Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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We Learned (the Hard Way) the Value of Restraint in Iraq; We Can’t Forget It Now Against ISIS

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Iraqi girls gesture as they celebrate after Iraqi security forces entered the town of Amerli September 1, 2014.  (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Iraqi girls gesture as they celebrate after Iraqi security forces entered the town of Amerli September 1, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Stephen Liszewski

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Stephen Liszewski, CFR’s U.S. Marine Corps fellow. Col Liszewski served as the commander if 1st Battalion, 12th Marines in Al Anbar Province in Iraq during 2007. He notes that skillful employment of American firepower was critical in combating an insurgency that often blended in with the local population, and argues that this same lesson must be remembered and applied as the United States moves against ISIS.

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With Release of Steven Sotloff Execution Footage, ISIS Begins To Show Desperation

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Journalist Steven Sotloff's executioner, nicknamed "Jihad John" by British security services, gestures to the camera. The ISIS video, called "Second Message to America," leaked online September 2, 2014. (Source: Peru.com) Journalist Steven Sotloff's executioner, nicknamed "Jihad John" by British security services, gestures to the camera. The ISIS video, called "Second Message to America," leaked online September 2, 2014. (Source: Peru.com)

By Clint Hinote

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. Hinote evaluates the timing, context, and strategic intent of the September 2 ISIS propaganda video that shows the graphic execution of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff. He argues that the ISIS messaging strategy shows the “bankruptcy of the movement” and is beginning to show diminishing returns. This article follows Hinote’s analysis of the first “A Message to America” video.

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At Wales Summit, NATO Should Not Forget the War It’s Already Fighting

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
A French Army captain and mentor (L) supervises an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer during a shooting training session at the Kabul Military Training Center April 13, 2009. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters) A French Army captain and mentor (L) supervises an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer during a shooting training session at the Kabul Military Training Center April 13, 2009. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

This week,  NATO leaders will gather in Wales for the 2014 NATO summit—arguably the most important since the fall of the Berlin Wall.   The crisis in Ukraine and the growing challenge from ISIS are sure to dominate the agenda.  But as menacing as these threats are, NATO leaders should not forget about Afghanistan, where NATO’s International  Stability Assistance Force (ISAF) is struggling to bring this thirteen-year war to an end.  As our experience in Iraq should make abundantly clear, the pace and manner by which international troops (and aid dollars) withdraw and the durability of NATO’s commitment to the region will greatly influence what comes afterward.

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Do One Quarter of Military Families Rely on Food Banks? A Closer Look at the Numbers

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Workers fill carts with food for the poor at the Foothill Unity Center food bank in Monrovia, California, November 14, 2012. (David McNew/Courtesy Reuters) Workers fill carts with food for the poor at the Foothill Unity Center food bank in Monrovia, California, November 14, 2012. (David McNew/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jesse Sloman and Amy Schafer

Last week, the food bank network Feeding America generated a flurry of news coverage with the release of a report claiming that one quarter of military families need food assistance. The survey seemed to contradict the argument, advanced by senior defense officials, that military compensation is too high and needs to be reduced. However, a closer look at the report’s methodology reveals more questions than answers. Food scarcity is undoubtedly a problem for some servicemembers, but without additional information, it is impossible to draw meaningful conclusions about its true prevalence across the force.

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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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