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 "Military Policy"

How Obama Goes to War (Syria Version)

by Micah Zenko
Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters) Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters)

 

On September 16, 2014, there was a brief exchange regarding the nascent war against the self-declared Islamic State—totally unnoticed at the time—between the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the secretary of defense: Read more »

What Will Obama Do for Syrian Rebels?

by Micah Zenko
Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters) Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on a frontline in Mork town on March 8, 2015. (Ashawi/Reuters)

Without any formal announcement from Washington, the United States became further militarily committed to the civil war in Syria last week. It was reported that the first wave of a few dozen U.S.-trained Syrian rebels had crossed the Jordanian border into Syria on July 12. They were reportedly instructed to integrate themselves into other rebel units in order to increase the opposition forces’ overall combat effectiveness. Commander Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson, wrote that rebels are expected to “coordinate with other moderate opposition forces to build trust between organizations that are countering ISIL.” 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)

Guest Post: The Rise of the Islamic State in Yemen

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
People stand next to wreckage at the site of a June 29, 2015, car bomb attack in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, that was claimed by Islamic State and killed twenty-eight people. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters) People stand next to wreckage at the site of a June 29, 2015, car bomb attack in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, that was claimed by Islamic State and killed twenty-eight people. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Today’s reported car bombing in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, is further evidence that, while the self-declared Islamic State may currently be the underdog in the jihadi rivalry unfolding in Yemen, it is steadily becoming stronger. Political instability resulting from the Houthi uprising, and subsequent Saudi-led intervention, has created a power vacuum in which the Islamic State is exerting its influence. Combined with its recent string of deadly attacks in Yemen and increase in affiliate groups, the group poses a direct challenge to Yemen’s largest jihadist group—al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Read more »

Comparing the Islamic State Air War with History

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at their joint news conference at the Pentagon on July 1, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters) U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at their joint news conference at the Pentagon on July 1, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters)

With President Barack Obama visiting the Pentagon to assess progress in the U.S.-led air campaign against the self-declared Islamic State, which enters its twelfth month this week, it is a good time to evaluate a main criticism of the air war: not enough bombs are being dropped. Policymakers, retired military officials, and pundits offer a variety of reasons for this lack of airstrikes. Some claim that Washington-created rules of engagement are restricting whole categories of targets (particularly oil convoys heading to Turkey), others that military lawyers conducting collateral damage estimates are prohibiting strikes that might cause unwanted harm, or that there are no U.S. joint tactical air controllers on the ground to call in precision strikes. Read more »

Deepening the U.S. Military Commitment in Iraq

by Micah Zenko
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions about an apparent bomb threat after evacuated journalists returned to the press briefing room at the White House in Washington on June 9, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters). White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions about an apparent bomb threat after evacuated journalists returned to the press briefing room at the White House in Washington on June 9, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters).

Yesterday, the White House announced the deployment of “450 additional U.S. military personnel to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province.” It is easy to conceive of this latest limited addition of U.S. troops to Iraq, and nearby countries, in isolation, and as the logical and necessary next-step in the expanding campaign against ISIL. However, the White House has been announcing troop deployments, with varying justifications and objectives, for over a year now. If you are one of the few people truly interested in how the United States has gradually slid into this open-ended conflict, with little public debate, and zero congressional input, it is worthwhile to review some of the notable milestones along the way. Read more »

Does U.S. Foreign Policy Spur National Security Threats?

by Micah Zenko
CIA Director John Brennan listens to remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Director of National Intelligence Office to mark its 10th anniversary on April 24, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters) CIA Director John Brennan listens to remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama at the Director of National Intelligence Office to mark its 10th anniversary on April 24, 2015. (Gripas/Reuters)

Yesterday on “Face the Nation,” CIA Director John Brennan made an unnoticed but significant acknowledgement about the conduct and consequences of U.S. foreign policy and the ongoing war on terrorism. Asked whether President Obama “seems to be just trying to buy time here, that he’s not ready to make a full commitment here in this war on terrorism and basically is just trying to keep things together well enough that he can leave it to the next president to resolve it. Do you see that?” Brennan responded: Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Assassination Plots, Drone Strikes, and Women Special Operators

by Micah Zenko
Second Lt. Johanna Shaffer shares a cookie with an Afghan child while under the security of Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, during her all-female team's first mission in Farah Province in 2009. (Burton/Reuters) Second Lt. Johanna Shaffer shares a cookie with an Afghan child while under the security of Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, during her all-female team's first mission in Farah Province in 2009. (Burton/Reuters)

Memorandum From the President’s Counselor (Marsh) to President Ford, Foreign Relations of the United States 1917-1972, Volume XXXVIII, Part 2, Document 55, U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, October 29, 1975. Read more »

Preventing Conflict in Cyberspace Triggered by Miscalculation

by Micah Zenko
A technician monitors power output in the control room at the operating nuclear power plant in France. (Tessier/Courtesy Reuters) A technician monitors power output in the control room at the operating nuclear power plant in France. (Tessier/Courtesy Reuters)

What constitutes an act of war in cyberspace? What should be U.S. response options to a consequential cyberattack? These questions are repeatedly asked at Congressional hearings with U.S. officials struggling to provide satisfactory answers.

Today, the Center for Preventive Action released a Contingency Planning Memorandum, “Strategic Risks of Ambiguity in Cyberspace,” which I am tremendously proud to say directly addresses these issues and much more. Read more »

Is U.S. Foreign Policy Making Americans Less Safe?

by Micah Zenko
FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson listen during President Barack Obama's speech about the National Security Agency (NSA) at the Justice Department in Washington on January 17, 2014. (Lamarque/Reuters) FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson listen during President Barack Obama's speech about the National Security Agency (NSA) at the Justice Department in Washington on January 17, 2014. (Lamarque/Reuters)

Senior U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials increasingly warn of the threat of “lone wolf” individuals attempting terror attacks within the United States. These potential perpetrators are characterized as externally motivated, but predominantly self-directed in plotting and attempting acts of politically and/or ideologically motivated violence. They need not travel to purported foreign “safe havens” to receive training or guidance, nor be in direct contact with terrorist organizations based abroad. Rather, their inspiration, in large part, appears to stem from the principles and narratives promoted by Islamist jihadist groups. Read more »