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.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "National Security"

Why the United States Will Never Defeat ISIS

by Micah Zenko
Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq listens to U.S. Commander Maj. Gen. David Petraeus upon his arrival at Mosul airport in northern Iraq before a short helicopter tour of the city on May 18, 2003.
(Schmidt/Courtesy Reuters) Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq listens to U.S. Commander Maj. Gen. David Petraeus upon his arrival at Mosul airport in northern Iraq before a short helicopter tour of the city on May 18, 2003. (Schmidt/Courtesy Reuters)

On the eve of the Iraq War in 2003, while commanding the 101st Airborne Division, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus repeatedly asked Rick Atkinson the rhetorical question: “Tell me how this ends.” What began as a private joke between a military commander and an embedded journalist has become a warning for the need to define clear objectives and be cognizant of unexpected outcomes before going to war.  Last week, President Barack Obama attempted to provide clear strategic guidance for the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), declaring: “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL.” Read more »

U.S. Transparency and the Truth of Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko

This morning, the White House released an unusual statement: “The Department of Defense confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the leader of al-Shabaab, is dead as a result of a U.S. military targeted airstrike in Somalia undertaken over the weekend.” What was particularly unique about the statement is that, previously, the Pentagon has purposely refused to confirm the deaths of terrorist leaders killed with legal counterterrorism strikes. On June 5, 2012, when Pentagon spokesperson then-Capt. John Kirby was asked about the reported death of al Qaeda’s no. 2 official, Abu Yahya al-Libi, Kirby replied: “We don’t discuss the specifics of counterterrorism operations.  So I’m not going to speak to specifics of operations.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Defense Contractors, ISIS, Syria, and Cyber Threats

by Micah Zenko
A U.S. F-18 fighter jet refuels from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over northern Iraq on Aug. 21, 2014. (Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/Courtesy U.S. Air Force) A U.S. F-18 fighter jet refuels from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over northern Iraq on Aug. 21, 2014. (Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/Courtesy U.S. Air Force)

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 »

You Might Have Missed: One Year After Obama’s Drone Speech

by Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his administration's counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his administration's counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Harold Hongju Koh, “Ending the Forever War: One Year After President Obama’s NDU Speech,” JustSecurity.org, May 23, 2014.

The President’s historic move in that speech was to call for the eventual repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and the end of what I had called at the Oxford Union the “Forever War”… Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Terrorism, Women in Nonprofits, and China

by Micah Zenko
U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel and his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan listen to the Chinese national anthem during a welcoming ceremony at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing April 8, 2014. (Wong/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel and his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan listen to the Chinese national anthem during a welcoming ceremony at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing April 8, 2014. (Wong/Courtesy Reuters)

Ehud Yaari and Michael Morell, Israel vs. al-Qaeda: Emerging Challenges on Two Fronts,” The Washington Institute, April 29, 2014. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Kissinger, China’s Navy, and Counterinsurgency Wars

by Micah Zenko

The Secretary’s Analytical Staff Meeting on Non-Proliferation,” U.S. Department of State, August 2, 1974.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I just have a reluctance to have the United States go charging around the world, like Don Quixote, for every conceivable problem, including one of great importance, where there are other countries whose interest in it ought to be even greater, who affirm loudly that they are interested in it, and not make them share some of the responsibility. (page 41-42) 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: The Hague Nuclear Security Summit: Opportunities for Pakistan and India

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani speaks to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul March 27, 2012. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters) Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani speaks to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul March 27, 2012. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Anna Feuer is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »