Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

Guest Post: Jokowi’s Small Victory Over Corruption in Indonesia

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attends a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta July 9, 2014. (Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters) Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attends a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta July 9, 2014. (Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

This blog post was authored by Timothy F. Higgins, a graduate of the University of St. Andrews with an MA in political philosophy.

The recent presidential victory of Joko Widodo (popularly known as “Jokowi”) has the potential to be a watershed moment in Southeast Asian politics. For the first time in Indonesia’s (albeit short) history as an independent nation, control of its government will pass from one democratically elected leader to another in relative peace. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones in Iraq, U.S.-China, and Hackers

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 25, 2014
Zhao Xiaogang, drill director of the Chinese fleet participating in the RIMPAC multi-national military exercise, gives a statement during a news conference kicking off the exercise at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 30, 2014. (Gentry/Courtesy Reuters) Zhao Xiaogang, drill director of the Chinese fleet participating in the RIMPAC multi-national military exercise, gives a statement during a news conference kicking off the exercise at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 30, 2014. (Gentry/Courtesy Reuters)

David Cenciotti, “Armed U.S. Predator Drone Appears Over Iraq,” Aviationist, July 25, 2014.

Allegedly filmed in the skies over Anbar, south of Mosul, in Iraq, the video below shows what clearly seems to be an MQ-1 Predator. As some analysts noticed the aircraft appears to be armed with Hellfire missiles, even if the first images are a bit too blurry to say it with certainty. Read more »

What’s the Pentagon’s Plan for the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund and Syria?

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 18, 2014

On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing with senior Pentagon officials to review the Pentagon’s FY2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget request of $58.6 billion. Included in that request are $5 billion for the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, of which $500 million would go to training and equipping Syrian rebels. By definition, OCO funding is outside of the normal budgeting process, and is intended to fund requirements that emerged after the federal budget was proposed on March 4. However, the hearing revealed that there is no publicly articulable plan for how the Pentagon will spend this money, only that it is being developed. Thus, given all of the existing security assistance budget authorities, many congressional members have legitimate concerns that this could become a slush fund. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Israel-Palestine Death Toll, Iraq Drone Strikes, and Afghan Civilians

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 11, 2014
Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip July 9, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip July 9, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Media Availability with Secretary Hagel at Eglin AFB, Florida, U.S. Department of Defense, July 10, 2014.

SEC. HAGEL: A lot of questions always come with any possibility or decision whether to take strikes or not. So those are all questions that are being asked and factors are being—are put into the process. And those are still options. Read more »

Guest Post: What to Call Dictators’ “Elections”

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Friday, June 27, 2014
Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma cast their votes in the country's presidential elections at a polling station in Damascus on June 3, 2014. (SANA News Agency Handout/Courtesy Reuters) Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma cast their votes in the country's presidential elections at a polling station in Damascus on June 3, 2014. (SANA News Agency Handout/Courtesy Reuters)

Mitchel Hochberg is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action.

Using a term like “coerced balloting” to describe elections held by autocrats would make it easier for Western policymakers and analysts to distinguish between democratic polls and those in which voters have no real choice. Cementing this distinction would make it harder for dictators to gain legitimacy at home and abroad by leveraging the democratic connotations attached to the word “elections” in Western media. The significance of free elections held by democratizing U.S. partners are also cheapened when they are complimented with a term used to describe both exemplary and farcical votes. Read more »

Guest Post: What’s in Store for Kashmir Under Modi?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, June 19, 2014
Boys peer through the gate of a police station to look at bodies of suspected militants in Lalpora, located north of Srinagar, on February 25, 2014. (Danish Ismail/Courtesy Reuters) Boys peer through the gate of a police station to look at bodies of suspected militants in Lalpora, located north of Srinagar, on February 25, 2014. (Danish Ismail/Courtesy Reuters)

Anna Feuer is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state and a historical flashpoint for separatist violence, terrorism, and border tensions, has enjoyed relative peace since 2010. Read more »

One Decade of Drone Strikes in Pakistan

by Micah Zenko Monday, June 16, 2014

In May 2002, Gen. John Keane, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, vowed: “We have broken their will and they are trying to establish another safe haven now in Pakistan…when the time is right, we will deal with that one as well.” Indeed, two years later, his prediction came to pass on June 17, 2004, when a Hellfire missile killed Taliban commander Nek Mohammed, beginning the CIA campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan that continues to this day. One decade later, the United States has conducted a total of 371 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing an estimated 2,878, of which 376 were civilians. Read more »

What Would Air Strikes in Iraq Achieve?

by Micah Zenko Friday, June 13, 2014
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Demands by current policymakers to use military force are rarely accompanied by a specific objective of what it is intended to achieve. In the binary debate about what to do in Iraq, several policymakers have called for air strikes with some assertion of why and what they would accomplish. See below for an early collection and judge for yourself the validity of their claims. Read more »

Time to Rethink Syria

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, May 27, 2014
UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014. (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters) UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014. (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters)

Julie Anderson is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

After three years of recurring conflict, an estimated 162,000 people killed (10,000 in the last two months), and millions displaced, international policies to stem the violence in Syria have been a clear failure. These efforts hit a new low on May 13 when United Nations (UN) mediator Lakhdar Brahimi resigned from his post, citing frustrations with the diplomatic process and the lack of common ground from which to build a negotiated solution. As the Syrian government, opposition forces, and international powers, particularly the United States and Russia, continue to stake out entrenched positions, and the regime prepares for sham elections in June, many have questioned if the Syrian conflict is ripe for a mediated solution. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: One Year After Obama’s Drone Speech

by Micah Zenko Friday, May 23, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his administration's counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his administration's counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Harold Hongju Koh, “Ending the Forever War: One Year After President Obama’s NDU Speech,” JustSecurity.org, May 23, 2014.

The President’s historic move in that speech was to call for the eventual repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and the end of what I had called at the Oxford Union the “Forever War”… Read more »