Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

How No-Fly Zones Work

by Clint Hinote Tuesday, May 5, 2015
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing in Tucson fly over an eastern Arizona training range April 8, 2015. (Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/U.S. Air Force Flickr) F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing in Tucson fly over an eastern Arizona training range April 8, 2015. (Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen/U.S. Air Force Flickr)

When conflict rears its ugly head around the world, there is usually a call for the United States to “do something.” One option that is frequently mentioned is the no-fly zone. The United States and its allies enjoy a significant advantage over most potential adversaries in the air. No-fly zones, therefore, are attractive due to the perceived lower cost and risk when compared to other options. Despite this, setting up a no-fly zone is anything but a “no brainer.” Depending on the circumstances, there may be steep costs and unseen risks. This short primer is intended to introduce readers to the way no-fly zones really work.

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Taliban Spring Offensive Besieges Kunduz; Islamic State Eyes Baltimore Protestors

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 1, 2015
Afghan security forces arrive at the Kunduz airport, April 30, 2015. The Afghan army and police on Thursday failed to expel Taliban fighters from the outskirts of a besieged provincial capital as a seventh day of fierce fighting put pressure on national forces struggling largely without U.S. military backup. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters) Afghan security forces arrive at the Kunduz airport, April 30, 2015. The Afghan army and police on Thursday failed to expel Taliban fighters from the outskirts of a besieged provincial capital as a seventh day of fierce fighting put pressure on national forces struggling largely without U.S. military backup. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters)

Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province risks falling into Taliban hands as the spring offensive beginsA spike in insurgents flowing from Pakistan, as well as a rise in Chechen and Uzbek foreign fighters, is making the counteroffensive effort by Afghan Security Forces increasingly difficult. Afghan military officials have said that they do not have the resources to endure an extended counterinsurgency in the region. As Afghan Security Forces struggle, the U.S. military is increasing its proportion of air strikes and counterterrorism operations in the region.

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Bravery and Folly at Gallipoli, One-Hundred Years Ago

by Emerson Brooking Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Bearing heavy loads, a group of Entente soldiers tow their rowboat to the shore of Gallipoli, April 25, 1915. (Charles Bean) Bearing heavy loads, a group of Entente soldiers tow their rowboat to the shore of Gallipoli, April 25, 1915. (Charles Bean)

On April 25, 1915, 78,000 British, French, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers stormed ashore the Gallipoli peninsula amid a fury of Ottoman machine guns and shellfire. They struggled up treacherous bluffs wreathed with barbed wire, reading from maps as much as seventy years out of date. This was D-Day fought with the tactics and technology of World War I. The amphibious assault, intended to dismantle the Turkish guns that dotted the straits of the Dardanelles, would fail decisively. Facing hardened trench lines and determined Turkish defenders, the Entente forces would spend eight months and 47,000 lives to advance—at their maximum—four bloody miles. They would never come close to their day-one objective.

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Tensions Near Gulf of Aden; Yemeni Americans Abandoned; Quiet Troop Buildup in Ukraine

by Janine Davidson Friday, April 24, 2015
Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 1 fly in formation over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during an airpower demonstration, March 22, 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Brown/U.S. Navy/Flickr) Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 1 fly in formation over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during an airpower demonstration, March 22, 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Brown/U.S. Navy/Flickr)

The United States bolsters its fleet off the Yemeni coast to twelve ships, including aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt—and turns back an Iranian flotilla. Iran had intended to deliver aid—and quite possibly arms—to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. This rise in maritime tensions is only the latest in a long history of at-sea altercations between the United States and Iran.

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Russia’s Sale of the S-300 to Iran Will Shift Military Balance Across the Middle East

by Clint Hinote Monday, April 20, 2015
Belarusssian S-300 mobile missile launching systems drive through a military parade during celebrations marking Independence Day in Minsk July 3, 2013. (Vasily Fedosenko/Courtesy Reuters) Belarusssian S-300 mobile missile launching systems drive through a military parade during celebrations marking Independence Day in Minsk July 3, 2013. (Vasily Fedosenko/Courtesy Reuters)

By Clint Hinote

It’s been widely reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to sell the Russian-made S-300 missile system to Iran. This sale has been planned for years, but it was put on hold in 2010 when the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1929. Although this resolution did not specifically prohibit the sale of missile systems like the S-300, it did call for all states to “exercise vigilance and restraint” in supplying weapons to Iran. Since then, Russia has refrained from selling these weapons. Now Russia has changed its mind.

