The Russian military's prioritization of dramatic public displays over exercises that simulate combat have left it ill-prepared for the war in Ukraine. But U.S. security force assistance programs often incentivize similar, superficial demonstrations.
Ben Connable is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, where he teaches a course on human behavior in war. He holds a doctorate in war studies from King’s College London and is the author of "Russia's Limit of Advance" (RAND Corporation, 2020), "Will to Fight: Analyzing, Modeling, and Simulating the Will to Fight of Military Units" (RAND Corporation, 2018), and “Iraqi Army Will to Fight: A Will-to-Fight Case Study With Lessons for Western Security Force Assistance” (RAND Corporation, 2022).
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Identifying and assessing the factors that motivate soldiers on the battlefield help explain the conflict so far and how the contest of wills could shift over time.
Iraq needs a reliable military, but that will require training that fosters leadership, adaptability and esprit de corps.