Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Now Is the Time to Strengthen NATO’s Resolve

by Aaron Picozzi and Michael R. Fenzel Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) attend a meeting on Russian air force's activity in Syria at the national defence control center in Moscow, Russia, November 17, 2015. (Alexei Nikolskyi/SPUTNIK/Kremlin/Courtesy Reuters)

By Michael Fenzel and Aaron Picozzi

The November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and late October bombing of Russian Metrojet flight 9268 have not only crystallized the threat of the self-declared Islamic State to the world, but also created an unlikely opportunity to open a dialogue with Russia. However, these tragedies do not change the long-term threat Russia poses to stability in Europe. Russia’s encroachment in Eastern Europe is a threat to the security and stability of the continent and tests the resolve of NATO in an unprecedented way. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent military intervention in Syria is further evidence of his ambition to broaden Russian influence and capitalize on regional instability.

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The Start of a New Chapter in Iraqi Politics?

by Jane Arraf Monday, August 17, 2015
Protesters display a huge Iraqi flag during a demonstration against corruption and poor services in regard to power cuts and water shortages, in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad, August 14, 2015. (Mushtaq Muhammed/Courtesy Reuters)

By Jane Arraf

It takes a lot to get Iraqis angry enough to take the risk of demonstrating in the streets. They’ve learned the hard way the cost of public protests. But this week, mounting public anger over lack of government services and rampant corruption sparked the most sweeping reform plan in Iraq’s post-war history.

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Apache, Not Fort Apache: How a Light U.S. Footprint Can Help Defeat the Islamic State

by Robert A. Newson Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Then-Staff Sgt. Bart Decker, Air Force combat controller, on horseback with Northern Alliance forces. (U.S. Army/Wikimedia)

By Robert Newson

As Iraqi government forces struggle to hold their own against the self-declared Islamic State, the limitations of the current U.S. strategy have become clear. Our side is losing both individual battles and the larger war. Although the fight against the Islamic State will not be won by ground combat alone—Vietnam taught us too well the gap between tactical success and strategic victory—we must begin by winning on the battlefield. In turn, this will require a reexamination of how U.S. forces in the region operate, as well as what level of risk senior leaders are able to accept.

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ISIS Traces Its Roots to 2003

by Janine Davidson Thursday, February 26, 2015
A resident of Tabqa city touring the streets on a motorcycle waves an Islamist flag in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

This week, I had the opportunity to hear my friend Emma Sky speak at the New America Foundation’s first annual Future of War Conference, held here in Washington, DC.  Emma was General Ray Odierno’s political adviser during the 2007 “surge” in Iraq and is one of the smartest people I know (check out her new book about it all, The Unraveling, due to be released soon). Although she was only allotted three short minutes to speak on the panel, her message about the origins of ISIS and the shortfalls in the US strategy were as clear and compelling as they were depressing.

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Prioritize Operations, Ban PowerPoint: Ash Carter Is off to a Good Start

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, February 24, 2015
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (C) holds a regional security meeting at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait February 23, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

On February 17, Ash Carter was formally sworn in as the twenty-fifth Secretary of Defense. Within his first week on the job, he’s wrapped up intensive, fact-finding trips to both Afghanistan and Kuwait. This sends a powerful message about his priorities: although Carter previously distinguished himself as a thoughtful student of Pentagon bureaucracy, budgeting, and acquisitions, in his new role, current opsand getting the strategy rightcome first.

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In Recent Battles, the U.S. Has Forgotten How To Tell Its Side of the Story. It Must Remember.

by Robert A. Newson Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Maurice Greene from the USA carries his nation's flag following his team's victory in the men's 4X100m relay final at the Sydney Olympics September 30, 2000. (Ian Waldie/Courtesy Reuters)

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain Robert A. Newson, CFR’s U.S. Navy fellow and a SEAL officer. He argues that, by failing to provide a credible counter-narrative in recent contingencies involving ISIS and Russia, the United States has effectively ceded the information domain without a fight. Captain Newson argues that an effective information operations strategy will hinge on both long-term commitment and a willingness to expose audiences to the full complexity of political issues rather than resorting to misinformation and simplification.

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

by Emerson Brooking and 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)

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.

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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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