Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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

by Janine Davidson and Guest Blogger for 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) 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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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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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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Weekend Reader: D-Day, Prisoners of War, and the Last Navajo Code Talker

by Janine Davidson Friday, June 6, 2014
d day anniversary British World War II veteran Frederick Glover poses for a photograph as soldiers parachute down during a D-Day commemoration paratroopers launch event in Ranville, northern France, on June 5, 2014. Some 3,000 veterans are among those attending ceremonies across the northern French coastline where Allied forces landed in the largest seaborne invasion in history to help speed up the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. (Thomas Bregardis/Courtesy Reuters)

D-Day: Seventy Years Ago Today. Our own William J. Parker offers an excellent commemoration for today’s anniversary. Elsewhere, The National Interest reminds us that hindsight is 20/20: the success of the landings at Normandy was far from a sure thing, and even as General Eisenhower did all he could to ensure D-Day’s success, he also prepared for the worst. Elsewhere, Foreign Policy reports on a forgotten massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane—one of the worst committed in occupied France—in the midst of the hasty Nazi withdrawal.

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Interview with KQED Radio: the Afghanistan Drawdown and the Strength of Enduring Alliances

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, June 4, 2014
us allies U.S. marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, March 31, 2014. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters)

I was recently interviewed by KQED Radio’s “Forum with Michael Krasny,” alongside Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Barry Pavel, vice president and director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with many of the themes discussed. Among my observations: Read more »

Weekend Reader: Shinseki Leaves the VA; Ukraine Heats Up

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 30, 2014
shinseki United States Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki arrives to address The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in Washington May 30, 2014. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary Eric Shinseki formally submits his resignation as head of Veterans Affairs. Foreign Policy has the story. Even as the chorus of voices calling for his resignation grew, the tone remained often respectful: Shinseki was always “a good man.” As the Huffington Post’s David Wood recounts, Shinseki, who took the reins of the VA following a 38-year Army career—where he rose to become Army Chief of Staff—may simply have trusted too much given his organization’s complexity and inherent flaws.  Time will tell who can replace him.

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The Obama Doctrine

by Janine Davidson Thursday, May 29, 2014
obama doctrine U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for a commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, May 28, 2014. Obama's commencement address was the first in a series of speeches that he and top advisers will use to explain U.S. foreign policy in the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and lay out a broad vision for the rest of his presidency. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama’s May 28 speech at West Point was long overdue. Chatter about America’s decline, the Pentagon’s budget crunch, deteriorating crises in Syria and Ukraine, and confusion over Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative—the Asia Rebalance—has left many questioning America’s ability or willingness to engage, much less lead, in the world.

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