Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Amid Growing Evidence of Russian Involvement in MH17 Tragedy, No Sign of De-Escalation

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, July 23, 2014
mh17-ukraine-intelligence College students gather around candles forming the shape of an airplane, during a candlelight vigil for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a university in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province July 19, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

As the Russian media continues to spin its own increasingly far-fetched narrative about the tragic shoot down of MH17, the U.S. military has released new intelligence that solidly links Russian military assistance to the disaster. The intelligence reaffirms the White House’s statements that Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, likely with Russian help, are responsible for firing the Buk missile that downed a passenger jet flying over Ukrainian airspace.  Officials have also stated that the Ukrainian military had no surface-to air-assets within striking range of MH17.

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As Facts About MH17 Emerge, U.S. Turns Up the Heat on Putin

by Janine Davidson Monday, July 21, 2014
mh17-putin-obama An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The burden is now on Russia.” This was the conclusion of today’s statement by President Obama, as mounting evidence suggests that the MH17 tragedy and deaths of 298 passengers can be directly attributed to Russian-armed and trained rebels operating in eastern Ukraine. This terrible incident has served as a wake-up call for those who have so far been content  to look the other way as Russia plays an increasingly heavy hand in the violent conflict.

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Weekend Reader: The Tragedy of MH17, Iron Dome, and Much-Needed Reform For Those MIA

by Janine Davidson Friday, July 18, 2014
iron-dome An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod July 8, 2014. (Baz Ratner, Courtesy Reuters)

MH17: simply a tragedy295 airline passengers are dead and all sides are deflecting blame in one of the worst disasters in aviation history. Theories are flying as to the origin and employment of the surface-to-air missile that shot MH17 down: read my own analysis here.

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In Shootdown of Malaysian Airlines MH17, Two Likely Scenarios

by Janine Davidson Thursday, July 17, 2014
mh17-russia-ukraine-military The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. The Malaysian airliner Flight MH-17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels in which Russia and the West back opposing sides. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and death of all 295 passengers on board is a heartbreaking tragedy. It ranks as the fourth deadliest single-plane disaster in aviation history, and the deadliest from a manmade cause. While the facts of the crash will take many days to determine, the political ramifications will come almost immediately. As Russia, pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, and the Ukrainian government each cast blame from one to the other, it is important to understand how this terrible event might have happened.

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Want To Fix Retention? Start by Making the Military a Real Meritocracy

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Monday, July 14, 2014
Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, run in formation along Red Beach Training Area, Dec. 6, 2013. (Sgt. Sarah Fiocco, USMC/Courtesy Marines Flickr) Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, run in formation along Red Beach Training Area, Dec. 6, 2013. (Sgt. Sarah Fiocco, USMC/Courtesy Marines Flickr)

By Amy Schafer

This commentary comes courtesy of Amy Schafer, research intern for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. She notes that an inflexible promotions structure and rigid “all or nothing” pension system push too many talented servicemembers to leave the military early in pursuit of other opportunities. A better system, Schafer argues, would emulate some of the best practices of Silicon Valley by rewarding high achievers and allowing more freedom in choice of assignment.

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Weekend Reader: Afghan Election Turmoil, Dam Warfare, and the Geopolitics of the World Cup Final

by Janine Davidson Friday, July 11, 2014
afghanistan-election-defense-us Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a gathering with his supporters in Kabul, July 8, 2014. Abdullah told thousands of supporters on Tuesday he was the winner of last month's run-off election, putting himself on a collision course with his arch-rival, Ashraf Ghani. (Omar Sobhani /Courtesy Reuters)

Grim dispatches from Afghanistan’s “increasingly troubled” presidential election. With the world distracted, the news out of Afghanistan keeps getting worse. The likely loser, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused the government of “industrial-scale” fraud—and threatened not to accept the results. Meanwhile, a new United Nations report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan shows a sharp increase beginning in 2013, drawing the fate of the nation into deeper question.

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The Problems With Military Health Care Don’t Stop at the VA

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, July 8, 2014
military-healthcare-problems Lt. Col. Mark Carder, Grafenwoehr Health Clinic Commander, explains to Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command, how a portion of his clinic is used in the post- and pre-deployment health assessment. (Douglas Demaio/Flickr)

By Jesse Sloman

This commentary comes courtesy of Marine Corps veteran and CFR research associate Jesse Sloman.  He observes that issues with military health care do not end with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Recent reporting has found similarly systemic issues in the Defense Health Agency, the health care system for active duty personnel directly administered by the Department of Defense. A truly inclusive solution to military health care must address problems in both of these systems.

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(Early) Weekend Reader: Women and World War I, ADM Howard Wins Her Fourth Star, and the Future of ISIS

by Janine Davidson Thursday, July 3, 2014
july-4-defense-isis Jeffrey Silverstone, dressed as "Uncle Sam," marches in the Takoma Park Independence Day parade during celebrations of the United States' Fourth of July Independence Day holiday in Takoma Park, Maryland, July 4, 2012. (Jim Bourg/Courtesy Reuters)

Happy Fourth of July weekend! This Reader comes a day early:

How World War I’s tragic course of events also changed the balance of gender equality foreverThe Daily Beast has the story. World War I fundamentally altered the relationship between women and the workplace.  “By the time the Armistice was signed in 1918, a British woman aged 16-32 stood only a one-in-ten chance of marriage.” These “surplus” women entered the workforce.

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Is It Mission Creep? Making Sense of the Increasing Troop Levels in Iraq

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, July 1, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during his visit to Iraq on June 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during his visit to Iraq on June 23, 2014.

This week’s announcement that the President will be sending a few hundred more troops to Iraq immediately, and predictably, raised questions of “mission creep.” For some military planners, however, this was probably no surprise. Planners understand that in order for 300 troops to actually be able to do anything, they will need support. And, although it may be counter-intuitive to some observers, whether we are sending troops into combat or for humanitarian or advisory purposes, the risk of casualties can actually increase if the number of troops falls below a certain level.

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