Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Failure to Cooperate with Iran Against ISIS Will Open the Door To Greater Risk

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012, a day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters) Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012, a day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Courtesy Reuters)

By Ben Fernandes

This commentary comes courtesy of Major Ben Fernandes, U.S. Army, a CFR term member and PhD candidate at George Mason University. He argues that the issues of Iranian nuclear weapon development and the anti-ISIS effort cannot be viewed in isolation. A push to arm “moderate” Syrian rebels without Iranian consultation could quickly antagonize Iran, whose leaders do not draw the same distinctions between the Sunni militant groups. This could result in a renewed Iranian push for nuclear deterrent—and increase the risk of regional destabilization.

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Weekend Reader: What To Do About ISIS; General Allen To Lead the Effort; Vet Suicide Prevention

by Janine Davidson Friday, September 12, 2014
Members of the Kurdish peshmerga stand guard at a checkpoint at Tuz Khurmato village in Salahuddin Province June 26, 2014. (Ahmed Jadallah/Courtesy Reuters) Members of the Kurdish peshmerga stand guard at a checkpoint at Tuz Khurmato village in Salahuddin Province June 26, 2014. (Ahmed Jadallah/Courtesy Reuters)

What to do about ISIS? Following President Obama’s announcement of an expanded campaign against the Islamic State that will pair targeted air strikes with local capacity building for Kurds and Iraqi troops, a range of responses. Jim Lindsay argues that the campaign’s success will hinge on domestic American support. Peter Beinart believes that the threat to the homeland has been overstated. And Tom Ricks sees this as a continuation of a war that has raged uninterrupted since 1990.

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Thirteen Years Later, Echoes of 9/11 Shape Our Battles Still

by Janine Davidson Thursday, September 11, 2014
United States President Barack Obama pauses during a moment of silence at the Pentagon in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks in Washington September 11, 2014. Thursday marks the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) United States President Barack Obama pauses during a moment of silence at the Pentagon in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks in Washington September 11, 2014. Thursday marks the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Today, September 11, 2014, marks the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  Many of us recall that sunny day like it was yesterday.  We can still recount where we were when we heard the news; how we felt and what we did next.

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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: Hybrid War, the Al-Qaeda Counter-Caliphate, and Failing Military Hospitals

by Janine Davidson Friday, September 5, 2014
Pro-Russian separatists patrol an area near an orthodox church in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk September 5, 2014. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters) Pro-Russian separatists patrol an area near an orthodox church in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk September 5, 2014. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

NATO allies must prepare for “hybrid war.” This is the word from General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, as Russia’s encroachment and stealth invasion of Ukraine continues. Interestingly, as Steven Pifer notes in the National Interest, persistent Russian denials of entry into Ukraine may be domestically focused, intended to counter discontent over Russian military casualties. Regardless, as I first argued during the annexation of Crimea in March, “hybrid war” is here to stay.

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With Release of Steven Sotloff Execution Footage, ISIS Begins To Show Desperation

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Journalist Steven Sotloff's executioner, nicknamed "Jihad John" by British security services, gestures to the camera. The ISIS video, called "Second Message to America," leaked online September 2, 2014. (Source: Peru.com) Journalist Steven Sotloff's executioner, nicknamed "Jihad John" by British security services, gestures to the camera. The ISIS video, called "Second Message to America," leaked online September 2, 2014. (Source: Peru.com)

By Clint Hinote

This commentary comes courtesy of Colonel Clint Hinote, CFR’s U.S. Air Force fellow. Hinote evaluates the timing, context, and strategic intent of the September 2 ISIS propaganda video that shows the graphic execution of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff. He argues that the ISIS messaging strategy shows the “bankruptcy of the movement” and is beginning to show diminishing returns. This article follows Hinote’s analysis of the first “A Message to America” video.

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At Wales Summit, NATO Should Not Forget the War It’s Already Fighting

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, September 3, 2014
A French Army captain and mentor (L) supervises an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer during a shooting training session at the Kabul Military Training Center April 13, 2009. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters) A French Army captain and mentor (L) supervises an Afghan National Army (ANA) officer during a shooting training session at the Kabul Military Training Center April 13, 2009. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

This week,  NATO leaders will gather in Wales for the 2014 NATO summit—arguably the most important since the fall of the Berlin Wall.   The crisis in Ukraine and the growing challenge from ISIS are sure to dominate the agenda.  But as menacing as these threats are, NATO leaders should not forget about Afghanistan, where NATO’s International  Stability Assistance Force (ISAF) is struggling to bring this thirteen-year war to an end.  As our experience in Iraq should make abundantly clear, the pace and manner by which international troops (and aid dollars) withdraw and the durability of NATO’s commitment to the region will greatly influence what comes afterward.

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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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