Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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

by Janine Davidson Friday, November 14, 2014
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 »

Afghan Casualties “Not Sustainable;” The Return of Tiered Readiness; Russian Fracturing of NATO

by Janine Davidson Friday, November 7, 2014
Mohammad Zaman (R), a 45-year-old local policeman who was wounded in Daikundi province, and Abdul Basir, a 25-year-old national policeman who was wounded in Zabul, sit at an ICRC hospital for war victims at the Orthopedic Center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, August 26, 2014. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters) Mohammad Zaman (R), a 45-year-old local policeman who was wounded in Daikundi province, and Abdul Basir, a 25-year-old national policeman who was wounded in Zabul, sit at an ICRC hospital for war victims at the Orthopedic Center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, August 26, 2014. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Afghan troop troubles linger in a transforming nation. Afghan forces suffered 4,634 casualties this year—a jump from 4,350 in 2013. Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson commented that these casualty numbers are “not sustainable.” As U.S. troop levels dwindle (with 9,800 left in Afghanistan by early 2015), it will be crucial that Afghan forces become self-sufficient.

Read more »

The New Republican Congress (II): In Foreign Policy Debates Ahead, Look to Echoes of ’06

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, November 6, 2014
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the start of the Army versus Navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 6, 2008. (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President George W. Bush (R) is joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the start of the Army versus Navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 6, 2008. (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

As Democrats lick their wounds following Tuesday’s midterms, President Obama will no doubt be contemplating the messages the electorate was trying to send. Breaking gridlock and “getting stuff done” might be a good place to start. This seems to have been where President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush started eight years ago following a similar shellacking in the midterms during his second term.  Bush seized the moment for one of the most significant foreign policy shifts of his tenure. It’s worth the look back as we contemplate the Obama administration’s next steps.

Read more »

The New Republican Congress: Can the Hill Finally Pass the 2015 Defense Budget?

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, November 5, 2014
U.S. Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky (L) waves with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and McConnell's wife, former United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, at McConnell's midterm election night victory rally in Louisville, Kentucky, November 4, 2014. (John Sommers II/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky (L) waves with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and McConnell's wife, former United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, at McConnell's midterm election night victory rally in Louisville, Kentucky, November 4, 2014. (John Sommers II/Courtesy Reuters)

The results of the 2014 midterm elections are in: Republicans had a fantastic night. The GOP has further solidified its control of the House of Representatives with roughly 245 seats (the biggest Republican majority since the Truman administration) and regained control of the Senate with at least seven new seatsthe first time since 2006. In the long run, this shift is likely to test the significant differences in foreign policy outlook that have opened between leading Republicans (and potential 2016 presidential candidates). In the medium term, Senator John McCain (R-AZ)’s long-sought chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee will likely lead to more direct confrontations between Congress and the White House regarding current defense policy, war powers, and ISIS strategy. Most immediately, however, the conclusion of the midterm elections raises another pressing question: can Congress pass the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before the end of this year? And if so, what might the final bill look like?

Read more »

New Estimates of the Cost of the ISIS Fight; Baltic-Russia Tensions; The Looming U.S. Midterms

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 31, 2014
A Kurdish boy has his face painted with the U.S. and the Kurdish flags as he waits to greet Peshmerga fighters near the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province October 29, 2014. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters) A Kurdish boy has his face painted with the U.S. and the Kurdish flags as he waits to greet Peshmerga fighters near the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province October 29, 2014. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters)

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

The new daily cost of operations against ISIS: $8.3 million per dayThis latest Pentagon estimate is a marked increase from last week’s estimate of $7.6 million per day. The total cost of anti-ISIS operations has now likely passed $1 billion. In the Best Defense, Colonel Gary Anderson, USMC (ret.) argues that the effort against ISIS will grow more effective if U.S. policymakers admit that they have adopted a containment strategy. Meanwhile, ISIS itself seems to have mixed up its social media strategy, responding directly to reports by mainstream Western press.

