Military Strategy

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RAND research on military strategy has ranged from issues related to the tactics that lead to success in armed engagements, to work that describes how the size and deployment of one nation's military affects its political relationships with others.

  • Silhouette of soldiers with military vehicles, photo by veneratio/Adobe Stock

    Report

    What Makes U.S. Military Interventions Successful?

    Apr 1, 2019

    An analysis of 145 U.S. military interventions identifies the factors that have made them more or less successful at achieving their political objectives. They were successful 63 percent of the time, but levels of success have declined over time as the United States has pursued more ambitious goals. Before intervening, planners should carefully match strategy with political objectives.

  • A world map with digital infographics

    Report

    What Deters and Why

    Nov 20, 2018

    What must the United States do to deter potential aggressors from attacking allies or other countries in large-scale conventional conflicts? Managing an adversary's motives is the key first step.

Explore Military Strategy

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    U.S. Economic War on China Weakens Nuclear North Korea Too

    An effective mechanism for bending North Korea's will toward denuclearization may be exerting consistent and targeted political, economic, and security pressure on China. Diminishing Beijing's relevance, while not a panacea, could pierce Kim's illusion of invincibility and, for once, place him in a bind to make some substantial concessions on the nuclear front.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • Running 3d wireframe man in an abstract environment, photo by imaginima/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Embrace Open-Source Military Research to Win the AI Competition

    Unless the Pentagon embraces a more open approach to artificial intelligence, it will be left behind. Private sector innovation in this space is too fast. But what are the risks of disseminating potentially sensitive AI technology? And what should not be disclosed?

    Oct 16, 2019

  • Report

    Reflections on the Future of Warfare and Implications for Personnel Policies of the U.S. Department of Defense

    This Perspective summarizes and synthesizes material from a workshop addressing how U.S. Department of Defense personnel policies may evolve to address future warfare environments, which are expected to be heavily influenced by advanced technologies.

    Oct 16, 2019

  • A view shows Russian warships and a sailing vessel during a rehearsal for the Navy Day parade in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Crimea July 26, 2019, photo by Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters

    Commentary

    Russia's Strategy in the Black Sea: How NATO Can Up Its Game

    The Black Sea region is a central locus of the competition between Russia and the West for the future of Europe. In March 2019, RAND brought together a group of experts to discuss Moscow's strategy there—and what Western countries can do to counter it.

    Sep 24, 2019

  • Report

    Russia, NATO, and Black Sea Security Strategy: Regional Perspectives from a 2019 Workshop

    The authors report workshop discussions of four topics related to the strategic context in the Black Sea: Russia's strategy in the region; Russian military and soft-power instruments; Western goals and interests; and elements of Western strategy.

    Sep 24, 2019

  • Raphael S. Cohen discusses Russia’s economic, political, and military vulnerabilities and anxieties in an overview of a September 5th congressional briefing.

    Multimedia

    Extending Russia

    What policies could the United States adopt to stress Russia’s military, its economy, or the regime’s political standing at home and abroad? In this congressional briefing summary, former Ambassador James Dobbins, Raphael Cohen, and Howard Shatz discuss Russia’s economic, political, and military vulnerabilities and anxieties; nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue to stress Russia; and the costs, benefits, and implications of those options.

    Sep 5, 2019

  • Report

    Force Planning Scenarios, 1945–2016: Their Origins and Use in Defense Strategic Planning

    This report presents a historical review of defense strategic planning, with a focus on the factors that have shaped defense planning scenarios and strategic analysis in the Department of Defense in an aim to improve scenario use in defense planning.

    Sep 5, 2019

  • French army officers salute during the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris July 14, 2012, photo by Charles Platiau/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Insurgent Counter-Insurgent: The French Army's Hero and Some Truths About Modern Warfare

    When asked about their heroes, one name comes up with French Army officers more than any other: Hélie Denoix de Saint Marc. Saint Marc lived an extraordinary life, to be sure. But his story also contains important lessons about modern warfare and counter-insurgency warfare in particular, the work of training local forces, and the imperative of aligning military means with realistic political objectives.

    Jul 25, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone on the border of North and South Korea, June 30, 2019, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why U.S. Negotiators Face a Tough Task After the Trump-Kim DMZ Meeting

    Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea may be under time constraints tied to America's next presidential election. This further complicates the task facing U.S. negotiators, who seek to reach a deal that endures beyond 2020.

