Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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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On Iraq, No Quick or Easy Solution

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 13, 2014
iraq maliki A girl, who fled from the violence in Mosul, carries a case of water at a camp on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 12, 2014. Since Tuesday, black clad Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters have seized Iraq's second biggest city Mosul and Tikrit, home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as other towns and cities north of Baghdad. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

This week’s news from Iraq is nothing but tragic.  As forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took Mosul and Tikrit before turning toward Baghdad, the bulk of Iraqi forces laid down their arms and fled, demonstrating the mess Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made of the U.S.-trained and equipped Army that was left in his care just over two years ago.

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Weekend Reader: Iraq, Friendly Fire, and the Man Who Could Have Killed Hitler

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 13, 2014
isis-iraq Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. Since Tuesday, black clad ISIL fighters have seized Iraq's second biggest city Mosul and Tikrit, home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as other towns and cities north of Baghdad. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Iraq: simply a mess. As the Maliki government deteriorates in the face of city-seizing assaults by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, it has been difficult to keep up. Mosul has fallen; Baghdad is under threat; the Kurds have taken Kirkuk and Iran has deployed Revolutionary Guard forces to defend the Iraqi government. The United States and UN have responded with clear condemnation—but little else. At home, Tom Ricks shakes his head while Senator John McCain calls for the resignation of President Obama’s entire national security team. Meanwhile, as Dexter Filkins chillingly observes in the New Yorker, This is the real legacy of America’s War in Iraq.

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