Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

Seven Defense Items To Look for in Tonight’s State of the Union Address

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, January 20, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2014. (Larry Downing /Courtesy Reuters)

Although military and defense issues are rarely the most prominent topic for the president’s annual State of the Union Address, many of us will still be listening closely tonight for how President Obama uses those few minutes devoted to national security and foreign affairs. 2014 saw serious setbacks and emerging challenges for U.S. international policy that must be handled. If history is a guide, Obama is also likely to look increasingly abroad in the final phase of his presidency. Here are seven defense-oriented issues I expect the president to acknowledge, and what I hope to hear him say about them: Read more »

With Normalized U.S.-Cuba Relations, Border Security Just Got a Lot More Complicated

by Pat DeQuattro Thursday, December 18, 2014
A U.S. Coast Guard boat takes part in a staged interdiction of a smuggling boat during training exercise off the coast of south Florida March 8, 2007. (Hans Deryk/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama’s surprise announcement yesterday about normalization in U.S.-Cuba relations will significantly change the nature of border security and border control on the waters in the Florida Straits that separate Cuba and South Florida.

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The Next Secretary of Defense Should Be Comfortable with Military and Civilians Alike

by Janine Davidson Sunday, November 30, 2014
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel walks out to welcome New Zealand's Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee at the Pentagon in Washington, November 24, 2014. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

In the wake of the November 24 announcement of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s pending resignation, the New York Times asked me to share my thoughts on what qualities the next secretary should embody. I was fortunate to join John Nagl, Lawrence Korb, and Kiron Skinner in this discussion. To view the full feature, please follow this link. See my own take below: Read more »

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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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 Emerson Brooking 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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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 »

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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