Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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) 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 Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson 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) Iraqi girls gesture as they celebrate after Iraqi security forces entered the town of Amerli September 1, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Stephen Liszewski

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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Weekend Reader: Strategic Fishing Vessels, Russian “Invasion” of Ukraine and ISIS Articles Worth a Read

by Janine Davidson Friday, August 22, 2014
A Vietnamese sinking boat (L) which was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, is seen near a Marine Guard ship (R) at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014.  (Courtesy Reuters) A Vietnamese sinking boat (L) which was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, is seen near a Marine Guard ship (R) at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters)

Fishing vessels have become pawns in the South China Sea. China is using fishing vessels strategically—by creating blockades and moving into contested waters—without the risk of culpability that accompanies military movement.  This tactic isn’t new—dating back to the 1990s—but it is ratcheting up tension in the South China Sea, where other states have very few options available and the fishermen themselves will potentially pay the price.

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In Iraq/Syria Conflict, the Islamic State Leverages International Community’s Self-Imposed Boundaries

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, August 12, 2014
isis-iraq A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, June 29, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama’s recent military action in northern Iraq to protect American personnel and provide humanitarian aid to civilians besieged by Islamic State (IS) forces has likely achieved its limited tactical effects.  Airstrikes have restricted IS’s freedom of maneuver on the ground, and provided a bit of space for Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who appear to be the last best hope to face IS on the ground.

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It’s Time to Talk About the Role of U.S. Civilians in Modern War

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Monday, July 28, 2014
usaid-iraq-afghanistan Rear Admiral Gregory Smith (L), director of the Multi-National Force – Iraq’s Communications Division, and Denise Herbol, deputy director of USAID – Iraq, in Baghdad January 13, 2008. (Wathiq Khuzaie/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Phillip Carter

There is a new bill currently languishing in Congressional committee, the “Combat Zone Tax Parity Act,” which would grant federal civilian employees deployed to combat zones the same tax benefits as the military servicemen who fight alongside them. It comes long overdue.

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ISIS Hasn’t Gone Anywhere—and It’s Getting Stronger

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, July 24, 2014
isis-isil-state-danger Militant Islamist fighters on a tank take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

Amid dangerous escalation in eastern Ukraine following the MH17 tragedy and a widening war in Gaza, it’s easy to dismiss last month’s lightning offensive into Iraq by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq’s (ISIS) as “old news.” Unfortunately, as global attention has shifted elsewhere, ISIS has only grown more virulent. The self-proclaimed caliphate has redoubled its efforts in Syria, launching a series of unprecedented offensives last week that now leave it in control of 35 percent of Syrian territory and nearly all of Syria’s oil and gas fields. The tumor is growing.

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Is It Mission Creep? Making Sense of the Increasing Troop Levels in Iraq

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, July 1, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during his visit to Iraq on June 23, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad during his visit to Iraq on June 23, 2014.

This week’s announcement that the President will be sending a few hundred more troops to Iraq immediately, and predictably, raised questions of “mission creep.” For some military planners, however, this was probably no surprise. Planners understand that in order for 300 troops to actually be able to do anything, they will need support. And, although it may be counter-intuitive to some observers, whether we are sending troops into combat or for humanitarian or advisory purposes, the risk of casualties can actually increase if the number of troops falls below a certain level.

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In Iraq, What Exactly Was the Alternative?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Tuesday, June 24, 2014
iraq-policy U.S. soldiers stand near the Swords of Qadisiyah monument in Baghdad March 13, 2008. Picture taken March 13, 2008. (Ceerwan Aziz/Courtesy Reuters)

By Emerson Brooking

This commentary comes courtesy of Emerson Brooking, research associate for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Brooking argues that out of many recent criticisms of the United States’ 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, very few have put forward a viable alternative. He observes that critics’ commonly held position—that U.S. forces should have stayed “until the job was done”—neglects the actual role played by the U.S. military in theater. Absent political pressure and a fundamental shift in Iraqi governance, lasting strategic success in Iraq could not have been won by soldiers alone, no matter the duration of their stay.

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Appearance on Defense News TV: the ISIS Coalition and the Challenge of Leverage

by Janine Davidson Monday, June 23, 2014
iraq-isis-shiite-maliki Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr march during a military-style training in the holy city of Najaf, June 18, 2014. (Ahmad Mousa/Courtesy Reuters)

I appeared on a Defense News TV panel alongside Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and General Chuck Wald, U.S. Air Force (retired), to assess the military options available to the United States in wake of continuing gains by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against the Iraqi government.  This comes on the heels of President Obama’s June 19 announcement that he will send up to the 300 military advisers to Iraq. As we discuss, there are several important considerations to bear in mind: Read more »

Struggling to Wrap Your Head Around the Iraq Policy Debate? Read This, That, and These.

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, June 18, 2014
iraq Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces stand guard during an intensive security deployment in Baghdad's Amiriya district, June 18, 2014. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Courtesy Reuters)

There’s little doubt that the security situation in Iraq is fast-moving; if you’re reading this even a few hours from now, the terrain will likely have shifted again. Amid the rhetoric about who to blame and what the United States should do next, it’s easy to lose sight of the broader picture—as well as the history that got us to this point.  Here are some of the best resources I’ve found to acquaint readers with some of the deeper issues at play:

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