Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Long Weekend Reader: As U.S. Celebrates Labor Day, Crises Simmer

by Janine Davidson Friday, August 29, 2014
Pro-Russian separatists walk past an unmarked grave at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk, August 28, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that Russian forces had entered his country and the military conflict was worsening after Russian-backed separatists swept into a key town in the east. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters) Pro-Russian separatists walk past an unmarked grave at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk, August 28, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that Russian forces had entered his country and the military conflict was worsening after Russian-backed separatists swept into a key town in the east. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

Invasion. As NATO confirms the presence of at least 1,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and releases these amazing satellite images showing actual Russian combat forces, including a convoy of self-propelled artillery, moving into Ukrainian territory and engaging in military operations. The Russian role in the conflict is no longer in doubt. According to the Russian presidential human rights council, 100 Russian soldiers have been killed in a single battle. Ivo Daalder, writing in the Financial Times, calls for a decisive response. The Washington Post observes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “hybrid war” is here to stay. CFR’s Stewart Patrick calls it “the definitive end of the ‘post-Cold War’ world.” And Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, delivers a scathing speech on the UN floor accusing Vladimir Putin of  flat out lying about its “deliberate effort to support, and now fight alongside, illegal separatists in another sovereign country.  The speech is worth reading in full.  Here is an excerpt:

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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) 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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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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The ISIS Propaganda Machine Is Horrifying and Effective. How Does It Work?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Thursday, August 21, 2014
This undated screen capture of an Islamic State propaganda video sees a masked jihadi standing before a computer generated map of IS territorial control. (Source: Counter Jihad Report) This undated screen capture of an Islamic State propaganda video sees a masked jihadi standing before a computer generated map of IS territorial control. (Source: Counter Jihad Report)

By Emerson Brooking

The Islamic State’s “A Message to America,” showing American journalist James Foley’s final moments, is vile and horrifying. Significantly, unlike the early propaganda of Al Qaeda, this video is also professionally cut and edited. It is the sort of thing engineered to achieve rapid, viral spread on the open internet. It also represents the main weapon the Islamic State is increasingly employing to great effect against the West.

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Weekend Reader: The Islamic State, the Russian Aid Convoy, Militarizing Police, and the Life of Robin Williams

by Janine Davidson Friday, August 15, 2014
Comedian Robin Williams signs autographs for servicemembers at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 17, 2007, during the second stop of the 2007 USO holiday tour. (Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Defense.gov) Comedian Robin Williams signs autographs for servicemembers at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 17, 2007, during the second stop of the 2007 USO holiday tour. (Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Defense.gov)

Who is the Islamic State? (or is it ISIS, ISIL, or something else?) Caerus Associates breaks down the origins and evolution of the Islamic State’s name in this handy reader, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Iraq and Syria.” For more reading on the strategic dilemma facing limited U.S. intervention in Iraq, check out my own piece on the Islamic State’s leveraging of the international community’s self-imposed boundaries.

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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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Weekend Reader: Remembering General Harold Greene; Air Strikes in Iraq

by Janine Davidson Friday, August 8, 2014
harold-greene Then-Brig. Gen. Harold Greene speaks at Natick, Mass., on his last day of command of the Natick Soldier Systems Center on May 10, 2011. Maj. Gen. Greene, the two-star Army general who on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be killed in either of America's post-9/11 wars, was an engineer who rose through the ranks as an expert in developing and fielding the Army's war materiel. He was on his first deployment to a war zone. (U.S. Army/AP)

U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene is killed in an August 5 “green on blue” attack at an Afghan base that wounds fifteen others. He was a devoted officer and father who had given more than thirty years of service. Greene held a Ph.D. in material sciences and had been long recognized for his collaborative, effective style of leadership. As War on the Rocks notes, this marks the first wartime death of a general officer since the Vietnam War.

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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.

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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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Weekend Reader: Afghan Election Turmoil, Dam Warfare, and the Geopolitics of the World Cup Final

by Janine Davidson Friday, July 11, 2014
afghanistan-election-defense-us Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a gathering with his supporters in Kabul, July 8, 2014. Abdullah told thousands of supporters on Tuesday he was the winner of last month's run-off election, putting himself on a collision course with his arch-rival, Ashraf Ghani. (Omar Sobhani /Courtesy Reuters)

Grim dispatches from Afghanistan’s “increasingly troubled” presidential election. With the world distracted, the news out of Afghanistan keeps getting worse. The likely loser, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused the government of “industrial-scale” fraud—and threatened not to accept the results. Meanwhile, a new United Nations report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan shows a sharp increase beginning in 2013, drawing the fate of the nation into deeper question.

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