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, photo by Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters/Pool

    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, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    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

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, February 11, 2018

    Commentary

    Israel Prepares to Take on Iran and Hezbollah in Syria

    Clashes between Israeli, Iranian, and Syrian forces have injected new volatility into the Middle East. This increases the likelihood of miscalculation and escalatory military action across the region.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) members hold an Islamic State flag, which they pulled down, during the war between Iraqi army and PMF against Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq, August 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Expanding the ISIS Brand

    Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Flowers and pictures of victims of the Islamic State's assault on Istanbul's Reina nightclub are placed near its entrance in Istanbul, Turkey, January 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Erdogan's Fatal Blind Spot

    Erdogan's tolerance of ISIS fighters in Turkey amounts to tacit approval. The danger posed by ISIS using Turkey as a staging ground could become more formidable than the threat currently posed by Kurdish terrorism. Tolerating ISIS to fight the Kurds is therefore a dangerous and myopic policy.

    Feb 16, 2018

  • The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay after three months at sea

    Commentary

    Discrimination Details Matter: Clarifying an Argument About Low-Yield Nuclear Warheads

    Nuclear forces and nuclear strategy are complex and the facts surrounding them are often shrouded in classification. But if the United States were to deploy a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead in the future, an adversary would face the same problems as it does today in knowing what the missile contains

    Feb 16, 2018

  • Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army get ready for the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017

    Testimony

    U.S. Responses to PLA Modernization

    In responding to the PLA's modernization, U.S. decisionmakers should consider two key facts. First, China recognizes a major war with America would likely destroy its national development objectives. Second, most of the PLA's modernization corresponds to capabilities the United States has already attained.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • An AH-64 Apache attack helicopter takes off near soldiers participating in a training exercise at Grafenwoehr, Germany, November 18, 2017

    Report

    How Does U.S. Military Presence Affect Conflict?

    Stationing U.S. forces can be an effective tool in deterring state aggression, but this doesn't appear to reduce the risk of intrastate conflict. There is also an important trade-off: U.S. troop presence may provoke more militarized activities short of war.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • Soldiers carry a PLA flag and Chinese national flags before the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of China's PLA at Zhurihe military base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017

    Testimony

    Addressing PLA Rocket Force Modernization

    China's growing missile capabilities could pose serious challenges for the United States and its allies. To protect its regional security interests, the United States should continue to monitor the PLA's modernization and adapt its own deterrence capabilities.

    Feb 15, 2018

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with scientists, representing the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in Novosibirsk, Russia February 8, 2018

    Commentary

    Free Lunches for Adversaries

    When leaders take actions that are unpopular with wide audiences, propagandists have it easy. While Western leaders should not make propaganda potential the primary factor when weighing policy decisions, neither should they wholly disregard the opportunities that unpopular policies will offer adversaries.

    Feb 13, 2018

  • Workers repair a bridge in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2018

    Commentary

    If We Don't Get the Peace Right, Iraq Will Slide Back into the Morass

    This week leaders from around the world, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and representatives from over 100 U.S. companies, will assemble to plan solutions to Iraq's recovery challenges and investments in its economic future. Steps taken now could well determine Iraq's future.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • North Korean cheerleaders await the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 9, 2018

    Commentary

    Countering North Korea's Political Warfare

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has outmaneuvered South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the month leading up to the Olympics. This has dangerous consequences for South Korea's security, democracy, and its alliance with the United States.

    Feb 11, 2018

  • Russian trucks seen on the road heading to Deir al-Zor in Kabakeb near Deir al-Zor, Syria September 21, 2017

    Commentary

    Russia Is Not a Viable Counterterrorism Partner for the United States

    Russia is America's adversary and its actions, particularly attempts to fracture NATO, do not align with larger U.S. security goals. Even where there are areas in which the two countries could work together to mutual benefit, any cooperation should be judicious, measured and treated with the requisite degree of skepticism.

    Feb 9, 2018

  • U.S. Army SOF take the hill while training in the elements at Panzer Kaserne, photo by Jason Johnston/U.S. Army

    Report

    Improving the Understanding of Special Operations: A Case History Analysis

    This report examines U.S. decisions related to the development or use of special operations forces. It should assist in future planning and execution by the Army Special Operations Forces, the U.S. Army, and the joint special operations community.

    Feb 8, 2018

  • Composite of Chinese flag and abstract globalization concept

    Report

    How China Seeks to Wage Modern Warfare

    The People's Liberation Army's approach to training, organizing, and equipping for modern warfare over the past two decades has been influenced by systems thinking. It now characterizes modern warfare as a confrontation between opposing operational systems rather than merely opposing armies.

    Feb 1, 2018

  • Birds fly above damaged buildings in a rebel-held area in Deraa, Syria, January 25, 2018

    Commentary

    Counteracting Iran's Gray Zone Strategy in Syria

    Iran is extending its influence throughout Syria as the Islamic State's influence declines. To counter Iranian efforts and the inevitable similar actions of other countries, the United States should dedicate significant resources to crafting a strategy to prevent Tehran from taking advantage of the conflict and humanitarian crisis.

    Jan 25, 2018

  • Shiny gold Bitcoin coin with gun on black background

    Commentary

    Bitcoin and the Dark Web: The New Terrorist Threat?

    Bitcoin has become the prominent currency of the dark web, which is often used to buy illegal goods, such as weapons and drugs. Anecdotal evidence suggests terrorists are using cryptocurrency and the dark web, but further investigation is needed.

    Jan 22, 2018

  • U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicles enter the sea during BALTOPS, an annual NATO exercise, near Ventspils, Latvia, June 6, 2017

    Blog

    Amphibious Plans and Posture in Support of NATO Event Held at RAND

    A RAND workshop focused on the importance of amphibious and maritime forces working together within NATO. This provided a venue for dialogue and idea exchange about maritime and amphibious challenges and opportunities in Europe.

    Jan 19, 2018

  • U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the administration's National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C, December 18, 2017

    Commentary

    Return of Tactical Nuclear Weapons Would Send a Dangerous Signal

    A change in the U.S. nuclear posture to include low-yield nuclear weapons could make nonproliferation goals harder to achieve. But it could also signal a new willingness to consider these weapons as part of a spectrum of warfighting capabilities, rather than as a necessary component of the U.S. deterrence posture.

    Jan 19, 2018

  • Report

    Command and Control of Joint Air Operations in the Pacific: Methods for Comparing and Contrasting Alternative Concepts

    This report recommends methods for comparing and contrasting alternative organizational concepts for command and control of joint air operations in the Pacific in different scenarios.

    Jan 18, 2018

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) speaks to Choe Ryong-hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army, Pyongyang, July 27, 2013

    Testimony

    North Korea's Chemical and Biological Weapons Capabilities—and How to Counter Them

    Any conflict on the Korean Peninsula could entail the use of chemical or biological weapons. For this reason, it's important to ensure the attention given to North Korea's nuclear weapons doesn't cause authorities to overlook these threats.

    Jan 17, 2018

  • Multimedia

    Assessing North Korea's Chemical and Biological Weapons Capabilities and Prioritizing Countermeasures

    International policy analyst John V. Parachini outlines what is known about North Korea's chemical and biological weapons capabilities—and what can be done to mitigate the threats.

    Jan 17, 2018