectiveness of a selected sample of raids executed by small commando and commando-type forces in response to terrorist threats or attacks. One hundred raids by irregular forces (guerrilla groups, terrorist organizations, and ...

    Jan 1, 1985

  • Report

    The Bridge between Generations in Indonesian Military Politics.

    A discussion of the Indonesian officer corps. A new generation lacking experience of guerrilla warfare against the Dutch but with more professional training will soon be in command. They absorbed the army doctrine with its populist emphasis on terr...

    Jan 1, 1976

  • Report

    Soldiers Versus Gunmen: The Challenge of Urban Guerrilla Warfare

    In the late 1960s, the world's revolutionaries moved from rural to urban guerrilla warfare. How have they fared in the first three years of the decade?

    Jan 1, 1974

  • Report

    The Five Stages of Urban Guerrilla Warfare: Challenge of the 1970s

    Guerrilla strategy began in the country, but has moved to the city. To a degree, the urbanization of guerrilla warfare signals its failure in the countryside.

    Jan 1, 1971

  • Content

    Colin P. Clarke

    Adjunct Political Scientist; Affiliate Faculty, Pardee RAND Graduate School
    Education B.A. in communications, Loyola College; M.S. in international relations, New York University; Ph.D. in international security policy, University of Pittsburgh

  • Content

    Rick Brennan, Jr.

    Senior Political Scientist
    Education Ph.D. in political science/international relations, University of California, Los Angeles; M.S. in political science/international relations, University of California, Los Angeles; B.S. in criminal justice, Arizona State University

  • Content

    Hannah Jane Byrne

    Defense Analyst
    Education M.A. in security studies, Georgetown University; B.A. in political science, Johns Hopkins University

  • Content

    Raphael S. Cohen

    Associate Director, Strategy and Doctrine Program, Project Air Force; Senior Political Scientist
    Education Ph.D. in government, Georgetown University; M.A. in security studies, Georgetown University; B.A. in government, Harvard University

  • Content

    Ben Connable

    Senior Political Scientist; Affiliate Faculty, Pardee RAND Graduate School
    Education Ph.D. in war studies, King's College London; M.A. in national security affairs, Naval Postgraduate School; M.A. in strategic intelligence, American Military University; B.A. in political science, University of Colorado, Boulder

  • Content

    Brandon Corbin

    Defense Analyst
    Education M.A. in security studies, Georgetown University; B.S. in engineering management, US Mil Academy at West Point

  • Content

    Krystyna Marcinek

    Assistant Policy Researcher; Ph.D. Candidate, Pardee RAND Graduate School
    Education M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, Jagiellonian University, Poland