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.

  • 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

    Sep 13, 2019

    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.

  • 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

    Jun 12, 2019

    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.

Explore Warfare and Military Operations

  • A demonstrator holds a picture of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a protest in Tehran, Iran, January 3, 2020, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/West Asia News Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran Claws Back Its Regional Influence

    Last year, Iran faced protests at home as well as in Iraq and Lebanon, where thousands rallied against Tehran's regional hegemony. But with its recent machinations and the fallout over the killing of Soleimani, Iran has succeeded in changing the regional conversation.

    Jan 17, 2020

  • Gulbahar Jelilova, an ethnic Uighur activist from Kazakhstan, poses for a photograph in Istanbul, Turkey, November 16, 2018, photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Washington Could Make Beijing Listen on Xinjiang

    In autonomous Xinjiang, at least one million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities have been incarcerated by the Chinese government. What can the United States and its allies do to help defuse this humanitarian crisis?

    Jan 17, 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

  • Map depicting Russia's gray zone aggression, images by Harvepino and Serdarbayraktar/Getty Images. Design by Rick Penn-Kraus/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Understanding Russia's Hostile Measures and How to Counter Them

    Russia has used hostile measures to sow disorder, weaken democratic institutions, and undermine NATO cohesion. But it also has a long track record of strategic shortfalls and even ineptitude. Exploring opportunities to deter, prevent, and counter Russia's behavior is critical in both the gray zone and conventional war.

    Jan 7, 2020

  • Hezbollah supporters attend a funeral ceremony rally to mourn Iran's Qassem Soleimani, in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, January 5, 2020, photo by Aziz Taher/Reuters

    Commentary

    All-Out U.S.-Iran War Is Unlikely. But Low-Level War Expected to Continue

    Iranian retaliation for Soleimani's killing and counter-retaliation by the United States seem likely. But Tehran and Washington have good reasons to inflict limited pain without engaging in a full-scale war.

    Jan 6, 2020

  • Following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, members of Iraq's parliament voted to expel American soldiers from Iraq, January 5, 2020, photo by Iraqi Parliament Media Office/Handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    Iraq's Vote to Expel U.S. Troops Is Iran's True Victory

    If American soldiers are ejected from Iraq, the consequences may be far-reaching and damaging to U.S. strategic interests. What options remain to reset the relationship between Washington and Baghdad?

    Jan 6, 2020

  • Members of Iraqi security forces in front of U.S. Embassy during a protest, in Baghdad, Iraq, January 1, 2020, photo by Khalid Al Mousily/Reuters

    Commentary

    Baghdad Siege Wasn't Benghazi, and Never Will Be

    Given the heightened tension between the United States and Iran and the ongoing instability in Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad may very well be attacked again. If such an attack were to be successful, it would be more akin to the fall of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon than the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

    Jan 6, 2020

  • Militia members hold a portrait of Iranian Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani during a protest of an air campaign in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition, Baghdad, March 31, 2015, photo by Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

    Blog

    Iranian Commander Soleimani Killed: RAND Experts React

    The White House has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike authorized by President Trump killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani just outside the Baghdad airport in Iraq. We've rounded up how RAND researchers reacted to the news.

    Jan 3, 2020

  • A French soldier uses a sniffer dog to check for explosives during an area control operation in the Gourma region during the Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, Mali, July 29, 2019, photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

    Commentary

    Abandoning West Africa Carries Risks for U.S.

    News that the U.S. Department of Defense is contemplating a major drawdown in West Africa comes as the region is in crisis. For Americans, the Sahel crisis raises a fundamental question: Beyond basic humanitarian concern, if the Sahel falls apart, why should Americans care?

    Jan 3, 2020

  • AI playing chess, Photo by Fotomek/Getty Images

    Commentary

    What Chess Can Teach Us About the Future of AI and War

    Will artificial intelligence (AI) change warfare? It's hard to say. AI itself is not new, but AI as a critical factor in competitions is relatively novel and, as a result, there's not much data to draw from. Perhaps the most interesting examples are in the world of chess.

    Jan 3, 2020

  • Blog

    Preventing the Winter Blues, North Korea, Opioids: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how to ward off the winter blues, Kim Jong Un's latest threat, how to spend opioid settlement funds, and more.

    Jan 3, 2020

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin makes his annual New Year address to the nation in Moscow, Russia, December 31, 2019

    Commentary

    Why We Must Talk to Russia

    Compromise is the essence of diplomacy, the only way short of coercion, violence, and war of settling international disputes. Before we accept that no compromise with Russia is possible, we should first understand the cost of a new Cold War with Russia that would result.

    Jan 2, 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

  • Blog

    Most Popular RAND Research of 2019

    The search for lasting solutions to difficult policy problems starts with facts. Here are the 10 research projects that rand.org readers engaged with the most in 2019.

    Dec 24, 2019

  • Dissertation

    A Need for Speed? Identifying the Effects of Space Acquisition Timelines on Space Deterrence and Conflict Outcomes

    Investigates the link between acquisition timelines and space conflict using a mixed-methods approach of game-theoretic modeling and case study analysis.

    Dec 24, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a super-large multiple launch rocket system test in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea Holds Most of the Cards in Nuclear Negotiations

    North Korea has been reminding the United States that the window to negotiate a nuclear deal is closing. Pyongyang will likely continue trying to force Washington's hand into a deal that allows North Korea to keep its weapons while still reaping economic and political concessions.

    Dec 20, 2019

  • Unrecognizable group of soldiers standing in line and seen from behind. Wearing uniforms including caps. The soldiers belong to the Chinese armed forces, photo by FrankvandenBergh/AdobeStock

    Dissertation

    Mainland Strikes and U.S. Military Strategy Towards China: Historical Cases, Interviews, and a Scenario-Based Survey of American National Security Elites

    Presents three complementary research approaches focused on investigating the willingness of an American president and his advisors to authorize conventional strikes on the Chinese mainland during wartime.

    Dec 20, 2019