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.

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  • A military sapper picks up unexploded parts of a cluster bomb left after Russia's invasion near the village of Motyzhyn, in Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 10, 2022, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why Biden Was Justified to Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine

    The U.S. decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine—and the ensuing controversy—are reflective of a broader and long-standing question: What means are moral in war? While much has been made of the dangers posed by unexploded ordnance from these weapons, there are strong arguments for providing them to Ukraine.

    Aug 14, 2023

  • An aerial combat camera craftsman poses during Scorpion Lens 23, an annual training event at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, March 15, 2023, photo by Tech. Sgt. Devin Nothstine/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Planning Ethical Influence Operations

    Influence efforts should seek legitimate military outcomes, be necessary, employ means that are not harmful, have high likelihood of success, and should not generate effects beyond what is intended. Those that do not satisfy all criteria might still be justified if the expected benefit outweighs the harm.

    Aug 11, 2023

  • Electronic warfare technicians Staff Sgt. Caleb Bowman (l) and Airman 1st Class Chance Wedgeworth push an AN/ALQ-131 electronic countermeasures pod out of their workshop at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 3, 2022, photo by Tech. Sgt. Maeson Elleman/U.S. Air Force

    Commentary

    Why DoD Needs Greater Focus on Nonlethal Weapons, Intermediate Force Capabilities

    Nonlethal weapons do not entail the firing of projectiles, the detonation of explosives, or even the use of edged weapons with blades. Their effects are more subtle, though no less powerful for that. But the effects of these systems, and their impact on overall military capabilities, are often underestimated or misunderstood.

    Aug 8, 2023

  • A Taiwan army fighter takes part in urban operation drill at an unspecified location in Taiwan, January 12, 2023, photo by EyePress News/Reuters

    Commentary

    Making Every Defense Dollar Count in Taiwan

    The surging security relationship between the United States and Taiwan is exposing some long-simmering differences, with questions about Taiwan's defense investments atop Washington's list of concerns.

    Jul 24, 2023

  • U.S. army vehicles arrive in the Netherlands as part of a NATO mission to reinforce the eastern flank, in Vlissingen, Netherlands, January 11, 2023, photo by Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

    Commentary

    Why the United States Still Needs Ground Forces in Europe

    The bulked-up U.S. presence in Europe will remain necessary for at least three to five years, for at least three reasons: to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty, to sustain U.S. commitments to NATO, and to encourage the development of partner nation capabilities that will eventually enable greater burden-sharing among allies.

    Jul 24, 2023

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Russia's Frontlines, India's 'Power' Moves, Food Security: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on dysfunction on Russia’s front lines, India’s regional diplomacy, stopping mass shooters who seek fame, and more.

    Jul 21, 2023

  • A Ukrainian serviceman prepares to fire a mortar from his position at the front line near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 13, 2023, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Commentary

    A Winnable War

    Many commentators have likened the current Russia-Ukraine war to the Western Front of World War I. A better historical precedent to understand the current fighting in Ukraine can be found in the U.S. Army's experience fighting against Nazi forces in the hedgerows of Normandy in France in the summer of 1944.

    Jul 21, 2023

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov visit the Joint Headquarters of the Russian armed forces involved in military operations in Ukraine, in an unknown location in Russia, in this picture released December 17, 2022, photo by Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    All Is Not Well on Russian Front Lines

    For now, despite the Kremlin's dysfunctional decisions, Russia's defensive positions in Ukraine are still secure. But for how long? The cumulative pressure of bad choices is mounting and the problems endemic to Russia's campaign in Ukraine are likely to worsen.

    Jul 19, 2023

  • A U.S. Army staff sergeant and a Canadian army engineer demonstrate to Ukrainian combat training center engineers how to clear a room after using explosives to breach a door during training at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, near Yavoriv, Ukraine, February 23, 2017, photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Making Military Aid Work

    Security cooperation and military aid efforts can fail, but they can also exceed expectations and provide strategic benefits. Ukraine appears to be one such success. For a relatively modest investment between 2014 and 2021, the United States has reaped a substantial gain in terms of Ukraine's military capacity and efficacy.

    Jul 17, 2023

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    NATO Summit, Russia's Failures in Ukraine, Vietnam Bans 'Barbie': RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the NATO summit in Vilnius, Russia’s repeated missteps in Ukraine, why America's superintendents are so stressed, and more.

    Jul 14, 2023

  • Chinese honour guards practice before a welcoming ceremony for Nepal's Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli held by China's Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 21, 2016, photo by Jason Lee/Reuters

    Report

    Preparing for Great-Power Conflict

    The U.S. and Chinese militaries have each been shaped by a distinct set of experiences. How have these experiences affected the way both forces prepare for a potential major-power conflict?

    Jul 12, 2023

  • Ukrainian serviceman stands on top of a Russian tank captured after fighting with Russian troops in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv, March 27, 2022, photo by Marko Djurica/Reuters

    Report

    Russian Failures in the Ukraine Conflict as of January 2023

    Why has the Russian invasion of Ukraine stumbled so significantly? Moscow's struggles can be partly attributed to poor planning, logistical issues, and sustainment challenges facing the Russian armed forces.

    Jul 11, 2023

  • Taiwanese Army service members control a drone during a drill in Taiwan, January 12, 2023, photo by Taiwan Ministry of National Defense handout via EYEPRESS/Reuters

    Commentary

    Can Cheap Drones Be the Answer to Tensions in the Taiwan Strait?

    The more we learn about the war in Ukraine, the more we come to know that drones will play an increasingly important role on the modern battlefield. But how is the U.S. military thinking about what role these aircraft might play in future wars? When paired with modern sensors, could they offer an asymmetric advantage in future competitions?

    Jun 29, 2023

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Six Lessons from Ukraine for Japanese Defense Planners

    Japanese leaders have already begun internalizing key lessons from Ukraine. Researcher Jeffrey Hornung considers the war in Ukraine from the perspective of a Japanese decisionmaker.

    Jun 27, 2023

  • RAND Weekly Recap

    Blog

    Teacher Well-Being, Russian PMCs, AI Conspiracy Theories: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how America's teachers are doing, the proliferation of Russian private military companies, preparing for conspiracy theories about artificial intelligence, and more.

    Jun 23, 2023

  • Japanese soldiers stand at attention for an honors ceremony in Tokyo, Japan, October 3, 2013, photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/U.S. Department of Defense

    Commentary

    Six Different Ways: Ukraine Lessons for Japanese Defense Planners

    Japanese leaders have already begun internalizing key lessons from Ukraine. But Japanese officials are silent on whether they are preparing for a short conflict or a long one. This matters because, as the Ukrainian war demonstrates, a protracted struggle could require different plans from the ones Japan is possibly making.

    Jun 23, 2023

  • A Navy Research Laboratory unmanned surface vehicle near Panama Beach, Florida, November 9, 2020, photo by U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

    Commentary

    Revive the Ram

    In the face of aggressive maneuvers by Chinese vessels, the U.S. Navy can brandish ramming unmanned surface vessels as a capability to inhibit threats while limiting the risk of escalation. These relatively simple, inexpensive vehicles could be used alongside a variety of nonlethal weapons to manage confrontations, giving commanders more options.

    Jun 22, 2023

  • Report

    Report

    Simulating Chinese Gray Zone Coercion of Taiwan: Identifying Redlines and Escalation Pathways

    This paper shares the results of an exercise hosted by the RAND Corporation to explore the risk of escalation from Chinese activities in the gray zone to conventional war. The results showed an overall low risk of Taiwanese escalation.

    Jun 22, 2023

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Terrorism, Dynamic Commitment Problems, and Military Conflict

    Why do states initiate costly wars when the risk posed by terrorism appears marginal? We present two explanations and empirical evidence.

    Jun 21, 2023

  • Members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces participate in a military operation in Donetsk, Ukraine, June 9, 2023, photo by Latin America News Agency via Reuters Connect

    Commentary

    How Not to Help Ukraine

    Good strategy involves clearly defining your objectives (ends), developing practical methods to accomplish them (ways), and then allocating sufficient resources (means) to turn these objectives and methods into reality. The debate over congressional support for Ukraine aid largely revolves around means. But what of the other two legs of the strategic triad?

    Jun 17, 2023