Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Weekend Reader: Iraq, Friendly Fire, and the Man Who Could Have Killed Hitler

by Janine Davidson
June 13, 2014

isis-iraq Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. Since Tuesday, black clad ISIL fighters have seized Iraq's second biggest city Mosul and Tikrit, home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as other towns and cities north of Baghdad. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


Iraq: simply a mess. As the Maliki government deteriorates in the face of city-seizing assaults by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, it has been difficult to keep up. Mosul has fallen; Baghdad is under threat; the Kurds have taken Kirkuk and Iran has deployed Revolutionary Guard forces to defend the Iraqi government. The United States and UN have responded with clear condemnation—but little else. At home, Tom Ricks shakes his head while Senator John McCain calls for the resignation of President Obama’s entire national security team. Meanwhile, as Dexter Filkins chillingly observes in the New Yorker, This is the real legacy of America’s War in Iraq.

Elsewhere, the worst friendly fire incident of the Afghan War.  Five American service members were killed in a friendly fire air strike in southern Afghanistan while in the midst of security operations ahead of June 7’s presidential election runoff. This will likely spark new discussion about the function and fate of the close air support (CAS) mission, already under heavy scrutiny as the Air Force attempts to divest from the A-10 Warthog.

The man who could have killed Hitler, and probably should have. War is Boring has the story: in one of the final skirmishes of World War I, a highly decorated British soldier sighted in on a wounded Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler—and spared his life. That soldier, Henry Tandey, tried and failed to re-enlist at the age of 49 in order to finish the job.

Sgt. Bergdahl hearings begin—as well as a healthy dose of political theater. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel went to the Hill on Wednesday to testify before the House Armed Services Committee regarding the recovery of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl—and the lack of congressional notification. Over the course of many heated exchanges, Hagel and the Pentagon’s general counsel stated firmly that the transfer was neither unlawful nor did it pose a significant threat to national security. While Hagel noted that the deal was “imperfect,” he also made clear that it remains U.S. policy to leave no service member behind.

Spy games find a new home: the North Pole. Norway prepares to launch a $250 million dollar spy ship to monitor Russian activity in the Arctic, making the region look a bit more like a Tom Clancy thriller every day. Norway is just the latest power to join the Arctic’s increasing militarization.

Congress Reluctant To Cut Funding For Tank That Just Spins And Self-Destructs.” The Onion has the story. Fake and funny, but—given the modern procurement process—just a bit too believable for comfort.

Weekend Reader bonus: Ambassador Rice continues the Obama Doctrine.  Ambassador Susan Rice speaks at the Center for a New American Security’s 2014 Conference, making a strong argument for multilateralism. In her words: “Collective action doesn’t mean the U.S. puts skin in the game while others stand on the sideline cheering.”

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