Low-Intensity Conflict

  • A view of a damaged building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020, photo by Wana News Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    An Israeli Escalation Against Iran?

    Israeli involvement in recent attacks on Iran would not be surprising, and more such attacks might be coming. However, Israel's bet that the Iranians will not respond is risky. It's hard to control escalation when things are so volatile, especially as hardline Iranian leaders may increase pressure to retaliate.

    Jul 15, 2020

  • An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft awaits maintenance at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, December 8, 2016, photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen/U.S. Air Force

    Commentary

    The Risks of Autonomous Weapons Systems for Crisis Stability and Conflict Escalation in Future U.S.-Russia Confrontations

    While autonomous weapons systems are still in their early development stages, it is worth the time of policymakers to carefully consider whether their putative operational advantages are worth the potential risks of instability and escalation they may raise.

    Jun 3, 2020

  • Smoke rises during a fight between members of the Libyan internationally recognized government forces and Eastern forces, in southern Tripoli, Libya June 22, 2019, photo by Yosri Aljamal/Reuters

    Commentary

    Is the Conflict in Libya a Preview of the Future of Warfare?

    The Libyan conflict, now entering its ninth year, could well be a testing ground for how wars will be fought in the future. External nation-states have long interfered in other countries' civil wars, so what is new, exactly, about what is happening in Libya?

    Jun 2, 2020

  • Digital world map, photo by dem10/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Why the United States Will Need a New Foreign Policy in 2020

    Even before the pandemic, the United States faced a growing strategic predicament: U.S. challenges are mounting, and America's international commitments increasingly outstrip its means to fulfill them.

    May 26, 2020

  • The business centre Lakhta-2, which reportedly houses internet research companies known for the trolling on social media, in St. Petersburg, Russia, February 20, 2018, photo by Anton Vaganov/Reuters

    Commentary

    Exposing Russian Information Operations Does Not Violate the First Amendment

    Russia's hostile information operations are continuous and extend to a broad range of domestic issues. First Amendment concerns are important, but they do not protect hostile information campaigns by foreign actors, nor are they a legal excuse for inaction by the United States.

    May 11, 2020

  • People in New York City react after hearing of the death of Osama bin Laden, photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton/U.S. Marine Corps Photo

    Commentary

    The Politics of Man-Hunting and the Illusion of Victory

    Captures and strikes are important accomplishments and the countless nameless professionals who carry them out deserve the credit for executing them. But leaders are charged with something larger and should be judged by a higher standard: namely, seeing beyond the illusion and producing actual strategic victories.

    Jan 22, 2020

  • China Coast Guard ship seen from an Indonesian Naval ship during a patrol at Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone sea north of the Natuna Islands, Indonesia, January 11, 2020, photo by M Risyal Hidayat/Antara Foto Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why Is China Pressing Indonesia Again Over Its Maritime Claims?

    China sparked a major maritime confrontation with Indonesia near the South China Sea in December when dozens of Chinese fishing vessels, along with a coast guard escort, entered waters off the Natuna Islands. What drove Beijing to stake out its sovereignty claims against Indonesia at this particular time? And what can Indonesia and other regional neighbors expect of Chinese behavior going forward?

    Jan 16, 2020

  • Blog

    Iran, Mental Health and Jail, Russia: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Iran and Iraq following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, supporting those experiencing mental illness in jails, Russia's hostile measures, and more.

    Jan 10, 2020

  • An Iranian mourner holds a picture of late General Qassem Soleimani as people gather to mourn him in Tehran, Iran, January 4, 2020, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Will Iran Respond to Soleimani's Killing—and Where Will the Escalation End?

    Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani's death will reverberate in the Middle East region for a long time. The United States must know its end game and be able to respond to this changing landscape of its own making, without stumbling into another full-fledged conflict that the Trump administration itself, Congress, and the American people have said they do not want.

    Jan 7, 2020

  • A Vietnamese soldier keeps watch in front of U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after its arrival at a port in Danang, Vietnam, March 5, 2018, photo by Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters

    Commentary

    How to Read Vietnam’s Latest Defense White Paper: A Message to Great Powers

    Vietnam's latest defense white paper is full of warnings to China and opportunities for the United States. Washington needs to reassure Vietnam that the United States is committed to the relationship by deepening existing military exchanges, which will give Vietnam greater confidence to stand up to China when the time comes.

