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.

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You Might Have Missed: Recent Academic Journal Findings II

by Micah Zenko
The Artron Wall on display at the 11th International Culture Industry Fair in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, on May 14, 2015. (Stringer/Reuters) The Artron Wall on display at the 11th International Culture Industry Fair in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, on May 14, 2015. (Stringer/Reuters)

Six months ago, I published the first blog in this series, highlighting earlier academic findings.

Jeffrey Stamp, “Aero-Static Warfare: A Brief Survey of Ballooning in Mid-nineteenth-century Siege Warfare,” The Journal of Military History, 79(3), July 2015, pp. 767-782. Read more »

Book Review – “The Hillary Doctrine: Sex & American Foreign Policy”

by Micah Zenko
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in San Francisco on June 20, 2015. (Lam/Reuters) Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in San Francisco on June 20, 2015. (Lam/Reuters)

During her confirmation hearing to become secretary of state, Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in no uncertain terms, “I want to pledge to you that as secretary of state I view [women’s] issues as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser than all of the other issues that we have to confront.” A thoughtful and nuanced new book by Valerie M. Hudson and Patricia Leidl, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex & American Foreign Policy, evaluates to what extent Secretary Clinton has fulfilled this pledge. Read more »

Guest Post: Preventing Conflict Escalation and State Collapse in Libya

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Newly-graduated Libyan police officers march during their graduation ceremony in Tripoli, Libya, on June 8, 2015. (Zitouny/Reuters) Newly-graduated Libyan police officers march during their graduation ceremony in Tripoli, Libya, on June 8, 2015. (Zitouny/Reuters)

Samantha Andrews is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Sunday, the United States carried out an airstrike in Libya that reportedly killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and mastermind behind the 2013 seizure of an Algerian gas plant that killed thirty-eight hostages. Since the collapse of the Muammar al-Qadaffi regime in 2011, Libya has experienced an unprecedented level of instability and violence, fostering a safe haven for international terrorists like Belmokhtar. Read more »

Guest Post: Looking Forward on UN Peacekeepers Day

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Members of the armed forces of the Philippines contingent joining the UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti salute during a sending-off ceremony at the Villamor air base in Manila on September 22, 2014. (Ranoco/Reuters) Members of the armed forces of the Philippines contingent joining the UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti salute during a sending-off ceremony at the Villamor air base in Manila on September 22, 2014. (Ranoco/Reuters)

Amelia M. Wolf is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action and the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2002, the UN General Assembly designated May 29 as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers to honor current and former peacekeepers, and well as those who have lost their lives. In the sixty-seven years since the first peacekeeping mission was established, more than one million people have served in seventy-one peacekeeping operations, and 3,358 military, police, and civilian personnel died while serving. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes, Nation-building, and the U.S. Aviation Inventory

by Micah Zenko

Elisabeth Bumiller, “Soldier, Thinker, Hunter, Spy: Drawing a Bead on Al Qaeda,” New York Times, September 3, 2011.

In Mr. [Michael] Vickers’s [top adviser to then-secretary of defense Leon E. Panetta] assessment, there are perhaps four important Qaeda leaders left in Pakistan, and 10 to 20 leaders over all in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Even if the United States kills them all in drone strikes, Mr. Vickers said, “You still have Al Qaeda, the idea.” Read more »

CIA Director: We’re Winning the War on Terror, But It Will Never End

by Micah Zenko
CIA Director John Brennan speaks at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 7, 2015. (Ertl/Courtesy Reuters) CIA Director John Brennan speaks at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 7, 2015. (Ertl/Courtesy Reuters)

Last night, Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan participated in a question-and-answer session at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. The first thirty-seven minutes consisted of an unusually probing exchange between Brennan and Harvard professor Graham Allison (full disclosure: Graham is a former boss of mine). Most notably, between 19:07 and 29:25 in the video, Allison pressed Brennan repeatedly about whether the United States is winning the war on terrorism and why the number of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups has only increased since 9/11: “There seem to be more of them than when we started…How are we doing?” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Recent Academic Journal Findings

by Micah Zenko
(Free for commercial use/No attribution required) (Free for commercial use/No attribution required)

Simon Frankel Pratt, “Crossing off names: the logic of military assassination,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 26(1), 2015, pp. 3-23.

Those governments or commentators who publically advocate the use of military means to kill specific enemies have in recent times generally preferred terms such as ‘targeted killing.’ (p. 3)

The following proposed definition should not suffer from the problems of its predecessors, and thus offer a solid beginning for further exploration of assassination as a strategic concept: Read more »

Guest Post: Tiptoeing Around Iran in Iraq

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard on August 18, 2014, near the town of Makhmur, south of Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)insurgents withdrew. (Boudlal: Courtesy Reuters) Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard on August 18, 2014, near the town of Makhmur, south of Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)insurgents withdrew. (Boudlal: Courtesy Reuters)

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

Iraq appears to be coming apart at the seams. The Sunni terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has expanded dramatically across Iraq over the past few months and murdered more than fourteen hundred Iraqis in August alone, and Iran is one-upping the United States in efforts to regain control. Both countries are actively involved in Iraq’s crisis, but have differing objectives for the future of the country. As the Obama administration strategizes on how to address the threat of ISIS, it should continue to build a coalition and refrain from working solely with Iran. Read more »

Guest Post: A Cold Warrior’s Foreign Policy Advice for Obama

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during an interview with Reuters at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels on August 11, 2014. Rasmussen said he saw a "high probability" that Russia could intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine. (Herman/Courtesy Reuters) NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during an interview with Reuters at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels on August 11, 2014. Rasmussen said he saw a "high probability" that Russia could intervene militarily in eastern Ukraine. (Herman/Courtesy Reuters)

Harry Oppenheimer is a research associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The conviction of John Foster Dulles—Secretary of State under Eisenhower in the 1950s, shaper of NATO, and lead architect of Rollback—about the most effective method of maintaining global peace and stability stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s foreign policy of remaining flexible and cautious. At the center of Dulles’ strong beliefs, as he remarked in his book War or Peace, was the importance of clear intentions in international affairs. “It is the theory and hope of the proponents of the [NATO] treaty that by thus making clear in advance what we will do in the event of an attack on Western Europe, that attack will not, in fact, occur.” Read more »

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

by Micah Zenko
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 »