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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Showing posts for "Conflict Resolution"

Why a Syria Safe Zone Still Won’t Work or Protect Civilians

by Micah Zenko
Residents inspect damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 4, 2016. (Ismail/Reuters) Residents inspect damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 4, 2016. (Ismail/Reuters)

Respected former U.S. diplomats Nicholas Burns and James Jeffrey published a Washington Post op-ed today, calling on the U.S. military to lead the creation of a “safe zone” in northern Syria. The authors propose, “to locate it over twenty-five to thirty miles south of the Turkish border….Its central purpose would be to help local forces drive out the Islamic State and to provide a haven for civilians until the war can be brought to a close.” Burns and Jeffrey further acknowledge some of the difficulties involved with their proposal, admitting that, “the United States would have to deploy U.S. soldiers on the ground inside Syria along the Turkish border in order to recruit the majority of the zone’s soldiers from Turkey and other NATO allies, as well as the Sunni Arab states.” This safe haven would be further protected by a no-fly zone operating primarily out of Turkish airbases. Read more »

Chuck Hagel’s Revealing Insight Into Obama’s Syria Strategy

by Micah Zenko
Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel walks during a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on January 28, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters) Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel walks during a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on January 28, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters)

Last week, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave his first extended interview since resigning as Pentagon chief in November 2014. The curated interview with Foreign Policy is worth reading in its entirety, if for nothing else than the insights into how White House officials and staffers micromanaged Department of Defense decisions; Hagel claims that staffers would call generals “asking fifth-level questions that the White House should not be involved in.” (This would not be the first or last White House charged with this degree of oversight.) Read more »

Presidential Candidates Use of Force Tracker

by Micah Zenko and Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Governor John Kasich (OH), former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), former governor Jeb Bush (FL), Governor Chris Christie (NJ) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) pose before the start of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 15, 2015. (Becker/Reuters) Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Governor John Kasich (OH), former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), former governor Jeb Bush (FL), Governor Chris Christie (NJ) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) pose before the start of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 15, 2015. (Becker/Reuters)

This blog post was coauthored with my research associate, Amelia M. Wolf.

Presidential campaigns are largely consequence-free environments unburdened by the pressures and responsibilities that come with actually sitting in the White House. A candidate can say or pledge to do anything no matter how troubling, costly, or unlikely. The one policy recommendation that every presidential candidate has strongly endorsed during this election cycle—with differing degrees of scope and intensity— is the use of military power. With the sixteen-month war against the self-declared Islamic State stalemated and the percentage of Americans naming “national security and terrorism” the top federal government priority having nearly doubled since April, appeals to force have played an unusually significant role this presidential campaign. This is unsurprising, since military force remains the most responsive, fungible, and destructive foreign-policy tool that a candidate can propose. Unfortunately, the military options put forth may sound tough, but they are rarely articulated in a concrete and actionable manner, which makes it difficult to evaluate the wisdom of the proposals. Read more »

Guest Post: Obama, Don’t Cross the Rubicon in Syria

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A member of al-Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, Syria, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province on May 29, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters) A member of al-Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, Syria, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province on May 29, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters)

Bogdan Belei is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On his way to Rome in 49 BCE, Julius Caesar paused before crossing the Rubicon. With only a single legion under his command, and outnumbered two to one by Pompey’s legions, the general faced the serious threat of defeat if he committed his forces to invade Rome. Ultimately, Caesar led his army to victory and solidified the Roman Empire. But the decision to fight his opposition was driven by the reality that Caesar had only one alternative to victory: surrender. Read more »

Guest Post: Unfreezing the Ukraine Conflict

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015. (Lamarque/Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015. (Lamarque/Reuters)

Andrew Kenealy is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations

For some in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the ongoing low-level skirmish between Ukrainian and Russian/separatist forces has faded into the background of daily life. The nightly shelling barely affects the normal existence of Ukrainians: grocers have enough to sell in shops, public gathering spots are crowded on warm days, and reservations are still difficult to book at the best restaurants on the weekends. But despite the perception of calm, the death toll from the conflict is unsettling. After eighteen months of fighting, nearly eight thousand lives have been lost, another thirty thousand people have been wounded, and more than 1.5 million are internally displaced. Read more »

What Threats or Conflicts Will Emerge or Escalate in 2016?

by Micah Zenko
A follower of the Houthi movement raises his rifle during a rally against the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on October 2, 2015. (al-Sayaghi/Reuters) A follower of the Houthi movement raises his rifle during a rally against the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on October 2, 2015. (al-Sayaghi/Reuters)

Along with presidential campaigns comes an array of what candidates deem the greatest threat to the United States. Senator Ted Cruz said in July, “The single greatest threat to the United States, if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, is that of an electromagnetic pulse,” while Dr. Ben Carson during September’s presidential debate referred to “global jihadists” as an “existential threat to our nation.” Read more »

Guest Post: Closing the Rhetoric-Reality Gap on R2P

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Migrants from Syria walk along a road in the village of Miratovac near the town of Presevo, Serbia on August 24, 2015. (Djurica/Reuters) Migrants from Syria walk along a road in the village of Miratovac near the town of Presevo, Serbia on August 24, 2015. (Djurica/Reuters)

Bruce W. Jentleson is a professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the 2015-16 Kissinger chair at the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress.

Jenna Karp is a Duke University senior studying public policy and global health and an intern in the State Department Foreign Service Internship Program. Read more »

The Realities of Using Force to Protect Civilians in Syria

by Micah Zenko
A man holds a girl who survived what activists said was heavy shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus on June 16, 2015. (Khabieh/Reuters) A man holds a girl who survived what activists said was heavy shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus on June 16, 2015. (Khabieh/Reuters)

Yesterday, the New York Times published an infographic, “Death in Syria,” that presents the more than 200,000 combatants and noncombatants who have been killed in the four-and-a-half-year Syrian civil war. The Times’ website relies upon estimates “provided by the Violations Documentation Center [VDC] and are as of Sept. 9, 2015.” This non-governmental organization (NGO) claims to use a three-stage process for gathering and documenting information from within Syria, and verifying its accuracy to the best extent possible. The VDC notes that it strives for “conveying the truth as it is on the condition that those data and information are being regularly reviewed, checked and revised.” Read more »

Guest Post: Endgame in Colombia – The Need for a Bilateral Ceasefire

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters) Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters)

Patrick Romano is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’s unrelenting opposition to negotiating a bilateral ceasefire with left-wing guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) threatens to derail current peace talks and indefinitely perpetuate the longest conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Though the war began in 1964, over the past fifty years more than 220,000 Colombians—80 percent civilians—have lost their lives and more than five million have been displaced. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Whack-a-mole, Sugary Drinks, and Libya

by Micah Zenko
Cans of soda are displayed in a case at a convenience store in San Diego, California on February 13, 2014. (Hodgson/Reuters) Cans of soda are displayed in a case at a convenience store in San Diego, California on February 13, 2014. (Hodgson/Reuters)