Warfare and Military Operations

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RAND researchers examine military and national security issues across a broad spectrum — from political dissent and military training to tactical operations and reconstruction efforts — and take a long-term, global perspective. Terrorism, types of warfare, and international intervention are among the many topics RAND explores.

  • U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice listens as Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi speaks during a meeting in Beijing, China, July 25, 2016

    Report

    Exploring the Course and Consequences of a Sino-U.S. War

    Jul 28, 2016

    Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely. But the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored. A new analysis illuminates various paths a war could take and their possible effects.

  • Fighters of the anti-government guerilla group UNITA parade under a portrait of their leader Jonas Savimbi, November 12, 1985, marking the 10th anniversary of Angolan Independence from Portugal

    Commercial Book

    Guide to Understanding Insurgency Warfare

    Nov 1, 2016

    An exploration of the history and dynamics of 181 insurgencies since 1946 provides lessons for those fighting insurgent campaigns today in such countries as Syria, Libya, and Iraq.

Explore Warfare and Military Operations

  • A U.S. flag is seen at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, after U.S. and Afghan forces cleared Islamic State fighters from the area, July 7, 2018

    Report

    Likely Effects of a Precipitous U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

    Winning may not be an option in Afghanistan, but an early departure of U.S. forces without a peace settlement will mean choosing to lose. The result will be the weakening of deterrence and the value of American reassurance elsewhere, an increased terrorist threat, and the possibility of having to return there under worse conditions.

    Jan 16, 2019

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gesture as they hold Hezbollah flags in Marjayoun, Lebanon, May 7, 2018

    Commentary

    Helping Lebanon Succeed Is More Than About Countering Iran

    As tensions increase on the Israeli-Lebanese border the possibility is growing that a confrontation with Iran may move from Syria to Lebanon. For the United States, turning its back on this small but strategically critical country and conflating U.S. interests in Lebanon solely with countering Iran could be short-sighted, and a missed opportunity at a time when the region has few.

    Jan 16, 2019

  • Multimedia

    Accountability in Cyberspace: The Problem of Attribution

    Recently, several cyber incidents with geopolitical implications have received high-profile press coverage. Identifying the responsible party behind malicious cyber incidents is a necessary prerequisite for holding these actors accountable, but there are many challenges that accompany cyber attribution.

    Jan 14, 2019

  • News Release

    Middle Eastern Communities Can Resist Sectarianism

    Middle Eastern communities are generally resilient to the worst sectarian impulses and even communities that experience sectarian strife can recover from it. Indeed, at least at the local level, communities can resist the slide toward sectarianism and promote resilience and cross-sectarian cooperation.

    Jan 14, 2019

  • Beirut Madinati candidates and activists after announcing their list of candidates for the municipality elections in Beirut, Lebanon, April 22, 2016

    Report

    Countering Sectarianism in the Middle East

    Scholars and policymakers have sought to understand what drives sectarianism in the Middle East and its relationship to multiple conflicts. Far less attention has been focused on how communities inoculate themselves from sectarianism or recover from it.

    Jan 14, 2019

  • Beirut Madinati candidates and delegates cheer

    Research Brief

    Middle Eastern Communities Can Resist Sectarianism

    Sectarian violence in the Middle East has been destructive, but it is still the exception rather than the norm. Communities are generally resilient to the worst sectarian impulses. Lessons from Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, and Iraq show that there are a range of actions that can curb sectarianism.

    Jan 14, 2019

  • South Korean soldiers conduct a pass in review during a military parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the South Korean-U.S. alliance in Seoul, South Korea, October 1, 2013

    Tool

    North Korea's Expanding Nuclear Program Drives a Complex Set of Problems

    North Korean provocations and threats have created an unstable environment on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. and its allies must attend to four interconnected problems. Failure to prepare will increase the chance of miscalculation and constrain options to reduce the likelihood or gravity of future conflicts.

    Jan 11, 2019

  • Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, November 4, 2018

    Commentary

    America's Absence Could Be Syria's New Nightmare

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria reverses his administration's recent policy of retaining them as long as Iranian troops stay. U.S. withdrawal from Syria would give Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Russia freer rein to subdue opposition forces and Assad could feel emboldened to act with greater impunity and brutality.

    Jan 10, 2019

  • A soldier stands guard near a poster of Syria's President Bashar al Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Rastan, Syria, June 6, 2018

    Commentary

    Confusion Over the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria

    Washington's strategy in Syria has been to impose costs on the Syrian government by diplomatic ostracism and economic sanctions. This punitive approach is morally satisfying and politically expedient, but as a practical matter it just helps perpetuate the conflict and sustain Assad's dependency on Iran.

