Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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

by Emerson Brooking Monday, October 5, 2015
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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Understanding the Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Precision Strike

by Zachary Austin Wednesday, September 16, 2015
A B-2 Spirit flies into position June 11, 2014, during a refueling mission over the North Atlantic Ocean. The B-2 is conducting training flights and regional familiarization in the U.S. European Command area of operations. The B-2 is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. (Sgt. Paul Villanueva/U.S. Air Force Flickr)

By Zachary Austin

On average, it took 1,000 sorties of B-17 bombers dropping nearly two-and-a-half million pounds of “dumb” bombs to successfully knock out a significant Nazi target in 1944. By contrast, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a B-2 bomber could reliably achieve the same result with a single 2,000 pound “smart” bomb—and then go on to strike up to fifteen more targets in a single mission.

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

by Clint Hinote Monday, November 10, 2014
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)

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

by Clint Hinote Tuesday, October 14, 2014
F-16 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation over Hudson river in New York, August 18, 2012. (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters)

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 Clint Hinote Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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)

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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The Anti-ISIS Campaign Has Expanded Into Syria. What Comes Next?

by Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson Tuesday, September 23, 2014
isis-syria-cruise-missile A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched against ISIL targets from the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, in the Red Sea September 23, 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez Ii/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

On September 22, the air campaign against ISIS expanded into Syria in a coordinated attack that included 47 Tomahawk missiles and nearly 50 coalition aircraft. This action had been all but inevitable since the commencement of overflight reconnaissance in Syria on August 26. Significantly, these strikes also included targets of the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate unrelated to ISIS. Also significantly, five Arab militaries—Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Qatar—participated in the operation. At this stage, there are three important questions to address: the targeting of the strikes, the implications of this action, and potential challenges that might await the operation moving forward.

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The Air Campaign Against ISIS Is About To Get A Lot Bigger

by Janine Davidson Thursday, September 18, 2014
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey look at a map showing Islamic State ambition as they testify during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State on Capitol Hill in Washington September 16, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

It has now become a question of when, not if, the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will expand into Syria.  As I wrote at the beginning of August, the Islamic State has enjoyed a strong and unmolested base of operations from which to coordinate its offensive in Iraq.  If not attacked on that turf, the terrorist organization will continue grow and strengthen. Effective military operations against ISIS—even those short term efforts to stop ISIS momentum—must include operations in Syria to eliminate ISIS sanctuaries.

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We Learned (the Hard Way) the Value of Restraint in Iraq; We Can’t Forget It Now Against ISIS

by Stephen E. Liszewski Monday, September 8, 2014
Iraqi girls gesture as they celebrate after Iraqi security forces entered the town of Amerli September 1, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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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As Mission Against ISIS Widens, Three Points to Guide U.S. Operations

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, August 26, 2014
A U.S. F/A-18A+ Hornet prepares to launch off the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Gulf south of Iraq in this photo released March 6, 2005. The same aircraft has been employed with increasing frequency in operations against the Islamic State, begun August 7, 2014. (Airman Ryan O'Connor/Courtesy Reuters)

Last night, President Obama authorized both manned and unmanned surveillance flights over Syria as a potential precursor to air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). This action suggests that U.S. policymakers have come to the conclusion that the border between Iraq and Syria will no longer be a barrier to U.S. operations.

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