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The Islamic State Sets Eyes on Ramadi; A Little Closure in the Bitter Saga of Blackwater

by Janine Davidson Friday, April 17, 2015
Iraqi security forces make their way during a patrol looking for Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Ramadi April 9, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Iraqi security forces make their way during a patrol looking for Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Ramadi April 9, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

 In its widest offensive since the loss of Tikrit, the Islamic State forces besiege Ramadi. The self-declared Islamic State currently holds positions on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi, forcing the evacuation of more than 2,000 citizens. However, the U.S.-led coalition launched airstrikes had blunted the terror group’s momentum on Thursday, leading one U.S. military official to comment that the fall of Ramadi is “not imminent.”

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How Serious Is the Rebalance? U.S. Military Record Tells (Part of) the Story

by Janine Davidson and Lauren Dickey Thursday, April 16, 2015
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) participates in a simulated straits transit.  (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher B. Janik/U.S. Navy/Flickr) The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) participates in a simulated straits transit. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher B. Janik/U.S. Navy/Flickr)

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s travels to Japan and South Korea last week—designed no doubt to highlight the continued U.S. commitment to the region—instead resurfaced concerns that the rebalance to Asia is no longer a priority for Washington. Skeptics worry that world events from Russian aggression in Ukraine, to the continued conflagrations across the Middle East, and negotiations with Iran will continue to challenge Washington’s ability to deploy what Carter referred to as the “next phase of our rebalance.” Debates over the defense budget back in Washington further stoke worries that the military side of the rebalance will remain more talk that action. While there may be other valid concerns about the rebalance (Is it focused sufficiently on Southeast Asia? Overly provocative toward China? Likely to be derailed entirely without the TPP?), concerns that the United States has not prioritized the rebalance do not stand up to the facts. A survey of actual U.S. military activity in the region helps differentiate facts from opinion.

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It’s Time for the U.S. Military to Double Down in the Asia-Pacific

by Stephen E. Liszewski Tuesday, April 14, 2015
A Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy personnel stands on the deck of the Chinese naval guided missile destroyer Haikou (171) during a welcome ceremony as it docks at the Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base in Hong Kong April 30, 2012. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters) A Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy personnel stands on the deck of the Chinese naval guided missile destroyer Haikou (171) during a welcome ceremony as it docks at the Ngong Shuen Chau Naval Base in Hong Kong April 30, 2012. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations’ newly released Council Special Report, Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China, proposes a new approach to address the challenges and potential dangers posed by China’s economic, diplomatic and military expansion. The new, proactive approach from Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill and Dr. Ashley J. Tellis moves beyond old models based simply on integration and engagement. The military element of the recommended grand strategy calls for significant investment in “Capabilities and capacity specifically to defeat China’s emerging anti-access capabilities and permit successful U.S. power projection even against concerted opposition from Beijing.”

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Massacre in Yarmouk; The Islamic State and the Hand of Saddam Hussein; 116 Days

by Janine Davidson Friday, April 10, 2015
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yells in court as he receives his verdict, as a bailiff attempts to silence him, during his trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone November 5, 2006. . (David Furst/Courtesy Reuters) Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yells in court as he receives his verdict, as a bailiff attempts to silence him, during his trial held under tight security in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone November 5, 2006. . (David Furst/Courtesy Reuters)

16,000 Palestinian refugees stranded between the forces of Bashar al-Assad and the advancing Islamic State. The United Nations-administered Yarmouk refugee camp, once home to 200,000, now holds less than 20,000, too young or weak to flee. Speaking at the UN Headquarters, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it plainly: “We simply cannot stand by and watch a massacre unfold.

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Overstretched and Under Pressure, the U.S. Air Force Remains the Backbone of Current Operations

by Janine Davidson and Sam Ehrlich Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Twelve Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during Exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015. During the aerial exercise, the Stratotankers delivered 800,000 pounds of fuel to about 50 aircraft. (Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force Flickr) Twelve Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during Exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015. During the aerial exercise, the Stratotankers delivered 800,000 pounds of fuel to about 50 aircraft. (Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Air Force Flickr)

By Janine Davidson and Sam Ehrlich

U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James visited the Council on Foreign Relations late last month to discuss the present and future of the Air Force. James, who was confirmed as the twenty-third Secretary of the Air Force in December 2013, spoke on a number of capabilities and institutional challenges within the Air Force, everything from the nuclear enterprise reform to proposed platform retirement. Her bottom line—repeated often—was that available resources are falling far short of the Air Force’s growing responsibilities. Read more »