Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Amid Growing Evidence of Russian Involvement in MH17 Tragedy, No Sign of De-Escalation

by Janine Davidson
mh17-ukraine-intelligence College students gather around candles forming the shape of an airplane, during a candlelight vigil for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a university in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province July 19, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

As the Russian media continues to spin its own increasingly far-fetched narrative about the tragic shoot down of MH17, the U.S. military has released new intelligence that solidly links Russian military assistance to the disaster. The intelligence reaffirms the White House’s statements that Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, likely with Russian help, are responsible for firing the Buk missile that downed a passenger jet flying over Ukrainian airspace.  Officials have also stated that the Ukrainian military had no surface-to air-assets within striking range of MH17.

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As Facts About MH17 Emerge, U.S. Turns Up the Heat on Putin

by Janine Davidson
mh17-putin-obama An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The burden is now on Russia.” This was the conclusion of today’s statement by President Obama, as mounting evidence suggests that the MH17 tragedy and deaths of 298 passengers can be directly attributed to Russian-armed and trained rebels operating in eastern Ukraine. This terrible incident has served as a wake-up call for those who have so far been content  to look the other way as Russia plays an increasingly heavy hand in the violent conflict.

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Weekend Reader: The Tragedy of MH17, Iron Dome, and Much-Needed Reform For Those MIA

by Janine Davidson
iron-dome An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod July 8, 2014. (Baz Ratner, Courtesy Reuters)

MH17: simply a tragedy295 airline passengers are dead and all sides are deflecting blame in one of the worst disasters in aviation history. Theories are flying as to the origin and employment of the surface-to-air missile that shot MH17 down: read my own analysis here.

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In Shootdown of Malaysian Airlines MH17, Two Likely Scenarios

by Janine Davidson
mh17-russia-ukraine-military The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. The Malaysian airliner Flight MH-17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels in which Russia and the West back opposing sides. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and death of all 295 passengers on board is a heartbreaking tragedy. It ranks as the fourth deadliest single-plane disaster in aviation history, and the deadliest from a manmade cause. While the facts of the crash will take many days to determine, the political ramifications will come almost immediately. As Russia, pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, and the Ukrainian government each cast blame from one to the other, it is important to understand how this terrible event might have happened.

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Weekend Reader: Afghan Election Turmoil, Dam Warfare, and the Geopolitics of the World Cup Final

by Janine Davidson
afghanistan-election-defense-us Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a gathering with his supporters in Kabul, July 8, 2014. Abdullah told thousands of supporters on Tuesday he was the winner of last month's run-off election, putting himself on a collision course with his arch-rival, Ashraf Ghani. (Omar Sobhani /Courtesy Reuters)

Grim dispatches from Afghanistan’s “increasingly troubled” presidential election. With the world distracted, the news out of Afghanistan keeps getting worse. The likely loser, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused the government of “industrial-scale” fraud—and threatened not to accept the results. Meanwhile, a new United Nations report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan shows a sharp increase beginning in 2013, drawing the fate of the nation into deeper question.

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(Early) Weekend Reader: Women and World War I, ADM Howard Wins Her Fourth Star, and the Future of ISIS

by Janine Davidson
july-4-defense-isis Jeffrey Silverstone, dressed as "Uncle Sam," marches in the Takoma Park Independence Day parade during celebrations of the United States' Fourth of July Independence Day holiday in Takoma Park, Maryland, July 4, 2012. (Jim Bourg/Courtesy Reuters)

Happy Fourth of July weekend! This Reader comes a day early:

How World War I’s tragic course of events also changed the balance of gender equality foreverThe Daily Beast has the story. World War I fundamentally altered the relationship between women and the workplace.  “By the time the Armistice was signed in 1918, a British woman aged 16-32 stood only a one-in-ten chance of marriage.” These “surplus” women entered the workforce.

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Is It Mission Creep? Making Sense of the Increasing Troop Levels in Iraq

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during his visit to Iraq on June 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during his visit to Iraq on June 23, 2014.

This week’s announcement that the President will be sending a few hundred more troops to Iraq immediately, and predictably, raised questions of “mission creep.” For some military planners, however, this was probably no surprise. Planners understand that in order for 300 troops to actually be able to do anything, they will need support. And, although it may be counter-intuitive to some observers, whether we are sending troops into combat or for humanitarian or advisory purposes, the risk of casualties can actually increase if the number of troops falls below a certain level.

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Weekend Reader: USA Advances (in Soccer), Syrian Refugee Crisis Worsens, and U.S. Drone Debate Gets Louder

by Janine Davidson
usa-world-cup-drones Germany's Mesut Ozil (L) fights for the ball with Omar Gonzalez of the U.S. during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Pernambuco arena in Recife, June 26, 2014. (Laszlo Balogh/Courtesy Reuters)

If you were in the United States yesterday, chances are you heard about the gameYou might also have found a way to take a very long lunch. (CFR’s Defense Policy Team did make time for a mid-day pause to “assess” U.S.-German relations) Germany’s hard-won victory made the bout much less of a snooze than the foreign policy/game theory crowd might have expected.

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Drones: Three Misconceptions, Concerns, and Ways to Make Things Better—a Report from the Stimson Center Task Force

by Janine Davidson
drone-stimson-task-force Demonstrators deploy a model of a U.S. drone aircraft at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

A new report is out today from the Stimson Center’s Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy, co-chaired by General John Abizaid, U.S. Army (ret.) and Rosa Brooks, of which I was also a member. Our study took place over the course of a year, examining three key issue sets in the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) debate: 1) defense utility, national security, and economics; 2) ethics and law; and 3) export controls and regulatory challenges. Our examination identified UAV misconceptions, areas of concern,  and—significantly—a few concrete ways to make things better.

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Appearance on Defense News TV: the ISIS Coalition and the Challenge of Leverage

by Janine Davidson
iraq-isis-shiite-maliki Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr march during a military-style training in the holy city of Najaf, June 18, 2014. (Ahmad Mousa/Courtesy Reuters)

I appeared on a Defense News TV panel alongside Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and General Chuck Wald, U.S. Air Force (retired), to assess the military options available to the United States in wake of continuing gains by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against the Iraqi government.  This comes on the heels of President Obama’s June 19 announcement that he will send up to the 300 military advisers to Iraq. As we discuss, there are several important considerations to bear in mind: Read more »