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"

Would the Syria Deal Be a Coercive Diplomacy Success?

by Micah Zenko
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad Syrian president Bashar al-Assad during an interview with French daily Le Figaro in Damascus on September 2, 2013 (SANA news agency/Courtesy Reuters).

In the past three days, the Syrian government made an unprecedented acknowledgment that it possesses a chemical weapons program, and that it will place them under the supervision of United Nations (UN) inspectors. As Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem stated on Monday: “We are ready to reveal the locations of the chemical weapon sites and to stop producing chemical weapons and make these sites available for inspection by representatives of Russia, other countries and the United Nations.” This remarkable shift occurred after President Obama declared on August 31 that he would conduct limited strikes against Syrian regime targets, after receiving congressional authorization. Subsequently, the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that it was only the credible threat of force that compelled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reportedly agree to the initiative that had been discussed between American and Russian diplomats for months. Read more »

JP 3-60 Joint Targeting and U.S. Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
Reaper UAV A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the 174th Fighter Wing, New York Air National Guard, takes off on a training mission at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, Fort Drum, N.Y. in February 2013 (Best/Courtesy Reuters)

On February 27, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the updated version of Joint Publication 3-60 (JP 3-60): Joint Targeting. A short 154 days later, the Joint Staff provided me with a complete version of it, “without excision.” It is available in full here (PDF). For the previous 2007 version of JP 3-60 see here. Read more »

Formalizing Oversight of Military Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who stands at the podium, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon on November 6, 2003 (Ward/Courtesy Department of Defense). Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who stands at the podium, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon on November 6, 2003 (Ward/Courtesy Department of Defense).

On Friday, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), vice chairman of the house armed services committee (HASC), introduced a bi-partisan bill with twenty-nine co-sponsors. The full text of the bill (H.R. 1914) was only made available today by the Library of Congress. The “Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act” essentially formalizes into law existing oversight procedures for non-battlefield capture or targeted killing operations conducted by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces. As Thornberry acknowledged last week, “We’ve been doing a lot of this oversight anyway,” with the military briefing the HASC’s subcommittee on intelligence, emerging threats, and capabilities within “hours or days” after drone strikes or other “lethal targeting actions.” This is much faster reporting than required under current law—a “global update on activity within each geographic combatant command” every three months. Read more »

Syrian Lethal Aid, Drones Over Yemen, and Isolationism

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks with reporters after reading a statement on chemical weapon use in Syria during a news conference in Abu Dhabi. (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks with reporters after reading a statement on chemical weapon use in Syria during a news conference in Abu Dhabi. (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).

Nussaibah Younis, “Why Maliki Must Go,” New York Times, May 2, 2013.

Given the two-year-old Syrian civil war escalating next door, a sectarian crisis and political collapse in Iraq would be a disaster at the worst possible time. It would blur the boundaries between the two conflicts, bring additional misery to Iraq and pose enormous challenges for Iraq’s neighbors and the United States. Read more »

America’s Failing Drone War in Yemen

by Micah Zenko

In February, Eric Schmitt wrote in the New York Times about the Obama administration’s emerging Yemen strategy, whereby U.S. and Yemeni intelligence and military officials would “work together to kill or capture about two dozen of al Qaeda’s most dangerous operatives, who are focused on attacking America and its interests.” Like all previous objectives of America’s Long Third War of drone strikes, the scope of intended targets has expanded far beyond those two dozen individuals, who should have been killed at least nine times over by now.  According to the Long Wars Journal database, there have been forty U.S. airstrikes (drone or fixed-wing) in Yemen this year, up from ten in 2011. These have killed 223 people, an estimated 19 percent of them were civilians. Read more »

Top Twelve Defense Sequestration Scare Tactics

by Micah Zenko
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey hold a news conference at the Pentagon on June 29, 2012 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters). Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey hold a news conference at the Pentagon on June 29, 2012 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters).

Over a year ago, on August 2, 2011, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. The bipartisan legislation easily passed the House, 269-131, with 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats voting “yes.” The BCA similarly sailed through the Senate, 74-26, with endorsements from 28 Republicans and 45 Democrats. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Israeli Strike on Iran, No-Fly Zone in Syria, and Ernest Hemingway

by Micah Zenko
A man sits in front of houses destroyed during a recent air strike in Azaz, Syria (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters). A man sits in front of houses destroyed during a recent air strike in Azaz, Syria (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters).

Benny Morris, “Obama’s Last Chance Before Israel Bombs Iran,” The Daily Beast, August 16, 2012.

(3PA: In this piece, Morris predicts “Israel is likely to strike [Iran] before the American elections.” In July 2008, Morris boldly predicted in the New York Times, “Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months.” Morris also writes of Israel’s 1981 attack on the Iraqi Osirak plutonium reactor, “That successful strike actually put paid to Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, which was never resurrected.” It is totally untrue that Iraq’s nuclear program was never resurrected. As Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer wrote in the journal International Security: “The attack had mixed effects: it triggered a covert nuclear weapons program that did not previously exist, while necessitating a more difficult and time-consuming technical route to developing nuclear weapons.”) Read more »

Will America Help Israel Attack Iran?

by Micah Zenko
General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walks with Major-General Gantz, chief of Israeli armed forces, in Tel Aviv (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters). General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walks with Major-General Gantz, chief of Israeli armed forces, in Tel Aviv (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, during a press conference, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, observed the following when asked about Israeli military capabilities to undertake unilateral strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities: Read more »

Op-Ed Militarism

by Micah Zenko
A copy of the Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2007 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters). A copy of the Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2007 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters).

In his 1977 study on military and civilian influence on U.S. uses of force, Soldiers, Statesmen, and Cold War Crisis, political scientist Richard Betts examined Cold War military intervention and escalation decisions. Comparing the opinions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with those of civilian leaders, Betts found, “The stereotype of a belligerent chorus of generals and admirals intimidating a pacific civilian establishment is not supported by the evidence.” Read more »