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

  • Brochure

    RAND Arroyo Center Annual Report 2018-2019

    This Annual Report illustrates the depth and breadth of the research conducted for the Army in fiscal year 2019.

    Dec 4, 2019

  • Report

    Army Fires Capabilities for 2025 and Beyond

    To assist the Army in its reorientation toward conventional combat operations, the authors of this report identify capability gaps in the field artillery and actions that the Army should consider taking from today to roughly 2030.

    Dec 3, 2019

  • Blog

    Artificial Intelligence Bias, Russia, Fentanyl: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on bias in algorithms, Russia's limits in the Middle East, understanding the fentanyl crisis, and more.

    Nov 29, 2019

  • Senegalese peacekeepers during a military operation in the Mopti region of Mali, July 5, 2019, photo by Gema Cortes/MINUSMA / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Commentary

    Mali Violence Shows Limits of Intervention

    Each year brings more violence to Mali and its neighbors. Mali and Burkina Faso are rapidly destabilizing; the situation in Niger is less dire, but that is hardly a commendation. Why is the violence in Mali getting worse given the significant efforts by the international community to stem it?

    Nov 22, 2019

  • A Chinese Coast Guard ship from the bow of a Vietnam Marine Guard ship in the South China Sea, near Vietnam, May 14, 2014, photo by Nguyen Minh/Reuters

    Commentary

    Vietnam Needs to 'Struggle' More in the South China Sea

    With the standoff between China and Vietnam at the disputed Vanguard Bank ended, it makes sense to take stock of how Hanoi's security strategy fared in countering Chinese coercion. It may be time for Vietnam to consider a careful recalibration to allow for more “struggle” and less “cooperation.”

    Nov 15, 2019

  • Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne, move to load onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during a training event near Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, August 27, 2019, photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis/U.S. Army

    Report

    How to Measure the Effectiveness of Special Operations

    How can Army special operations missions be assessed? A new methodology relies on operational, intelligence, and publicly available data, since operational-level special operations commands often lack the staff and resources to generate assessment-level information.

    Nov 13, 2019

  • Artificial intelligence concept with face, photo by kentoh/Getty Images

    Commentary

    AI and Irregular Warfare: An Evolution, Not a Revolution

    How will artificial intelligence change the way wars are fought? The answer, of course, depends. And it mainly depends on what type of wars are being fought. And how will AI affect the type of wars that the United States is most likely to fight?

    Oct 31, 2019

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2015, photo by Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters

    Report

    Understanding Russia's Intervention in Syria

    Russia's military intervention in the Syrian civil war began in 2015. This decision was the result of an extraordinary set of political and military circumstances. What might cause Moscow to take similar actions in other conflicts beyond its immediate neighborhood?

    Oct 31, 2019

  • Flags of United States, Russia, and China on a chess board, photo by Albert_Karimov/Getty Images

    Commentary

    How the United States Could Lose a Great-Power War

    The U.S. armed forces are now preparing for an age of great-power competition and rightly so. The 2018 National Defense Strategy shows the Defense Department is focused on the threats posed by Russia and especially China to U.S. interests, allies, and established partners such as Taiwan. For now, U.S. forces appear poorly postured to meet these challenges.

    Oct 30, 2019

  • Report

    Optimizing Army Medical Materiel Strategy

    This report describes how the U.S. Army can optimize its medical materiel strategies for efficient medical equipping readiness.

    Oct 30, 2019

  • A simulated nuclear key turn

    Report

    Managing Nuclear Modernization Challenges for the U.S. Air Force: A Mission-Centric Approach

    This report identifies and describes means to allay significant challenges to the fielding of new Air Force nuclear weapon systems, with a focus on the integrated planning and preparation for mission success across programs.

    Oct 29, 2019

  • A man prays at a memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, following a mass shooting there four days earlier, October 31, 2018, photo by Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

    Commentary

    One Year After Tree of Life, We Still Aren't Talking Enough About Violent White Supremacy

    In the year since a gunman killed 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the conversation about white supremacy has grown louder. But the United States still has a long way to go in dealing with this threat.

    Oct 27, 2019

  • Blog

    The Syria Withdrawal, Climate Policy, Drones: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the effects of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, one expert's take on climate policy, how drones could help get blood to soldiers who need it, and more.

    Oct 25, 2019

  • Report

    Army Expeditionary Civilian Demand: Forecasting Future Requirements for Civilian Deployments

    As the largest provider of government civilians to support U.S. military operations, the Army stands to benefit to a great extent from a more robust process for forecasting future demand for its civilian workforce.

    Oct 24, 2019

  • Report

    Exploring the Role Nuclear Weapons Could Play in Deterring Russian Threats to the Baltic States

    This report examines what role nonstrategic nuclear weapons could play in deterring a Russian invasion of the Baltic states, where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's current posture is weak.

    Oct 24, 2019

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, in Erbil, Iraq October 21, 2019, photo by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Syrian Withdrawal: Where Things Stand

    Without an orderly process for its national security decisions, the Trump administration has defaulted to the worst option regarding Syria. The sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces has left an opening for Russia to exploit. It also left the Kurds, a U.S. partner, to fend off a Turkish assault.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq, October 21, 2019, photo by Ari Jalal/Reuters

    Commentary

    How the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Provides a Boost to ISIS

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria could provide the ISIS terrorist group with the time and space to regrow its organization and extend its networks throughout the Middle East. The longer-term strategic effects of the decision could reverberate in the region for years to come.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • A Turkish army howitzer is positioned near the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 17, 2019, photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

    Commentary

    Indecision in Washington Compounded the Kurds' Dilemma

    Core qualities of statesmanship and statecraft have been notably lacking in charting the U.S. administration's Syria end game. This has compounded the unavoidable costs of withdrawal with charges of betrayal and a retreat under fire.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA/Reuters

    Commentary

    U.S. Economic War on China Weakens Nuclear North Korea, Too

    An effective way to bend North Korea toward denuclearization may be exerting consistent and targeted pressure on China. Diminishing Beijing's relevance isn't a cure-all. But it could pierce Kim's illusion of invincibility and place him in a bind to make some concessions.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017, photo by TIMA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran, the Unitary State

    Current and future U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with the premise that the Islamic Republic is the sum of its parts and that to try to empower moderates or disempower hard-liners is naive. Rather, Washington should strive to deal with Iran as it is, not as Washington wishes it were.

    Oct 18, 2019