Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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Is the Top Leader of ISIS Dead? Here’s What to Expect

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first public appearance on July 5, 2014, at a mosque in the center of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet. (Courtesy Reuters) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first public appearance on July 5, 2014, at a mosque in the center of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet. (Courtesy Reuters)

By Clint Hinote

Numerous news outlets have reported that the U.S.-led coalition operating in Iraq and Syria may have injured or killed the overall leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an air strike near Mosul. If this is true, it is welcome news, but it will not signal the end of the movement. Instead, this is a significant part of the overall military strategy to apply broad pressure to ISIS and halt its momentum. Over the long run, stopping ISIS will require alleviating the underlying conditions that drive violence and gave rise to the movement in the first place. While the outside world can help create the necessary conditions, only repudiation by the local population will kill ISIS.

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“Win in a Complex World (II):” Why an Integrated Conventional and Special Operations Force Will Work Best

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire at an enemy bunker during Task Force Training on Camp Roberts, Calif., Feb. 1, 2014. (Spc. Steven Hitchcock/U.S. Army Flickr) U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire at an enemy bunker during Task Force Training on Camp Roberts, Calif., Feb. 1, 2014. (Spc. Steven Hitchcock/U.S. Army Flickr)

By Mike Rauhut

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Michael Rauhut, CFR’s U.S. Army fellow. He observes that the newly released Army Operating Concept shows an unprecedented level of acceptance and integration of special operations capabilities into conventional Army forces. Colonel Rauhut argues that the result of this integration is overwhelmingly positive, affording policymakers a wider range of options in pursuit of their strategic objectives. This follows a piece by Janine Davidson on the Army Operating Concept and institutional learning.

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The Air Campaign Against ISIS (II): Military Partnerships Will Be the Deciding Factor

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters) F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters)

By Clint Hinote

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. He discusses the role of military partnerships in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, drawing on his own experience as an Air Force weapons and tactics instructor. According to Col. Hinote, international participation—particularly by Arab partner nations—will prove a critical component of the strategy to dismantle ISIS. This piece follows Col Hinote’s previous discussion of the utility of air strikes.

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The Air Campaign Against ISIS: Understanding What Air Strikes Can Do—and What They Can’t

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to strike operations in Syria in this September 26, 2014 photo released on September 29, 2014. These aircraft were part of a strike package that was engaging ISIL targets in Syria. (Russ Scalf/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to strike operations in Syria in this September 26, 2014 photo released on September 29, 2014. These aircraft were part of a strike package that was engaging ISIL targets in Syria. (Russ Scalf/Courtesy Reuters)

By Clint Hinote

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. He assesses the use and utility of targeted air strikes against ISIS, particularly against their Syrian base of operations, in the context of evolving air power targeting doctrine. He argues that the debate over whether or not U.S. air power will “destroy” ISIS largely misses the point as to the function and intent of these strikes. Disrupting the organization’s infrastructure and assets will refute its claim to “statehood,” blunting its momentum in the process.

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Enough with “Boots on the Ground:” What Will the U.S. Advisory Mission in Iraq Look Like?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
A U.S. and Iraqi soldier take part in a shooting exercise at an Iraqi military base south of Baghdad August 30, 2010. (Saad Shalash/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. and Iraqi soldier take part in a shooting exercise at an Iraqi military base south of Baghdad August 30, 2010. (Saad Shalash/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert A. Newson

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain Robert A. Newson, CFR’s U.S. Navy fellow and a SEAL officer. CAPT Newson recently served Special Operations Command (Forward) Commander in Yemen 2010-2012, where he helped coordinate military advising efforts in the region. He argues that the reintroduction of U.S. advisory personnel to Iraq does not automatically set the military on a “slippery slope” to full-scale intervention. Rather, the chance of escalation will be determined by three factors: the total required forces, the concept of operations, and any applicable mission restraints. This question will become only more important with late-breaking news of anti-ISIS air strikes’ expansion into Syria.

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Failure to Cooperate with Iran Against ISIS Will Open the Door To Greater Risk

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012, a day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters) Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012, a day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters)

By Ben Fernandes

This commentary comes courtesy of Major Ben Fernandes, U.S. Army, a CFR term member and PhD candidate at George Mason University. He argues that the issues of Iranian nuclear weapon development and the anti-ISIS effort cannot be viewed in isolation. A push to arm “moderate” Syrian rebels without Iranian consultation could quickly antagonize Iran, whose leaders do not draw the same distinctions between the Sunni militant groups. This could result in a renewed Iranian push for nuclear deterrent—and increase the risk of regional destabilization.

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Taiwan Wants to Buy U.S. Subs; This Would Be a Bad Deal for Both Countries

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
A Dutch-made submarine docks in a military port in Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung, November 7, 2005. Taiwan has long sought to buy additional diesel submarines to supplement its aging fleet. (Jameson Wu/Courtesy Reuters) A Dutch-made submarine docks in a military port in Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung, November 7, 2005. Taiwan has long sought to buy additional diesel submarines to supplement its aging fleet. (Jameson Wu/Courtesy Reuters)

By Lauren Dickey

This commentary comes courtesy of Lauren Dickey, research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. She discusses the new push by Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou government to expand and reinvigorate the island’s submarine program by acquiring U.S. technology and platforms. She argues that doing so would serve the strategic interests of neither Taiwan nor the United States.

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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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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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