Theory of War

Military doctrine is the fundamental set of principles that guides military forces as they pursue national security objectives. RAND examines these principles, which can range from the policies and procedures put in place by a particular military branch to the tactics and techniques taught to new members during training.

  • Riflemen compete in the Lithuanian Best Infantry Squad Competition at Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, August 24, 2017, photo by Lithuanian Land Forces

    Research Brief

    Why Understanding 'Will to Fight' Is Crucial

    Arguably, will to fight is the most important factor in war. The best technology in the world is useless without the force of will to use it and to keep using it even as casualties mount and unexpected calamities arise. Ignoring will to fight can contribute to tactical or even strategic defeat.

    Sep 13, 2019

  • Artificial Intelligence, Graphical User Interface, photo by kontekbrothers/Getty Images

    Commentary

    A Code of Conduct for AI in Defense Should Be an Extension of Other Military Codes

    An AI code of conduct for defense should look a lot like all other defense codes of conduct. A global society that would create the Geneva Convention is a society that believes in a moral code for warfare, and this same moral code could extend into its weaponized algorithms.

    Sep 11, 2019

  • Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and Chief of the General Staff, First Deputy Minister Valery Gerasimov, before a meeting with Russian Defence Ministry leadership and defense industry heads photo courtesy of Office of the Russian President/ Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

    Commentary

    A New Russian Military Doctrine: What It Might Contain and Why It Matters

    The United States and its allies should anticipate the possibility of an updated Russian military doctrine as early as 2020. Evaluating this document closely is important for understanding Russian threat perceptions and the leadership's methods to address those threats.

    Sep 9, 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

  • Report

    Distributed Operations in a Contested Environment: Implications for USAF Force Presentation

    This report's authors identify capabilities the Air Force needs to carry out distributed operations in a contested environment. They then assess whether the current force presentation model can provide such capabilities.

    Jul 17, 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

  • Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) honor guards at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, April 28, 2019, photo by Parker Song/Reuters

    Commentary

    Getting to Know the Competition

    Americans are facing a new reality in global great power relations that will define the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy for the foreseeable future. Understanding China's threat perceptions, while remaining clear-eyed regarding differences in objectives, is essential to developing strategies to deter conflict.

    May 13, 2019

  • News Release

    U.S. Military Gaps in Funding and Personnel Need Addressing to Deter Global Aggression

    A significant gap exists between the stated strategic and defense policies of the United States and the resources and capabilities required to implement those policies successfully.

    May 7, 2019

  • An aerial view of The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., photo by Ivan Cholakov/Getty Images

    Report

    Gaps Exist Between U.S. Strategy and Military Capacity

    There will not be enough resources to close the technological, doctrinal, and budgetary gaps between stated U.S. aims and the military capabilities needed to achieve them. What changes to U.S. strategy and investments could help close these gaps, and which missions should be prioritized?

    May 7, 2019

  • A PLAAF J-20 stealth fighter performs during the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China, November 6, 2018

    Report

    How the U.S. Air Force Shapes China's Military Aerospace Goals

    Aerospace power has been a core feature of the People's Liberation Army's rapid modernization. The main driver for its development is the PLA's view that it needs to be prepared to deter and, if necessary, defeat the United States in a high-end clash.

    Nov 21, 2018

  • Report

    The Language of Inform, Influence, and Persuade: Assessment Lexicon and Usage Guide for U.S. European Command Efforts

    Inconsistency in how assessment is discussed can lead to confusion, miscommunication, and the appearance of agreement or disagreement when the opposite is true. RAND researchers developed this lexicon and usage guide to help combat this problem.

    Oct 18, 2018

  • Japanese destroyer Inazuma test firing its 76-millimetre cannon in the Indian Ocean, September 27, 2018. Picture taken September 27, 2018

    Commentary

    Japan's Invisible Hand

    Shinzo Abe has cemented his position as Japan's prime minister for the next three years. Now he is expected to make a concerted push for revising the Constitution, which has not been amended since 1947. But the Japanese public is not convinced of the need to revise the Constitution, making his efforts likely to fail.

    Oct 10, 2018

  • Soldiers set off for a foot patrol after disembarking from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan, September 4, 2018

    Commentary

    The Risks of Permanent War

    Why is America in Afghanistan? What interests justify its sacrifices? How will the war end? If the United States finds it hard to answer such questions after nearly two decades, the coming years are unlikely to provide clarity. If a campaign has no end, it can have no objective. If it has no objective, it cannot be won.

    Sep 28, 2018

  • U.S. Army, Air Force, and Italian paratroopers conduct joint airborne operations in Vicenza, Italy, July 16, 2013

    Report

    Learning from Past U.S. Army–Air Force Collaborations

    The Army and the Air Force are developing the concept of multi-domain battle to better coordinate air and ground forces to meet shared challenges. Lessons from past efforts show that to succeed, multi-domain battle will have to address the fundamental questions of each service's culture and deeply held views about warfighting.

    Sep 13, 2018

  • Report

    Promoting Joint Warfighting Proficiency: The Role of Doctrine in Preparing Airmen for Joint Operations

    This report describes the differences and similarities between Air Force and joint doctrine and identifies ways to increase doctrinal alignment. It also evaluates the potential role of doctrine in increasing airmen's joint warfighting proficiency.

    Aug 16, 2018

  • A Vietnamese floating guard station on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, April 12, 2010

    Commentary

    Deciphering Vietnam's Evolving Military Doctrine in the South China Sea

    Vietnam has sought to balance China's expanding presence in the South China Sea through diplomacy and military modernization. The Vietnam People's Army has acquired many useful weapons, but unfamiliarity with combat in the sea and air will test its evolving military doctrine.

    May 11, 2018

  • Achieving cross-doman synergy

    Commentary

    Toward One Understanding of Multiple Domains

    The U.S. defense community can and should do what it can to get the most benefit from operating across domains. It just needs to remember to proceed carefully to discern between actual benefits and falsehoods that may do more harm than good.

    May 2, 2018

  • Journal Article

    Paradigm Change: Operational Art and the Information Joint Function

    The potential benefit of information as a joint function is clear. Commanders could measure campaign success by evaluating emergent behavior of relevant actors defining strategic outcomes rather than focusing too intently on the physics of fighting.

    May 2, 2018

  • U.S. soldiers serving with deterrence forces perform a scenario-based situation exercise with Polish soldiers acting as civilians near the Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, February 6, 2018

    Report

    The Role of Deterrence in U.S. Defense Policy

    Deterrence is about much more than merely threatening an adversary. It must be conceived primarily as an effort to shape the thinking of a potential aggressor. Any strategy to prevent aggression must begin with an assessment of the potential aggressor's interests, motives, and imperatives.

    Apr 19, 2018

  • Report

    Malleability and Measurement of Army Leader Attributes: Personnel Development in the U.S. Army

    This review addresses the degree to which leader characteristics associated with attributes in the Army Leader Requirements Model can be developed through training and education and identifies approaches to measuring those characteristics.

    Apr 12, 2018