    Jan 9, 2019

  • Brian Michael Jenkins at the One Night with RAND event in Santa Monica, November 8, 2018

    Brochure

    Remarks by Brian Michael Jenkins at the One Night with RAND Event

    At an event commemorating his 50 years of service at RAND, Brian Michael Jenkins spoke about terrorism and the United States' response to it over the past several decades.

    Jan 8, 2019

  • Popular Mobilisation Forces fighters ride in a tank near the Iraqi-Syrian border in al-Qaim, Iraq, November 26, 2018

    Commentary

    Withdrawing from Syria Leaves a Vacuum That Iran Will Fill

    President Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria may be unintentionally signaling that the United States is unwilling to compete in critical geopolitical hotspots. Such a message could embolden powerful states—including Iran—to expand their presence.

    Jan 8, 2019

  • Russia's Tu-160 bomber at the military air base Libertador in Palo Negro, Venezuela, September 11, 2008

    Commentary

    In Venezuela, a Potential U.S.-Russian Crisis?

    In December, two supersonic nuclear-capable Russian bombers visited Venezuela, the third such excursion for the warplanes since 2008. Might Moscow intend to pose a threat, perhaps even nuclear, to the Western Hemisphere? If so, how could Washington respond?

    Jan 8, 2019

  • Report

    Advancing Autonomous Systems: An Analysis of Current and Future Technology for Unmanned Maritime Vehicles

    In this report, RAND researchers explore current and potential military applications of autonomous systems, focusing especially on unmanned undersea vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles.

    Jan 4, 2019

  • A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel rides on a truck with a mounted weapon at Manbij countryside, Syria, December 28, 2018

    Commentary

    The United States Can't Rely on Turkey to Defeat ISIS

    Relying on Turkey to shoulder the burden of countering the Islamic State will provide the terrorist group with an opportunity to revive itself at a critical stage in the fight. Turkey's main focus is on the Kurds and Erdogan's opposition. Eradicating the Islamic State is a secondary priority that has often been ignored.

    Jan 2, 2019

  • Multimedia

    The Role of Multi-Domain Operations

    As part of a panel on “Technology as a Battlefield Game Changer” at the 2018 Roberta Wohlstetter Forum on National Security, Stacie Pettyjohn explains the concept of multi-domain operations as a way to penetrate Chinese and Russian anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) networks and to deter or defeat aggression.

    Jan 1, 2019

  • U.S. Soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018

    Commentary

    Trump's Syria Withdrawal: Right Idea, Wrong Way, Wrong Time

    President Trump's desire to withdraw from Syria is consistent with his and his predecessor's national strategies, but the manner in which the decision has been taken is highly counterproductive. Unless modified it could have disastrous consequences, says James Dobbins.

    Dec 26, 2018

  • Collage of 2018 most popular research images

    Blog

    The Most Popular RAND Research of 2018

    RAND serves as an objective source of facts that help inform the world's most pressing policy debates. When decisions are based on the best evidence, that's when public policy can have a positive impact on people's lives. We're highlighting the 10 research projects that RAND.org readers found most engaging this year.

    Dec 21, 2018

  • Part of Operation Future Vertical Lift, an AH-64 Apache helicopter takes off in Orogrande, N.M., April 23, 2018

    Commentary

    An Army Caught in the Middle Between Luddites, Luminaries, and the Occasional Looney

    The Futures Command is the U.S. Army's newly established major command focused on preparing for future war with a peer competitor. Why was this such an important move for the Army?

    Dec 20, 2018

  • Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea is seen on a television screen as he waits for a verdict in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 16, 2018

    Commentary

    Does Nuon Chea Still Have No Regrets?

    Nuon Chea was convicted of genocide in a tribunal in Phnom Penh in November for his role in the Cambodian genocide. Shelly Culbertson relays the story of her trip to interview him at his home in Pailin in 2003.

    Dec 19, 2018

  • News Release

    Islamic State Proves Greater Draw for U.S.-Born Recruits Than al Qaeda

    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been more successful than its predecessor organization, al Qaeda, in drawing Americans to its cause. Whereas al-Qaeda was more reliant on preexisting connections to the region or Islam, an ISIL candidate recruit is more likely to be younger, less educated, and a U.S.-born citizen.

    Dec 18, 2018