Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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U.S. Navy Prepares for Yemen Evacuation; The Battle(s) for Donetsk Airport; The New Cyber Arms Race

by Janine Davidson
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a weapon during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. (Oleksandr Klymenko/Courtesy Reuters) A Ukrainian serviceman fires a weapon during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. (Oleksandr Klymenko/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Yemen, the U.S. hope for a counterterrorism ally in the region, is falling into civil war. News came Thursday of the resignation of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, adding to the deterioration of the country. As the home to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen was a key partner in the fight against terrorism. While Yemen was an integral part of President Obama’s anti-terror strategy, it is unclear how the U.S. will proceed. With an attempt for peace and a constitutional revision clearly failed, the U.S. will assess its next actions carefully. With widespread violence and clashes continuing this week, the U.S. Navy is taking preparatory steps for a possible evacuation, should American officials in Yemen face unacceptable risk.

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Seven Defense Items To Look for in Tonight’s State of the Union Address

by Janine Davidson
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2014. (Larry Downing /Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2014. (Larry Downing /Courtesy Reuters)

Although military and defense issues are rarely the most prominent topic for the president’s annual State of the Union Address, many of us will still be listening closely tonight for how President Obama uses those few minutes devoted to national security and foreign affairs. 2014 saw serious setbacks and emerging challenges for U.S. international policy that must be handled. If history is a guide, Obama is also likely to look increasingly abroad in the final phase of his presidency. Here are seven defense-oriented issues I expect the president to acknowledge, and what I hope to hear him say about them: Read more »

The Terror of Boko Haram; A Truly Remarkable Soldier; New Ground for the Syrian Opposition

by Janine Davidson
A satellite image taken on Jan. 7 and released by Amnesty International shows damage to the town of Doron Baga in northeastern Nigeria after an attack by members of the extremist group Boko Haram. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe) A satellite image taken on Jan. 7 and released by Amnesty International shows damage to the town of Doron Baga in northeastern Nigeria after an attack by members of the extremist group Boko Haram. (Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe)

Boko Haram has carried out one of the most devastating terror attacks in history—and it continues to go virtually unreportedAs satellite footage shows, the northern Nigerian town of Baga has been razed to the ground. Official tallies place Boko Haram’s killing spree in the hundreds, but eyewitnesses and analysts estimate a total closer to 2,000. This attack, coupled with a January 10 suicide attack by a girl as young as ten years old, is setting a bitter start to the new year. Ambassador John Campbell of CFR assesses the vast discrepancy in coverage: Read more »

Tragedy at Charlie Hebdo; The ISIS Economy; Major U.S.-European Base Realignments

by Janine Davidson
Armed French intervention police walk with a sniffer dog are seen at the scene of a shooting in the street of Montrouge near Paris January 8, 2015. (Christian Hartmann/Courtesy Reuters) Armed French intervention police walk with a sniffer dog are seen at the scene of a shooting in the street of Montrouge near Paris January 8, 2015. (Christian Hartmann/Courtesy Reuters)

Tragedy at the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie HebdoOn January 7, two gunmen gained entry to the magazine’s offices, executing twelve—including virtually all of the publication’s senior editorial staff. The attack was premeditated, systematic, and professional. The New York Times has woven together eye witness testimony to create a timeline of the attack. The attack bears very likely—but not yet substantiated—links to Al-Qaeda, which had long threatened violence against the magazine. Condemnation of the attacks has been universal, with vigils held at cities around the globe. As of this writing, there were two simultaneous standoffs between Islamist extremist gunmen and police, both for the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and a possibly related attack on a French police officer. For France—for which this is probably the deadliest attack since the 1954-62 Algerian War—this tragedy will likely carry longstanding consequences. If you read one retrospective on the tragedy, George Packer at the New Yorker gets it best: Read more »

Best of 2014: If the Air Force Has Such a Good Argument for Divesting the A-10, Why Is No One Buying It?

by Janine Davidson
a10 divestment U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft are serviced on the flight line at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina in this handout photograph taken on December 2, 2005. A U.S. Congressional panel has rejected the military's proposal to retire the entire fleet of A-10 close-air support planes, as the annual defense policy bill continues to make its way through the House of Representatives. The White House said retiring the planes would save $4.2 billion through 2019. (Tech. Sgt. James Arrowood/Courtesy Reuters)

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 and analysis from the past year. Today: my evaluation of arguments made by the Air Force to divest from the A-10 Warthog, originally published May 20, 2014. Congress was ultimately unswayed, voting to keep virtually all of the fleet intact in the final FY2015 defense budget.

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Best of 2014: What Hawks and Doves Both Miss on the Military Rebalance to Asia

by Janine Davidson
aircraft carrier philippines A Philippine Navy patrol boat drives past the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier George Washington (L) docked after its arrival at a Manila bay October 24, 2012. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters)

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 and analysis from the past year. Today: my discussion of real progress made on military elements of the U.S. rebalance to Asia, originally published April 25, 2014.

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Best of 2014: Putin’s Actions and the Future of War

by Janine Davidson
Masked members of a pro-Russian defense unit take an oath to the Crimean government in the city of Simferopol on March 10, 2014. Masked members of a pro-Russian defense unit take an oath to the Crimean government in the city of Simferopol on March 10, 2014 (Vasily Fedosenko/Courtesy Reuters).

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 and analysis from the past year. Today: my assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea, originally published March 11, 2014.

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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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