    Jul 15, 2019

  • Research Brief

    The Battle for Baghdad: Institutionalizing Army Lessons for Urban Combat

    This brief recounts the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, and offers lessons learned and recommendations to enable leaders and soldiers to be better prepared in future conflicts.

    Jul 3, 2019

  • U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019, photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Trump Reset U.S.–North Korea Relations

    The meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the DMZ may lead to follow-on talks. But the success of future negotiations depends on Kim actually taking action to denuclearize.

    Jul 2, 2019

  • The purported wreckage of an American drone is seen displayed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2019, photo by Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    The Flawed Logic of Proportionality

    President Trump halted a retaliatory strike against Iran on the basis that it would have claimed many Iranian lives and was not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. There are many good reasons to avoid attacking Iran, but if Washington must resort to force in the future, it should avoid the flawed logic of proportionality.

    Jul 1, 2019

  • Bomb blasts and artillery fire thundered across Baghdad as U.S. forces tightened their grip on the capital's fringes and brought up more troops, April 6, 2003, photo by Faleh Kheiber/Reuters

    Commentary

    Changing the Way America Goes to War

    America's vast power, and the weakness of most of its enemies, has allowed it to get away with a striking absence of deliberative judgment when deciding on war, as the Iraq case makes clear. But that free pass is coming to an end. It's time for the United States to rethink the way it decides on wars of choice.

    Jun 25, 2019

  • The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019, photo by Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Post-2020 U.S. Return to the Iran Nuclear Deal?

    Now that the United States is out of the Iran nuclear deal, signing back on will not be as simple or as practical as some may hope. Too much has happened since it was first inked in 2015. With the political landscape in Tehran and Washington still taking shape, those who want to return to some kind of deal should start planning.

    Jun 20, 2019

  • Russian military vehicles are seen in eastern Ghouta near Douma, in Damascus, Syria, April 23, 2018, photo by Ali Hashisho/Reuters

    Research Brief

    The Outlook for Russia's Growing Military Power

    Russia's military forces have been improving since 2008, enabling operations in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria. How will Russian capabilities continue to develop over the next 20 years? And what will this mean for U.S.-Russian competition and for the U.S. Army?

    Jun 18, 2019

  • Report

    The Future of the Russian Military: Russia's Ground Combat Capabilities and Implications for U.S.-Russia Competition

    Researchers analyze societal, political, economic, and demographic factors that undergird Russian military power. They also make projections about how Russian ground combat capabilities will evolve in the future and how the U.S. Army can respond.

    Jun 18, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises a strike drill during a military drill in North Korea, May 4, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    One Year After Singapore: The North Korea Problem Is Bigger Than Nukes

    After two summits between the United States and North Korea, and little to show in the way of deliverables on dismantlement, hopes that a third summit may yield a denuclearization deal seem a bit unrealistic. Essentially, there has been no indication of intent on Kim's part to denuclearize. But the North Korea problem is much greater than nukes.

    Jun 17, 2019

  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, June 14, 2019, photo by Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    The Costs of Confrontation with Iran Are Mounting

    Even if the United States and Iran avoid a direct military clash, recent escalation and the U.S. maximum pressure campaign are exacting long-term costs for U.S. interests and regional stability in ways that may be difficult if not impossible to reverse.

    Jun 17, 2019

  • A U.S. Army medical helicopter flies over the Army's 3rd Infantry division's convoy on its push towards Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2003, photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    Report

    Lessons Learned from the Battle for Baghdad

    A review of the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, offers insights and recommendations that could help leaders avoid the same mistakes in future conflicts. One important lesson is that DoD war plans need to include actions to ensure long-term stability.

    Jun 12, 2019

  • Missiles being launched during a military drill in North Korea, May 10, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Downplaying North Korea's Missile Tests Carries Risks

    North Korea test-fired short-range ballistic missiles for the first time in 18 months. President Trump is downplaying the tests, refusing to call them a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. But if North Korea starts testing longer-range missiles, it could become harder for Washington to return to talks, risking the end of diplomacy with Pyongyang altogether.

    Jun 5, 2019