Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

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Weekend Reader: Shinseki Leaves the VA; Ukraine Heats Up

by Janine Davidson
May 30, 2014

shinseki United States Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki arrives to address The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in Washington May 30, 2014. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary Eric Shinseki formally submits his resignation as head of Veterans Affairs. Foreign Policy has the story. Even as the chorus of voices calling for his resignation grew, the tone remained often respectful: Shinseki was always “a good man.” As the Huffington Post’s David Wood recounts, Shinseki, who took the reins of the VA following a 38-year Army career—where he rose to become Army Chief of Staff—may simply have trusted too much given his organization’s complexity and inherent flaws.  Time will tell who can replace him.

In Ukraine, the fighting keeps intensifying. Thanks to a renewed push for action following the May 27 presidential elections and the support of powerful pro-Ukrainian oligarchs, the Ukrainian government has begun firm action to defeat the pro-Russian separatists who have claimed swaths of eastern Ukraine. As many as 100 militants were killed as Ukrainian forces recaptured the Donetsk airport on Tuesday. On Thursday, twelve government troops—including a Ukrainian general—were killed when their helicopter was shot down by a Russian-made anti-aircraft system. Meanwhile, Russia finally makes good on its claim to withdraw its forces from the Ukrainian border.

President Obama’s speech at West Point: everyone has an opinion. Small Wars Journal offers an excellent roundup of editorializing following Obama’s foreign policy address. My own take: a firm articulation of a complex strategy that has often relied on multilateral engagement with force held quietly in reserve.

A step in the right direction for the U.S. Air Force’s troubled Global Strike Command. Following in the wake of exam-cheating scandals, a spot of good news: the Air Force approves bonuses and new commendations for missileers. This is a solid first step to improve the morale of officers assigned to the nuclear enterprise, too often painted as a “dead-end career.”

Kenyan counterrorism operations: playing right into al-Shabab’s hands? Foreign Policy reports on Kenya’s counterterrorism operations in the wake of the September 2013 Westgate mall attack carried out by al-Shabab. In short: Kenya’s blunt tactics risk radicalizing its entire Somali Muslim population. This is a familiar story—and it doesn’t end well.

Weekend Reader bonus: the eerie, pockmarked battlefields of WWI. 100 years later, the fields at Verdun and the first Somme are still cratered by reminders of WWI. Sobering, eerie, and worth checking out as we approach the Great War’s centennial.

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