Read more »

Why Is a Comedian the Only One Talking About the Plight of Afghan Interpreters?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson and Janine Davidson Thursday, October 23, 2014
A translator for the U.S. Army listens during a security meeting with various members of the Afghan National Security Forces near Combat Outpost Hutal in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 21, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters) A translator for the U.S. Army listens during a security meeting with various members of the Afghan National Security Forces near Combat Outpost Hutal in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 21, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters)

By Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson

If you tuned in for last Sunday’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you also watched some of the most thorough reporting to date regarding efforts to secure Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) for Afghan and Iraqi  translators who have served for years alongside U.S. military personnel. When American servicemen rotate away, these translators remain—often becoming top-priority targets for reprisal attacks. Unfortunately, the State Department program intended to get Afghan translators and their families to safety has long been stuck in a bureaucratic swamp, stranding more than 6,000 Afghans across various stages of the process. With the visa program slated to end on December 31, many of these Afghans are now in very real danger of being abandoned. This raises two difficult questions: first, why has this been allowed to happen? And second, what now—at this late stage—can still be done to save them?

Read more »

Bob Work Speaks: Out of the Spotlight, The Asia-Pacific Rebalance Continues on Course

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, October 1, 2014
U.S. And Philippine soldiers pose for photos in front of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an Air Operations and Aircraft Static Display as part of the BALIKATAN 2013 (shoulder-to-shoulder) combined U.S.-Philippines military exercise at the formerly U.S. bases, Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, north of Manila April 13, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. And Philippine soldiers pose for photos in front of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an Air Operations and Aircraft Static Display as part of the BALIKATAN 2013 (shoulder-to-shoulder) combined U.S.-Philippines military exercise at the formerly U.S. bases, Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, north of Manila April 13, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work on September 30 for one of his first public events since his confirmation five months ago. Work, an experienced hand in maritime strategy and force disposition, explained the quiet steps by which the military rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has continued on course. Amid the loud headlines out of Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, it is easy to forget that much of U.S. foreign policy is still being developed in anticipation of a “Pacific Century.” While unexpected contingencies like ISIS have dictated the tempo and focus of deployed troops, they have, according to Deputy Secretary Work, not hindered the overall rebalance, which largely continues apace.

Read more »

New VA Reform Bill Is a Stopgap, Not a Solution

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Captain Benjamin Jackson carries Specialist Brian Sanchez while running with Staff Sergeant Anthony Lewis (L) and Private First Class Armando Martinez during the physical fitness portion of a 24 hour Cavalry "Spur Ride" exercise for members of the US Army's 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Drum, New York September 29, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters) Captain Benjamin Jackson carries Specialist Brian Sanchez while running with Staff Sergeant Anthony Lewis (L) and Private First Class Armando Martinez during the physical fitness portion of a 24 hour Cavalry "Spur Ride" exercise for members of the US Army's 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Drum, New York September 29, 2010. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jesse Sloman

This commentary comes courtesy of Marine Corps veteran and CFR research associate Jesse Sloman.  He argues that while the recently unveiled $15 billion dollar Millers-Sanders VA healthcare bill is a step in the right direction, it fails to address deep and systemic problems within the veteran care system. A lasting solution must also confront looming demographic challenges that threaten to upend the whole institution. This, in turn, will require both creativity and political bravery.

Read more »

Weekend Reader: The Israel-Palestine Peace Deal That Wasn’t; U.S. Military Aid to Mexico

by Janine Davidson Friday, July 25, 2014
israel-gaza-kerry Palestinians look on at the site of a fire following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City, July 24, 2014. (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters)

As Operation Protective Edge continues to escalate, remembering the peace deal that wasn’t. The New Republic has the story. While the United States was able to wrangle large concessions from both sides, the details proved insurmountable. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry is trying again—this time, simply for a ceasefire.

Read more »

Weekend Reader: The Tragedy of MH17, Iron Dome, and Much-Needed Reform For Those MIA

by Janine Davidson Friday, July 18, 2014
iron-dome An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod July 8, 2014. (Baz Ratner, Courtesy Reuters)

MH17: simply a tragedy295 airline passengers are dead and all sides are deflecting blame in one of the worst disasters in aviation history. Theories are flying as to the origin and employment of the surface-to-air missile that shot MH17 down: read my own analysis here.

Read more »