    Dec 31, 2019

  • Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends a campaign rally ahead of the presidential election in Taipei, Taiwan, December 21, 2019, photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters

    Commentary

    What Taiwan and Vietnam Could Tell Us in 2020

    While many issues warrant attention in 2020, two that should be near the top of Asia-watchers' lists are Taiwan and Vietnam. Both are on the front lines of Chinese coercion, and their ability to respond, either with or without American support, will set the tone in the Indo-Pacific well beyond 2020.

    Dec 30, 2019

  • Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct live-fire, fire and movement drills near Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, March 5, 2017, photo by Sgt. Xzavior McNeal/U.S. Marine Corps photo

    Commentary

    Bad Idea: Assuming the Small Wars Era Is Over

    The national security community doesn't need to deny the potential for future great power conflict—or neglect to prepare for it—in order to acknowledge the enduring reality of asymmetric threats. Containing, resolving, and even preventing smaller conflicts is essential to avoiding bigger ones.

    Dec 18, 2019

  • A Chinese Coast Guard ship from the bow of a Vietnam Marine Guard ship in the South China Sea, near Vietnam, May 14, 2014, photo by Nguyen Minh/Reuters

    Commentary

    Vietnam Needs to 'Struggle' More in the South China Sea

    With the standoff between China and Vietnam at the disputed Vanguard Bank ended, it makes sense to take stock of how Hanoi's security strategy fared in countering Chinese coercion. It may be time for Vietnam to consider a careful recalibration to allow for more “struggle” and less “cooperation.”

    Nov 15, 2019

  • Artificial intelligence concept with face, photo by kentoh/Getty Images

    Commentary

    AI and Irregular Warfare: An Evolution, Not a Revolution

    How will artificial intelligence change the way wars are fought? The answer, of course, depends. And it mainly depends on what type of wars are being fought. And how will AI affect the type of wars that the United States is most likely to fight?

    Oct 31, 2019

  • The entrance to Lakhta-2 business center, which reportedly houses news organizations and internet research companies known for trolling on social media, in St. Petersburg, Russia, February 20, 2018, photo by Anton Vaganov/Reuters

    Commentary

    What Translation Troubles Can Tell Us About Russian Information Warfare

    Russian information warfare has attracted significant international attention since 2014. But little research has focused on its apparent shortcomings. Most notable are the confusing translation mistakes that undermine Moscow's attempts at covert influence efforts.

    Oct 4, 2019

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy stand guard in the Spratly Islands, known in China as the Nansha Islands, February 10, 2016

    Commentary

    Why Vanguard Bank and Why Now? Explaining Chinese Behavior in the South China Sea

    What can Vietnam do now to make Chinese assertiveness against it less likely going forward? Although deepening the U.S.-Vietnam defense partnership in the short-term may be contributing to trouble with China, closer cooperation in the long-run could serve to deter China. Enhancing cooperation with Vietnam's other defense partners—namely Australia, Japan, and India—could help to deter Beijing as well.

    Aug 19, 2019

  • U.S. Army and Chinese PLA military personnel attend a disaster management exchange near Nanjing, China, November 17, 2018, photo by Aly Song/Reuters

    Commentary

    Managing U.S. Military-to-Military Relations with China, a Strategic Competitor in an Era of Renewed Great Power Competition

    The United States National Security Strategy describes a return of great power rivalry with China as the leading challenger, and the National Defense Strategy prioritizes strategic competition. What are the implications for U.S.-China military-to-military relations?

    Mar 8, 2019

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, photo by the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

    Commentary

    Russia's Soft Strategy to Hostile Measures in Europe

    They've been called political warfare, measures short of war, gray zone warfare, and a host of other terms. Russia has used a wide range of hostile measures to expand its influence and undermine governments across the European continent. These tactics should be appreciated for what they are: part of a larger, coherent Russian effort, but ultimately not an insurmountable one.

    Feb 26, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump with China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017

    Commentary

    What Does America's Political Polarization Mean for Competition with China?

    Political polarization in the United States potentially carries significant implications for America's strategic competition with China. Leaders in Washington will need to work to mitigate the effects of polarization and manage competition with China in a stable, effective manner.

    Nov 9, 2018

  • Birds silhouetted over the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol at sunrise in Washington, D.C., November 8, 2016

    Commentary

    Political Warfare Is Back with a Vengeance

    The United States' principal adversaries are fighting and gaining ground by employing a host of tactics short of all-out war. This form of warfare, once called political warfare, is back with a vengeance, empowered by new tools and techniques.

    Apr 13, 2018