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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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 »

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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CIA Interrogation Report; How ISIS Was Hatched in Iraq’s Camp Bucca Prison

by Janine Davidson
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (R) talks to reporters after coming out of the Senate in Washington December 9, 2014. "Enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

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

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its controversial report on CIA interrogation methods this past Tuesday.  The report characterized the CIA as brutal, ineffective, and misleading. Many questions remain as to the involvement of Bush administration officials in authorizing and overseeing this program. Republican Senators on the committee (with the exception of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) have issued their own report rebutting many claims of impropriety. Likewise, six former CIA directors and deputy directors penned a Wall Street Journal op ed assailing the report’s credibility. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) crossed the partisan boundary to endorse the document, including his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam as testimony.

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It’s Ash Carter; Iran Joins the Anti-ISIS Air Campaign; The FY15 NDAA Inches Ahead

by Janine Davidson
Ashton Carter listens while U.S. President Barack Obama announces that he will be his choice to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel while in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, December 5, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) Ashton Carter listens while U.S. President Barack Obama announces that he will be his choice to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel while in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, December 5, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Ashton Carter is officially announced as the twenty-fifth secretary of defense. The best profile of Carter has been written by the man himself—an autobiographical account of his early life and interest in defense policy, published as a faculty profile by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His appointment has received praise from Senators Carl Levin and John McCain alike. Carter takes office at a time when crises balloon around the globe and the Pentagon’s bureacratic challenges continue to mount: he’ll have little chance to learn on the job. At Slate, Fred Kaplan asks a significant but largely unexplored question: in today’s complex world, what makes a person qualified to lead the United States’ largest public or private institution?

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Defense #Longreads for a Long Weekend (II): Chinese Might; “Little Sparta” in Arabia

by Janine Davidson
Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy recruits march during a parade to mark the end of a semester at a military base of the North Sea Fleet, in Qingdao, Shandong province December 5, 2013. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy recruits march during a parade to mark the end of a semester at a military base of the North Sea Fleet, in Qingdao, Shandong province December 5, 2013. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

CFR brings together inquiring minds who specialize across a range of regions and issues. In preparation for the long weekend, I asked CFR’s junior staff to recommend articles and essays that help illuminate security challenges around the world. Today, it’s all about east Asia, as well as a remarkable profile of the United Arab Emirates. This follows yesterday’s segment.

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Defense #Longreads for a Long Weekend: The Scramble for Iraq; Border Insecurity; Lost Memories of WWII

by Janine Davidson
U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad's Firdaus Square, in this file photo from April 9, 2003. A powerful blast ripped through the Mount Lebanon Hotel March 17, 2004 which is located behind Firdaus Square. The war started on March 20 Baghdad local time, March 19 Washington D.C. local time. (Goran Tomasevi/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad's Firdaus Square, in this file photo from April 9, 2003. A powerful blast ripped through the Mount Lebanon Hotel March 17, 2004 which is located behind Firdaus Square. The war started on March 20 Baghdad local time, March 19 Washington D.C. local time. (Goran Tomasevi/Courtesy Reuters)

CFR brings together inquiring minds who specialize across a range of regions and issues. In preparation for the long weekend, I asked CFR’s junior staff to recommend articles and essays that help illuminate security challenges around the world. Today, it’s about Iraq, the U.S. Border Patrol, and a remarkable World War II retrospective. Tune in tomorrow for part two.

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Tensions Broil in Ukraine; Cyber Wargames; The First Armed Drone Operator Breaks Silence

by Janine Davidson
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters)

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

Ukraine: “a slow collapse?” That’s the opinion of the New York Times editorial board. Meanwhile, the United States steps up delivery of non-lethal aid to Ukraine, including its first Humvees. The ceasefire continues to fray: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns that Ukraine’s planned economic blockade of the eastern separatists “paves the way for a new invasion.” Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, concludes that eastern Ukraine’s Donbas has effectively become a Russian protectorate. The crisis isn’t over.

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Fight Against ISIS Continues To Scale; Uncertainty Swirls Around Iran Nuclear Talks

by Janine Davidson
Syrian fighters fire a machinegun against Islamic State positions from a location west of Kobani during fighting on November 4, 2014 A Syrian rebel flag covers the front of the truck. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters) Syrian fighters fire a machinegun against Islamic State positions from a location west of Kobani during fighting on November 4, 2014 A Syrian rebel flag covers the front of the truck. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters)

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

On November 10, President Obama called for more funds to be allocated in the fight against ISIS. The key figures highlighted in the 34-page letter from the Office of Management and Budget include: Read more »