Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

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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This Is What a Twenty-First Century U.S. Naval Strategy Looks Like

by Robert A. Newson Wednesday, May 13, 2015
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) prepares for flight operations in the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 8, 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King/U.S. Navy/Flickr)

Naval strategy is in the news: Cooperative Strategy 21 (CS-21R) was released in April; the surface warfare community is discussing its supporting strategy,  ‘Distributed Lethality;’ the Secretary of the Navy released his Navy’s Innovation Visionand the HASC  Subcommittee on Seapower and Force Projection has been active with hearings and testimony from strategists.

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Time for Congress to Reconsider the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund

by Sam Ehrlich Thursday, May 7, 2015
U.S. Special Operations Command Africa commanding general Brigadier General James Linder (R) shakes hands with a Nigerien military officer during Flintlock 2014, a U.S.-led international training mission for African militaries, in Niamey, March 9, 2014. (Joe Penne/Courtesy Reuters)

In his address to West Point cadets last May, President Obama announced a new plan to combat the spread of terrorism in Africa and the Middle East, specifically through the use of a $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF). By August 2014, the White House drafted a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism efforts in Africa. The statement included a plan to partner with and train African militaries to fight against al-Shabab, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda, among others.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Is the Partner the United States Needs to Get the Job Done

by Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson Thursday, March 26, 2015
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, March 26, 2015. (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

If there is one thing we have learned from the painful experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that success in such missions requires political as much as military solutions. This is why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore worked together just before leaving office to jointly publish their interagency 2009 U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide. In contrast to the U.S. Army’s Counterinsurgency: FM 3-24 (arguably the most famous doctrine ever released, published by General David Petraeus in 2006), this little handbook was aimed squarely at policymakers.

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Korea: Not a Shrimp Anymore

by Clint Hinote Thursday, March 26, 2015
South Korean honor guards perform before a joint commissioning ceremony for 6,478 new officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines at the military headquarters in Gyeryong March 12, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters)

South Korea faces a great challenge, and it has a great opportunity. Its handling of a relatively obscure issue will provide great insight into its future in a vital and volatile area.

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Engage…or Isolate?

by Robert A. Newson Tuesday, February 17, 2015
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan (R) listen to the Chinese national anthem during a welcoming ceremony at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters, prior to their meeting in Beijing April 8, 2014. (Alex Wong/Courtesy Reuters)

Engage or isolate? This is the national security question that will drive the United States’ response to near-peer competitors like China and Russia, destabilizing middle powers like Iran and North Korea, and even the relatively powerless Cuba. Consistent engagement, even with adversary states, is beneficial. It can help avoid miscalculations, improve U.S. ability to clarify intentions, and decipher ambiguous signals. It also can increase understanding of adversary motivations and interests, which facilitates negotiation and potential development of conflict off-ramps. Conversely, isolation can limit adversaries’ options, negatively feed their fears, and wound their pride—obstructing alternative, preferred paths.

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Putin’s Invasion Continues to Widen. Let’s Give Ukraine What It Needs to Push Back.

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, February 3, 2015
A Ukrainian serviceman is seen during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Pesky village, near Donetsk January 21, 2015. (Oleksandr Klymenko/Courtesy Reuters)

Amid renewed fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists (as well as Russian regulars), the New York Times reports that U.S. senior officials are finally considering providing lethal aid to Ukraine’s beleaguered military. U.S. advocates reportedly include General Phillip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of State John Kerry; and even national security adviser Susan Rice, who has been critical of such proposals to date. This potential shift comes at a critical time: according to NATO, Ukrainian separatists, with substantial support from Russian forces, have captured 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of new territory since the “official” September 5 ceasefire. Likewise, the deployment of Russian heavy armor and artillery has accelerated since the beginning of 2015, sending a clear signal that Vladimir Putin intends—at best—to keep Ukraine in a state of bloody stasis. At worst,  he could expand his invasion further.

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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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Bob Work Speaks: Out of the Spotlight, The Asia-Pacific Rebalance Continues on Course

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, October 1, 2014
U.S. And Philippine soldiers pose for photos in front of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an Air Operations and Aircraft Static Display as part of the BALIKATAN 2013 (shoulder-to-shoulder) combined U.S.-Philippines military exercise at the formerly U.S. bases, Clark Air Base, Pampanga province, north of Manila April 13, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations hosted Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work on September 30 for one of his first public events since his confirmation five months ago. Work, an experienced hand in maritime strategy and force disposition, explained the quiet steps by which the military rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has continued on course. Amid the loud headlines out of Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, it is easy to forget that much of U.S. foreign policy is still being developed in anticipation of a “Pacific Century.” While unexpected contingencies like ISIS have dictated the tempo and focus of deployed troops, they have, according to Deputy Secretary Work, not hindered the overall rebalance, which largely continues apace.

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The Anti-ISIS Campaign Has Expanded Into Syria. What Comes Next?

by Emerson Brooking and Janine Davidson Tuesday, September 23, 2014
isis-syria-cruise-missile A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched against ISIL targets from the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, in the Red Sea September 23, 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez Ii/Courtesy Reuters)

By Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking

On September 22, the air campaign against ISIS expanded into Syria in a coordinated attack that included 47 Tomahawk missiles and nearly 50 coalition aircraft. This action had been all but inevitable since the commencement of overflight reconnaissance in Syria on August 26. Significantly, these strikes also included targets of the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate unrelated to ISIS. Also significantly, five Arab militaries—Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Qatar—participated in the operation. At this stage, there are three important questions to address: the targeting of the strikes, the implications of this action, and potential challenges that might await the operation moving forward.

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