Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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It’s Time to Talk About the Role of U.S. Civilians in Modern War

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
usaid-iraq-afghanistan Rear Admiral Gregory Smith (L), director of the Multi-National Force – Iraq’s Communications Division, and Denise Herbol, deputy director of USAID – Iraq, in Baghdad January 13, 2008. (Wathiq Khuzaie/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Phillip Carter

There is a new bill currently languishing in Congressional committee, the “Combat Zone Tax Parity Act,” which would grant federal civilian employees deployed to combat zones the same tax benefits as the military servicemen who fight alongside them. It comes long overdue.

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ISIS Hasn’t Gone Anywhere—and It’s Getting Stronger

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
isis-isil-state-danger Militant Islamist fighters on a tank take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

Amid dangerous escalation in eastern Ukraine following the MH17 tragedy and a widening war in Gaza, it’s easy to dismiss last month’s lightning offensive into Iraq by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq’s (ISIS) as “old news.” Unfortunately, as global attention has shifted elsewhere, ISIS has only grown more virulent. The self-proclaimed caliphate has redoubled its efforts in Syria, launching a series of unprecedented offensives last week that now leave it in control of 35 percent of Syrian territory and nearly all of Syria’s oil and gas fields. The tumor is growing.

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

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
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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The Problems With Military Health Care Don’t Stop at the VA

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
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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In Iraq, What Exactly Was the Alternative?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
iraq-policy U.S. soldiers stand near the Swords of Qadisiyah monument in Baghdad March 13, 2008. Picture taken March 13, 2008. (Ceerwan Aziz/Courtesy Reuters)

By Emerson Brooking

This commentary comes courtesy of Emerson Brooking, research associate for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Brooking argues that out of many recent criticisms of the United States’ 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, very few have put forward a viable alternative. He observes that critics’ commonly held position—that U.S. forces should have stayed “until the job was done”—neglects the actual role played by the U.S. military in theater. Absent political pressure and a fundamental shift in Iraqi governance, lasting strategic success in Iraq could not have been won by soldiers alone, no matter the duration of their stay.

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The New FM 3-24: What Happens When the Host Nation Is the Problem?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
karzai Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul, January 25, 2014. (Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters)

By Walter Ladwig III

This review of the  revised FM 3-24: Insurgencies and Countering Insurgenciesa long awaited update to the Army’s active doctrine, comes courtesy of Dr. Walter Ladwig III, an Assistant Professor of International Relations at King’s College London. Ladwig observes that the central challenge of counterinsurgency often revolves around successful relations with the host nation, a theme that seems obvious in light of current events, but which is so often overlooked in COIN theory, doctrine, and practice. While the new FM 3-24 generally represents a step in the right direction, it does not yet adequately address this critical issue.

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Seventy Years Ago, We Did the Impossible. Could We Do It Again?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
d-day Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat, June 6, 1944. (Robert F. Sargent/Courtesy National Archives)

By William J. Parker III

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain William J. Parker III, CFR’s own U.S. Navy fellow and a surface naval warfare officer by trade. Parker traces the years of intensive logistical and operational planning that culminated in the famous June 6, 1944 landing at Normandy. He argues that D-Day was ultimately the result of many seemingly disparate operations. Parker also asks an important question: with all the transformations in modern warfighting, could the United States today accomplish a similarly impressive feat?

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What Does NATO’s Core Mission Look Like in the Twenty-First Century?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
nato collective defense Soviet Army soldiers sit on their tanks in front of the Czechoslovak Radio station building in central Prague during the first day of Soviet-led invasion to then Czechoslovakia. Picture taken August 21, 1968. (Libor Hajsky/Courtesy Reuters)

By Mark Jacobson

This commentary comes courtesy of Mark Jacobson, who served previously in Kabul, Afghanistan as Deputy NATO Senior Civilian Representative. Jacobson observes that the political crisis in Ukraine has caused many members of NATO to agitate for a shift back to NATO’s “core mission”—collective defense against Russian incursion—and to swear off contingency operations like the one seen in Afghanistan. Jacobson also observes, however, that the modern security environment is much different from the one in which NATO was first created. It would not be wise to dismiss Afghanistan as an aberration. 

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A Commission on the Structure of the Army? Careful What You Wish For

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
army commission U.S. Army Generals stand ready to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 4, 2013. (From L to R) Judge Advocate General of the Army Lt. General Dana K. Chipman, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Brig. General Richard C. Gross. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

By F.G. Hoffman

F.G. Hoffman offers another perspective on Adam Maisel’s argument for a Commission on the Structure of the Army to revisit issues related to the National Guard and Reserve Component. Hoffman observes that a call for a commission might denigrate the work already done by the Guard’s defenders. He also suggests that the outcome of such a commission would not necessarily be in the favor of those advocating for it.

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It’s Time for Congress to Get Serious About Military Compensation

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
congress capitol hill A general view of the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington, October 6, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jesse Sloman

This commentary comes courtesy of Marine Corps veteran and CFR research associate Jesse Sloman.  He addresses one of the most conspicuous “third rail” issues between Congress and the Pentagon: the question of compensation and benefits.  He calls on Congress to get the spiraling spending under control. The alternative will be a “hollow force”—well compensated but undertrained and unequipped to tackle future contingencies.

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