Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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A Taliban Resurgence; A Preview of Cyberwar To Come

by Janine Davidson
People light candles in memory of victims of the Taliban attack on the Army Public School, along with others in a rally in Peshawar, December 17, 2014. At least 132 students and nine staff members were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen broke into the school and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years. (Khuram Parvez/Courtesy Reuters) People light candles in memory of victims of the Taliban attack on the Army Public School, along with others in a rally in Peshawar, December 17, 2014. At least 132 students and nine staff members were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen broke into the school and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years. (Khuram Parvez/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week. Defense in Depth will be on hiatus until January 5, 2015. In lieu of new updates, I’ll be posting some of our best stories from the past year. 

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With Final FY15 Defense Budget, the Devil’s in the Details

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) (L) holds up a media release as he and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) (R), chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, hold a news conference to talk about progress between the two chambers on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 9, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA) (L) holds up a media release as he and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) (R), chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, hold a news conference to talk about progress between the two chambers on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 9, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

After a process that could generously be described as touch-and-go, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion dollar omnibus and continuing resolution spending package—the “cromnibus”—on Tuesday evening. It obligates $554 billion dollars for defense spending, which includes $490 billion for the base Pentagon budget and another $64 billion to the Overseas Contingency Fund (OCO). As Military Times reports, this marks an $18 billion dollar decrease from FY14—although the entirety of that reduction comes from a reduced OCO concurrent with the drawdown in Afghanistan. This top-line figure lines up almost exactly with President Obama’s original March request.

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Untangling the Circular Logic of America’s Torture Apologists

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (L) listens as President George W. Bush makes remarks about the U.S. defense budget after meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon in Washington, November 29, 2007. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (L) listens as President George W. Bush makes remarks about the U.S. defense budget after meeting with military leaders at the Pentagon in Washington, November 29, 2007. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

To watch former Vice President Dick Cheney’s interview on Meet the Press this weekend was to take a fantastical and frightening trip back to a very dark, post-9/11 America. In this world, bad guys can and should be tortured for however long it takes to catch more bad guys. If (inevitable) rumors of the process end up creating new bad guys, it’s beside the point. It’s a system that feeds itself, as amoral as it is strategically unwise.

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CIA Interrogation Report; How ISIS Was Hatched in Iraq’s Camp Bucca Prison

by Janine Davidson
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its controversial report on CIA interrogation methods this past Tuesday.  The report characterized the CIA as brutal, ineffective, and misleading. Many questions remain as to the involvement of Bush administration officials in authorizing and overseeing this program. Republican Senators on the committee (with the exception of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) have issued their own report rebutting many claims of impropriety. Likewise, six former CIA directors and deputy directors penned a Wall Street Journal op ed assailing the report’s credibility. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) crossed the partisan boundary to endorse the document, including his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam as testimony.

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It’s Ash Carter; Iran Joins the Anti-ISIS Air Campaign; The FY15 NDAA Inches Ahead

by Janine Davidson
Ashton Carter listens while U.S. President Barack Obama announces that he will be his choice to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel while in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, December 5, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) Ashton Carter listens while U.S. President Barack Obama announces that he will be his choice to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel while in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, December 5, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

Ashton Carter is officially announced as the twenty-fifth secretary of defense. The best profile of Carter has been written by the man himself—an autobiographical account of his early life and interest in defense policy, published as a faculty profile by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His appointment has received praise from Senators Carl Levin and John McCain alike. Carter takes office at a time when crises balloon around the globe and the Pentagon’s bureacratic challenges continue to mount: he’ll have little chance to learn on the job. At Slate, Fred Kaplan asks a significant but largely unexplored question: in today’s complex world, what makes a person qualified to lead the United States’ largest public or private institution?

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The Next Secretary of Defense Should Be Comfortable with Military and Civilians Alike

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel walks out to welcome New Zealand's Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee at the Pentagon in Washington, November 24, 2014. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel walks out to welcome New Zealand's Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee at the Pentagon in Washington, November 24, 2014. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

In the wake of the November 24 announcement of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s pending resignation, the New York Times asked me to share my thoughts on what qualities the next secretary should embody. I was fortunate to join John Nagl, Lawrence Korb, and Kiron Skinner in this discussion. To view the full feature, please follow this link. See my own take below: Read more »

Defense #Longreads for a Long Weekend (II): Chinese Might; “Little Sparta” in Arabia

by Janine Davidson
Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy recruits march during a parade to mark the end of a semester at a military base of the North Sea Fleet, in Qingdao, Shandong province December 5, 2013. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy recruits march during a parade to mark the end of a semester at a military base of the North Sea Fleet, in Qingdao, Shandong province December 5, 2013. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

CFR brings together inquiring minds who specialize across a range of regions and issues. In preparation for the long weekend, I asked CFR’s junior staff to recommend articles and essays that help illuminate security challenges around the world. Today, it’s all about east Asia, as well as a remarkable profile of the United Arab Emirates. This follows yesterday’s segment.

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Defense #Longreads for a Long Weekend: The Scramble for Iraq; Border Insecurity; Lost Memories of WWII

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad's Firdaus Square, in this file photo from April 9, 2003. A powerful blast ripped through the Mount Lebanon Hotel March 17, 2004 which is located behind Firdaus Square. The war started on March 20 Baghdad local time, March 19 Washington D.C. local time. (Goran Tomasevi/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad's Firdaus Square, in this file photo from April 9, 2003. A powerful blast ripped through the Mount Lebanon Hotel March 17, 2004 which is located behind Firdaus Square. The war started on March 20 Baghdad local time, March 19 Washington D.C. local time. (Goran Tomasevi/Courtesy Reuters)

CFR brings together inquiring minds who specialize across a range of regions and issues. In preparation for the long weekend, I asked CFR’s junior staff to recommend articles and essays that help illuminate security challenges around the world. Today, it’s about Iraq, the U.S. Border Patrol, and a remarkable World War II retrospective. Tune in tomorrow for part two.

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Tensions Broil in Ukraine; Cyber Wargames; The First Armed Drone Operator Breaks Silence

by Janine Davidson
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

Ukraine: “a slow collapse?” That’s the opinion of the New York Times editorial board. Meanwhile, the United States steps up delivery of non-lethal aid to Ukraine, including its first Humvees. The ceasefire continues to fray: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns that Ukraine’s planned economic blockade of the eastern separatists “paves the way for a new invasion.” Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, concludes that eastern Ukraine’s Donbas has effectively become a Russian protectorate. The crisis isn’t over.

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The Warrior Ethos at Risk: H.R. McMaster’s Remarkable Veterans Day Speech

by Janine Davidson
Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, director of the Army Capabilities an Integration Center and deputy commanding general of futures for the U.S. Army Training Doctrine Command, speaks at Georgetown University's Veterans Day ceremony. (Georgetown University Office of Communications) Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, director of the Army Capabilities an Integration Center and deputy commanding general of futures for the U.S. Army Training Doctrine Command, speaks at Georgetown University's Veterans Day ceremony. (Georgetown University Office of Communications)

On November 11, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, gave the keynote address at Georgetown University’s Veterans Day ceremony. His message was simple and powerful: the study of war should not be confused with its advocacy; today’s stakes are higher than ever; the warrior ethos is threatened by both tech evangelists (who believe all conflict might be resolved at a safe distance) and a growing gap between the U.S. military and civil society. It’s a remarkably lucid speech by one of the Army’s most energetic leaders. You can read the whole text below:

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