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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Guest Post: Chinese Troops in Africa: Protecting Civilians and Oil

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
The national flags of South Sudan and China are displayed in front of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Ibuki/Courtesy Reuters) The national flags of South Sudan and China are displayed in front of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Ibuki/Courtesy Reuters)

Sean J. Li is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

China announced in September that it would send a battalion of seven-hundred infantry soldiers to reinforce the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), a heretofore unprecedented move that triples its troop contribution. It is suspected by commentators, such as Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy, that this commitment was made to shield the oil industry—which both UNMISS and the Chinese Foreign Ministry have denied. The increased international profile of Chinese national oil companies (NOCs) and other commercial interests, especially in Africa, has raised questions about whether China’s long-standing principle of non-interference will hold in the future. Read more »

Why Secretary Chuck Hagel Resigned

by Micah Zenko
President Barack Obama embraces Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after announcing Hagel's resignation at the White House on November 24, 2014. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters) President Barack Obama embraces Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after announcing Hagel's resignation at the White House on November 24, 2014. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Gopal Ratnam, “Picking Up the Pieces at the Pentagon,” ForeignPolicy.com, November 25, 2014.

Although the White House portrayed Hagel’s departure as a usual cabinet change post a midterm election that resulted in Democrats losing their Senate majority, unnamed administration officials have said that Hagel wasn’t up to the task of leading the fight against the militant group also known as ISIS and ISIL that now controls broad parts of Iraq and SyriaRead more »

Guest Post: Implications of Declining Israeli Sympathy

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Jewish men protest to support the people of Gaza, in central London on August 9, 2014. (MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters) Jewish men protest to support the people of Gaza, in central London on August 9, 2014. (MacGregor/Courtesy Reuters)

Elena Vann is an interdepartmental intern at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Once a small, noble state heralded for its democratic values and established after the horrors of the Holocaust, Israel’s popularity is declining as global public opinion trends further away from the David and Goliath narrative once commonly attached to the Jewish state. After a fierce, month-long offensive against Hamas that is estimated to have taken the lives of over one thousand civilians in Gaza and decimated the country’s infrastructure, Israel’s public image joins the list of damages. As the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire tenuously holds between Israeli and Palestinian officials representing Hamas, the Gaza Strip is smoldering in ruins and Israel looks more bully than victim. Should these negative sentiments toward Israel continue to fester, U.S.-Israel relations could be substantially weakened. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
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 »

Guest Post: What to Call Dictators’ “Elections”

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
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 »

Evolving State Department-USAID Strategic Goals

by Micah Zenko

In August 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell and USAID administrator Andrew Natsios introduced the first joint State Department – USAID Strategic Plan. These plans are intended to better synchronize the direction of and priorities for the two agencies most responsible for developing and implementing U.S. foreign policy and development assistance programs.  Just yesterday, the fourth Strategic Plan was published, and like the preceding three it lists several broad strategic priorities that are intended to guide State and USAID’s own guidance documents, budgets, directives, and policies. To understand how U.S. foreign policy priorities have shifted between the Bush and Obama administrations in the past decade, please see below for a chart that lists those strategic goals
Read more »

Guest Post: Protecting Journalists in Armed Conflict

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Somali journalists protest as they demand for the release of a colleague, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, in Mogadishu on January 27, 2013. Abdiaziz was reportedly arrested after reporting on a rape case allegedly involving government soldiers according to local media reports. (Omar/Courtesy Reuters). Somali journalists protest as they demand for the release of a colleague, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, in Mogadishu on January 27, 2013. Abdiaziz was reportedly arrested after reporting on a rape case allegedly involving government soldiers according to local media reports. (Omar/Courtesy Reuters).

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

Reporting from conflict zones, while risky, is crucial to understand global crises. Seventy journalists were killed on the job in 2013: 44 percent were murdered, 36 percent in direct combat or crossfire, and 20 percent while on a dangerous assignment. Combat-related deaths were due in large part to the Syrian civil war, along with spikes in violence in Iraq and Egypt. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the country has been the deadliest in the world for journalists, with thirty-one killed in 2012 and twenty-eight in 2013. Professional media workers and citizen journalists alike have been targets of death, torture, enforced disappearance, abduction and intimidation, and an indeterminate number of human rights violations by both pro- and anti-government forces. Already ten journalists have been killed globally in 2014. Read more »

China’s Resource Quest: A Conversation with Economy and Levi

by Micah Zenko
By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World, by Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World, by Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at CFR, coauthored a book on the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy and the global effects of its meteoric growth, By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest is Changing the World (Oxford University Press, 2014). Read more »

Meet Foreign Policy Interrupted

by Micah Zenko
Madeline Albright, former U.S. secretary of state, arrives in London on December 5, 2005. (Hird/Courtesy Reuters) Madeline Albright, former U.S. secretary of state, arrives in London on December 5, 2005. (Hird/Courtesy Reuters)

Elmira Bayrasli and Lauren Bohn are co-founders of Foreign Policy Interrupted, an important and unprecedented new initiative that aims to increase the number of female voices in foreign policy. Working from the ground up through a cohesive fellowship program, including media training and meaningful mentoring at partnering media institutions, FPI helps women break both internal and external barriers to more and better representation in and on the media. I was fortunate to learn more about FPI recently. Read more »

Happy Anniversary

by Micah Zenko
A girl lights a candle in Bangkok (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). A girl lights a candle in Bangkok (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

One year ago today, with no strategy and no working knowledge of the blogosphere, I started this blog: Politics, Power, and Preventive Action. As I reread my first post, I was heartened to see that I characterized myself as “someone who is massively curious about foreign affairs” and concluded, “This should be fun!” Reflecting on this past year, blogging has been tremendously fun—although much more work than I had anticipated. Read more »