Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

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

In Recent Battles, the U.S. Has Forgotten How To Tell Its Side of the Story. It Must Remember.

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Maurice Greene from the USA carries his nation's flag following his team's victory in the men's 4X100m relay final at the Sydney Olympics September 30, 2000. (Ian Waldie/Courtesy Reuters) Maurice Greene from the USA carries his nation's flag following his team's victory in the men's 4X100m relay final at the Sydney Olympics September 30, 2000. (Ian Waldie/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert A. Newson

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain Robert A. Newson, CFR’s U.S. Navy fellow and a SEAL officer. He argues that, by failing to provide a credible counter-narrative in recent contingencies involving ISIS and Russia, the United States has effectively ceded the information domain without a fight. Captain Newson argues that an effective information operations strategy will hinge on both long-term commitment and a willingness to expose audiences to the full complexity of political issues rather than resorting to misinformation and simplification.

Read more »

Afghan Casualties “Not Sustainable;” The Return of Tiered Readiness; Russian Fracturing of NATO

by Janine Davidson Friday, November 7, 2014
Mohammad Zaman (R), a 45-year-old local policeman who was wounded in Daikundi province, and Abdul Basir, a 25-year-old national policeman who was wounded in Zabul, sit at an ICRC hospital for war victims at the Orthopedic Center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, August 26, 2014. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters) Mohammad Zaman (R), a 45-year-old local policeman who was wounded in Daikundi province, and Abdul Basir, a 25-year-old national policeman who was wounded in Zabul, sit at an ICRC hospital for war victims at the Orthopedic Center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, August 26, 2014. (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

Afghan troop troubles linger in a transforming nation. Afghan forces suffered 4,634 casualties this year—a jump from 4,350 in 2013. Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson commented that these casualty numbers are “not sustainable.” As U.S. troop levels dwindle (with 9,800 left in Afghanistan by early 2015), it will be crucial that Afghan forces become self-sufficient.

Read more »

New Estimates of the Cost of the ISIS Fight; Baltic-Russia Tensions; The Looming U.S. Midterms

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 31, 2014
A Kurdish boy has his face painted with the U.S. and the Kurdish flags as he waits to greet Peshmerga fighters near the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province October 29, 2014. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters) A Kurdish boy has his face painted with the U.S. and the Kurdish flags as he waits to greet Peshmerga fighters near the border town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province October 29, 2014. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

The new daily cost of operations against ISIS: $8.3 million per dayThis latest Pentagon estimate is a marked increase from last week’s estimate of $7.6 million per day. The total cost of anti-ISIS operations has now likely passed $1 billion. In the Best Defense, Colonel Gary Anderson, USMC (ret.) argues that the effort against ISIS will grow more effective if U.S. policymakers admit that they have adopted a containment strategy. Meanwhile, ISIS itself seems to have mixed up its social media strategy, responding directly to reports by mainstream Western press.

Read more »

“Syria’s Stalingrad;” The Hunt for a Submarine (?) in October

by Janine Davidson Friday, October 24, 2014
Smoke and flames rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 20, 2014. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Courtesy Reuters) Smoke and flames rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 20, 2014. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

Kobani: “Syria’s Stalingrad?” Although, according to Pentagon officials, the Turkish-Syrian border city of Kobani does not play a significant part in broader anti-ISIS operations in the region, it appears to be assuming a significant strategic value due to the fierce media battle now being waged by both ISIS and Kurdish forces. Although ISIS forces have reportedly lost momentum in the past few days, the Pentagon concedes the town could still fall.  More broadly, the United States announced that it killed 521 ISIS militants and 32 civilians in its first month of Syrian bombing. And more broadly still, the outlook for Syria has darkened considerably in the past few months. A RAND Institute “Alternative Futures” study now suspects that operational momentum has shifted back to the Assad government—with grave consequences for the region.

Read more »

Weekend Reader: Poroshenko Speaks from the Floor of Congress; Australia Foils an ISIS Terror Attack

by Janine Davidson Friday, September 19, 2014
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko (C) gestures while addressing a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 18, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) listen from behind Poroshenko. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko (C) gestures while addressing a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 18, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) listen from behind Poroshenko. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks to the American public in a rare joint session of Congress. “Don’t let Ukraine stand alone,” he said in the September 18 address, pleading for direct military supplies. In a U.S. aid package announced the same day, such armaments were noticeably absent. Meanwhile, new Russian mobilizations on the Ukraine-Crimean border suggest that they are prepared to open a new front. And in Russia, BBC journalists have been injured in a coordinated attack by unidentified individuals following their investigation of the death of a Russian soldier, killed “in military exercises on the Ukrainian border.”

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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:

Read more »

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.

Read more »

In Russian Aid Convoy Standoff, There Are Three Scenarios. Only One Is Good

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, August 13, 2014
russia-convoy-putin A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, behind a police escort, stops along a road near the city of Yelets, August 12, 2014. The convoy carrying tonnes of humanitarian aid left on Tuesday for eastern Ukraine, where government forces are closing in on pro-Russian rebels, but Kiev said it would not allow the vehicles to cross onto its territory. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

As of Wednesday morning, 280 Russian trucks are en route to the Ukrainian border supposedly to supply aid as part of a humanitarian mission run by the Red Cross.  Amidst accusations that the trucks are part of a Russian “Trojan Horse,” Ukraine is refusing to allow the trucks entry until they have been thoroughly inspected and verified by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Read more »

With Russian “Peacekeepers” Poised at Border, Putin Is Still Escalating

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, August 5, 2014
ukraine-russia-war A member of Ukrainian self-defence battalion "Donbass" guards the area as his colleagues deliver medicines and medical equipment captured from pro-Russian separatists to the staff (back) of a local hospital in the eastern Ukrainian town of Popasna August 4, 2014. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Courtesy Reuters)

According to The New York Times, this weekend has seen an immense build-up of Russian forces poised along the Ukrainian border. This comes at the same time that the Ukrainian military has launched its long-awaited assault on Donetsk, urging civilians to evacuate from the rebel-held “people’s republics.” The Ukrainian separatists are encircled and increasingly desperate; the pressure for Russia to act is mounting. As I wrote last week, the stage is being set for a Russian invasion under the guise of a “peacekeeping” operation. Vehicles arrayed just over the border reportedly bear the insignia of Russian peacekeeping forces.

Read more »