Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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The ISIS Propaganda Machine Is Horrifying and Effective. How Does It Work?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
This undated screen capture of an Islamic State propaganda video sees a masked jihadi standing before a computer generated map of IS territorial control. (Source: Counter Jihad Report) This undated screen capture of an Islamic State propaganda video sees a masked jihadi standing before a computer generated map of IS territorial control. (Source: Counter Jihad Report)

By Emerson Brooking

The Islamic State’s “A Message to America,” showing American journalist James Foley’s final moments, is vile and horrifying. Significantly, unlike the early propaganda of Al Qaeda, this video is also professionally cut and edited. It is the sort of thing engineered to achieve rapid, viral spread on the open internet. It also represents the main weapon the Islamic State is increasingly employing to great effect against the West.

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A Century Ago Today, the Age of Industrial Warfare Began

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
ww1-industrial-warfare In this undated photograph, British soldiers prepare to fire a railroad gun. (Illustrated War News, Vol. 1, Illustrated London News and Sketch, London, 1916).

By Emerson Brooking

On August 7, 1914, the French advanced into German-controlled Alscace,  beating back the German divisions with a vicious display of massed firepower and artillery. This was the opening day of the Battle of the Frontiers, a month-long struggle of maneuver in which French, British, and German armies played tug-of-war across a 440-mile front. This was World War I before the trenches, where the visions of nineteenth-century military planners collided with the realities of twentieth-century industrial warfare. The battle saw 670,000 dead or wounded in a month—the highest density of losses in the entire war. This month would shatter a century of military doctrine.

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New VA Reform Bill Is a Stopgap, Not a Solution

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Captain Benjamin Jackson carries Specialist Brian Sanchez while running with Staff Sergeant Anthony Lewis (L) and Private First Class Armando Martinez during the physical fitness portion of a 24 hour Cavalry "Spur Ride" exercise for members of the US Army's 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Drum, New York September 29, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters) Captain Benjamin Jackson carries Specialist Brian Sanchez while running with Staff Sergeant Anthony Lewis (L) and Private First Class Armando Martinez during the physical fitness portion of a 24 hour Cavalry "Spur Ride" exercise for members of the US Army's 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Drum, New York September 29, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jesse Sloman

This commentary comes courtesy of Marine Corps veteran and CFR research associate Jesse Sloman.  He argues that while the recently unveiled $15 billion dollar Millers-Sanders VA healthcare bill is a step in the right direction, it fails to address deep and systemic problems within the veteran care system. A lasting solution must also confront looming demographic challenges that threaten to upend the whole institution. This, in turn, will require both creativity and political bravery.

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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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