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 "U.S. Foreign Policy"

What Would Air Strikes in Iraq Achieve?

by Micah Zenko
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Demands by current policymakers to use military force are rarely accompanied by a specific objective of what it is intended to achieve. In the binary debate about what to do in Iraq, several policymakers have called for air strikes with some assertion of why and what they would accomplish. See below for an early collection and judge for yourself the validity of their claims. Read more »

Time to Rethink Syria

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014. (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters) UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi pauses during a news conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva January 27, 2014. (Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters)

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

After three years of recurring conflict, an estimated 162,000 people killed (10,000 in the last two months), and millions displaced, international policies to stem the violence in Syria have been a clear failure. These efforts hit a new low on May 13 when United Nations (UN) mediator Lakhdar Brahimi resigned from his post, citing frustrations with the diplomatic process and the lack of common ground from which to build a negotiated solution. As the Syrian government, opposition forces, and international powers, particularly the United States and Russia, continue to stake out entrenched positions, and the regime prepares for sham elections in June, many have questioned if the Syrian conflict is ripe for a mediated solution. 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 »

Syria Civil War Total Fatalities

by Micah Zenko
Shiite fighters chant anti- al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and anti-Free Syrian Army (FSA) slogans at the Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus, February 10, 2014. (Alaa Al-Marjani/Courtesy Reuters) Shiite fighters chant anti- al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and anti-Free Syrian Army (FSA) slogans at the Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus, February 10, 2014. (Alaa Al-Marjani/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Estimates released today by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) portray a different picture of the civil war in Syria than U.S. policymakers and media convey. SOHR’s estimated death toll reinforces the point made in an article published on ForeignPolicy.com in September 2013, when they last released updated data: most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command. Additionally, the involvement of various individuals and groups in the conflict has broadened greatly since SOHR’s September 2013 estimate. Read more »

Ukraine Isn’t a U.S. Priority, As Policymakers Demonstrate

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Senator John McCain and other members of the delegation walk as they visit Kiev, Ukraine, on March 14, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Senator John McCain and other members of the delegation walk as they visit Kiev, Ukraine, on March 14, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

The Russian coercive de facto annexation of the Crimean province of Ukraine poses a dilemma for U.S. policymakers. They claim the need to “send a strong message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin to deter him from authorizing a direct military incursion into the remainder of Ukrainian territory. According to anonymous Pentagon officials, there are around twenty thousand Russian troops poised near the eastern Ukrainian border, including mechanized, infantry, and special operations forces. 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 »

Guest Post: Conflict Prevention Challenges in 2014

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he peeks through a mat erected as protection from forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor July 25, 2013. (Khalil Ashawi/Courtesy Reuters) A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he peeks through a mat erected as protection from forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor July 25, 2013. (Khalil Ashawi/Courtesy Reuters)

Anna Feuer and Helia Ighani are research associates in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Syrian civil war highlights some of the most challenging features of contemporary conflict that stymie prevention and mitigation efforts. Although the war has been fought primarily within Syria’s borders, the violence has spilled into neighboring states, aggravated longstanding sectarian tensions in the region, and magnified rivalries between major powers. As Middle East sources of instability and violence are increasingly interconnected, the means of “unlocking” this dense conflict complex become more obscure. Read more »

Guest Post: Diplomatic Pressure in Bosnia, But Nothing More

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Anti-government protesters hold a banner that reads "EU help" during protests in Sarajevo on February 11, 2014. (Ruvic/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters hold a banner that reads "EU help" during protests in Sarajevo on February 11, 2014. (Ruvic/Courtesy Reuters)

Amelia M. Wolf is a research associate for the Center for Preventive Action and the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Afghanistan, Targeted Killings, and U.S. Policy Priorities

by Micah Zenko
A U.S. soldier at the site of a suicide attack on a NATO base in Zhari on January 20, 2014. (Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. soldier at the site of a suicide attack on a NATO base in Zhari on January 20, 2014. (Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters)

Alice K. Ross, “Leaked official document records 330 drone strikes in Pakistan,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, January 29, 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 »