Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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In the Last Days of Afghanistan, Too Many Shadows of Vietnam

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
A shadow cast by a U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment shades spent brass strewn on the ground during a joint training mission, near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 12, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters) A shadow cast by a U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment shades spent brass strewn on the ground during a joint training mission, near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 12, 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert A. Newson

Recently, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a screening of Rory Kennedy’s film Last Days in Vietnam. The stunning documentary, with never-before seen-footage, tells the story of courageous Americans at the U.S. embassy and on ships at sea who put their lives and their careers on the line to rescue 77,000 South Vietnamese during the fall of Saigon. These heroes did all they could as individuals to meet an American obligation to those who stand with us in our foreign wars—those who risk their lives and the lives of their families against a common enemy. The film also tells the story of an American government that came very slow and far too late to uphold this obligation.

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Congress Just Took an Important Step Toward Real Military Compensation Reform

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
U.S. troops march during a military parade celebrating Romania's National Day in Bucharest December 1, 2014. (Radu Sigheti/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. troops march during a military parade celebrating Romania's National Day in Bucharest December 1, 2014. (Radu Sigheti/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jesse Sloman

On Tuesday, the U.S. House and Senate reached an agreement on the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill, setting the Pentagon’s expenditures and budget, is one of  the least controversial items on Congress’ annual agenda; an NDAA has been passed every year for the past 52 years.

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In Recent Battles, the U.S. Has Forgotten How To Tell Its Side of the Story. It Must Remember.

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson
Maurice Greene from the USA carries his nation's flag following his team's victory in the men's 4X100m relay final at the Sydney Olympics September 30, 2000. (Ian Waldie/Courtesy Reuters) Maurice Greene from the USA carries his nation's flag following his team's victory in the men's 4X100m relay final at the Sydney Olympics September 30, 2000. (Ian Waldie/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. He argues that, by failing to provide a credible counter-narrative in recent contingencies involving ISIS and Russia, the United States has effectively ceded the information domain without a fight. Captain Newson argues that an effective information operations strategy will hinge on both long-term commitment and a willingness to expose audiences to the full complexity of political issues rather than resorting to misinformation and simplification.

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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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