Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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The Moral Cost of Torture

by Robert A. Newson
Demonstrator Maboud Ebrahimzadeh is held down during a simulation of waterboarding outside the Justice Department in Washington November 5, 2007. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) Demonstrator Maboud Ebrahimzadeh is held down during a simulation of waterboarding outside the Justice Department in Washington November 5, 2007. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert Newson

When I am asked about torture or, more frequently, when I feel the need to speak out against torture, I don’t talk about the fact that it doesn’t work (it doesn’t), nor the fact that it contributes to the enemy’s narrative and recruiting (it does). Instead, I talk about its gravest cost—what it does to the Americans whom we ask to conduct torture and what it does to the character and fiber of an entire nation that embraces it.

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As China’s Military Modernizes, Woody Island Deployments Are Just the Beginning

by Lauren Dickey
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, on their armoured vehicles equipped with anti-tank missiles, arrive at Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters) Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, on their armoured vehicles equipped with anti-tank missiles, arrive at Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

By Lauren Dickey

China continued to make waves in the South China Sea last week with its deployment of surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar system on the contested Woody Island. While this development undoubtedly challenges both the claims of littoral states and the U.S. regional presence, China’s actions should be thought of as part of a much broader agenda aimed at modernizing the capabilities and operations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Beyond China’s posturing lies an important process of structural and organizational reforms that will shape the war-fighting capabilities of the PLA for the decade ahead. While a lot remains unknown, President Xi Jinping’s planned comprehensive reforms of the PLA appear to target the development of a leaner, stronger Chinese fighting force, an enhanced power projection capability, and an even greater focus on deterring threats along the periphery.

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FY17 Coast Guard Request Strikes Balance Between Rebuilding the Fleet and Managing Risk

by Ronald A. LaBrec
Polar Star, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, completes ice drills in the Arctic in this July 3, 2013 handout photo.  (Petty Officer 3rd Class Rachel French/U.S. Coast Guard/Courtesy Reuters) Polar Star, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, completes ice drills in the Arctic in this July 3, 2013 handout photo. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Rachel French/U.S. Coast Guard/Courtesy Reuters)

The hot-off-the-presses fiscal year 2017 presidential budget request includes a $10.3 billion top line request for the Coast Guard and several areas of progress for Coast Guard modernization. Despite record funding for acquisition, construction and improvement (AC&I) of capital assets in 2016, the FY17 request continues a general trend of lower AC&I funding that began in 2013. The investment in several key shipbuilding programs, however, is important as the service focuses on meeting its missions with an ancient fleet. The majority of the service’s offshore ships are between thirty and fifty years old. While most have gone through major service-life extension projects they are reaching the end of their useful lifespan and are becoming increasingly unreliable and costly to maintain.

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Now Is the Time to Strengthen NATO’s Resolve

by Michael R. Fenzel and Aaron Picozzi
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) attend a meeting on Russian air force's activity in Syria at the national defence control center in Moscow, Russia, November 17, 2015.  (Alexei Nikolskyi/SPUTNIK/Kremlin/Courtesy Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) attend a meeting on Russian air force's activity in Syria at the national defence control center in Moscow, Russia, November 17, 2015. (Alexei Nikolskyi/SPUTNIK/Kremlin/Courtesy Reuters)

By Michael Fenzel and Aaron Picozzi

The November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and late October bombing of Russian Metrojet flight 9268 have not only crystallized the threat of the self-declared Islamic State to the world, but also created an unlikely opportunity to open a dialogue with Russia. However, these tragedies do not change the long-term threat Russia poses to stability in Europe. Russia’s encroachment in Eastern Europe is a threat to the security and stability of the continent and tests the resolve of NATO in an unprecedented way. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent military intervention in Syria is further evidence of his ambition to broaden Russian influence and capitalize on regional instability.

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Cold War II? Not Yet, But the Temperature Is Falling

by Sean R. Liedman
Russian servicemen, dressed in historical uniforms, hold a barrage balloon as they take part in a military parade rehearsal in Red Square near the Kremlin in central Moscow, Russia, November 6, 2015. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters) Russian servicemen, dressed in historical uniforms, hold a barrage balloon as they take part in a military parade rehearsal in Red Square near the Kremlin in central Moscow, Russia, November 6, 2015. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

“The assault on free institutions is world-wide now, and in the context of the present polarization of power a defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere.” – NSC-68, April 14, 1950

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U.S. Coast Guard Unveils a New Model for Cooperation Atop the World

by Ronald A. LaBrec
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks through ice in the Arctic circle, July 14, 2015. This image was taken by an aerostat, a self-contained, compact platform that can deploy multiple sensor payloads and other devices into the air. (U.S. Coast Guard/Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System) The Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks through ice in the Arctic circle, July 14, 2015. This image was taken by an aerostat, a self-contained, compact platform that can deploy multiple sensor payloads and other devices into the air. (U.S. Coast Guard/Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System)

The United States Coast Guard announced Friday the creation of a new international forum for cooperation in the Arctic. Signed at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, the new Arctic Coast Guard Forum will include coast guards or similar agencies from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States.

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An Extraordinary Gathering: Debriefing the 2015 Annual Conference of the Association of the U.S. Army

by Michael Fenzel
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks at The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) 2015 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington October 14, 2015. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks at The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) 2015 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington October 14, 2015. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

 By Michael Fenzel

“Guns and tanks and planes are nothing unless there is a solid spirit, a solid heart, and great productiveness behind it.”

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With Naval Strikes into Syria, Russia Is Now Messaging with Missiles

by Sean R. Liedman
On October 7, Russian warships launched twenty-eight cruise missiles into Syria from the landlocked Caspian Sea. (Russian Ministry of Defense/YouTube) On October 7, Russian warships launched twenty-eight cruise missiles into Syria from the landlocked Caspian Sea. (Russian Ministry of Defense/YouTube)

By Sean Liedman

The Russian Navy’s initial firing of twenty-six cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea into Syria yesterday generated little effect on the Syrian battlefield—but that may not be the primary objective. Russian President Vladimir Putin capitalized on this opportunity to showcase this new sea-based, long range precision strike capability as a strategic messaging tool aimed at a variety of audiences: Read more »

Six Questions That Should Now Guide U.S. Defense Planning in Syria and Iraq

by Emerson Brooking
Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes perform during the Aviadarts military aviation competition at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters) Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes perform during the Aviadarts military aviation competition at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

By Emerson Brooking

Into one of the most complex conflicts in modern history, Russia has leapt seemingly overnight. Russian President Vladimir Putin has waded in like the Donald Trump of geopolitics: brash, disruptive, and unbowed by international criticism. This combination, fresh fuel for the Syrian tinderbox, will drastically raise the risk of military miscalculation.

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Vladimir Putin’s Naval Ambitions Have Only Begun

by Sean R. Liedman
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during celebrations for Navy Day as it rains in Baltiysk, Kaliningrad region, Russia, July 26, 2015. (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin, Courtesy Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during celebrations for Navy Day as it rains in Baltiysk, Kaliningrad region, Russia, July 26, 2015. (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin, Courtesy Reuters)

By Sean Liedman

Defense in Depth is proud to welcome Captain Sean R. Liedman, U.S. Navy, who will be serving as a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations for the 2015-2016 term. Today, he assesses recent shifts in Russian naval planning and deployment, and considers what might come next.

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