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"

Ten Whats With…Michael Horowitz

by Micah Zenko
"Why Leaders Fight" by Michael C. Horowitz, Alan C. Stam, and Cali M. Ellis (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2015). "Why Leaders Fight" by Michael C. Horowitz, Alan C. Stam, and Cali M. Ellis (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Michael C. Horowitz is an associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and the associate director of Penn’s Perry World House. His research interests include leadership, military innovation, the future of war, forecasting, and the relationship between religion and international politics. He has published in a wide array of peer-reviewed journals, as well as more popular outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and Foreign Policy. He is the author of the award-winning book, The Diffusion of Military Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010). Professor Horowitz previously worked in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He received his PhD in government from Harvard University and his BA in political science from Emory University. Read more »

From No Boots to Nightmare Fuel in Syria

by Micah Zenko
President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Orly airport near Paris, France, on December 1, 2015. (Gaillard/Reuters) President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Orly airport near Paris, France, on December 1, 2015. (Gaillard/Reuters)

Yesterday, while being interviewed by Norah O’Donnell of CBS News, President Barack Obama made a revealing statement about the careful manner in which U.S. military interventions are made. O’Donnell asked Obama if he was going back on his word by authorizing an expansion of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria with the deployment of what the Pentagon calls a “specialized expeditionary targeting force.” The president earnestly replied, “You know, when I said no boots on the ground, I think the American people understood generally that we’re not going to do an Iraq-style invasion of Iraq or Syria with battalions that are moving across the desert.” Read more »

How the U.S. Government Condemns or Ignores Indiscriminate Bombing

by Micah Zenko
People walk at the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa on October 28, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters) People walk at the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa on October 28, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters)

If you watch U.S. government press conferences, you will occasionally come across a moment of incidental but illuminating honesty. Yesterday, one such moment occurred during a routine press briefing with Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the command element for the war against the self-declared Islamic State. Col Warren was asked about the growing number of disturbing allegations of Russia’s indiscriminate use of airpower in Syria. Just the day before, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “it appears the vast majority of [Russian] strikes, by some estimates as high as 85 percent to 90 percent, use dumb bombs.” Warren echoed Carter’s assessment, claiming that, “Russians have chosen to use a majority of really, just dumb bombs, just gravity bombs, push them out the back of an airplane, and let them fall where they will.” Read more »

Guest Post: Unfreezing the Ukraine Conflict

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015. (Lamarque/Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015. (Lamarque/Reuters)

Andrew Kenealy is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations

For some in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the ongoing low-level skirmish between Ukrainian and Russian/separatist forces has faded into the background of daily life. The nightly shelling barely affects the normal existence of Ukrainians: grocers have enough to sell in shops, public gathering spots are crowded on warm days, and reservations are still difficult to book at the best restaurants on the weekends. But despite the perception of calm, the death toll from the conflict is unsettling. After eighteen months of fighting, nearly eight thousand lives have been lost, another thirty thousand people have been wounded, and more than 1.5 million are internally displaced. Read more »

What Threats or Conflicts Will Emerge or Escalate in 2016?

by Micah Zenko
A follower of the Houthi movement raises his rifle during a rally against the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on October 2, 2015. (al-Sayaghi/Reuters) A follower of the Houthi movement raises his rifle during a rally against the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on October 2, 2015. (al-Sayaghi/Reuters)

Along with presidential campaigns comes an array of what candidates deem the greatest threat to the United States. Senator Ted Cruz said in July, “The single greatest threat to the United States, if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, is that of an electromagnetic pulse,” while Dr. Ben Carson during September’s presidential debate referred to “global jihadists” as an “existential threat to our nation.” Read more »

Guest Post: Setting the Boundaries in the South China Sea

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A crewman from the Vietnamese coastguard ship 8003 looks out at sea as Chinese coastguard vessels give chase to Vietnamese ships that came close to the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig in the South China Sea July 15, 2014. (Petty/Reuters) A crewman from the Vietnamese coastguard ship 8003 looks out at sea as Chinese coastguard vessels give chase to Vietnamese ships that came close to the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig in the South China Sea July 15, 2014. (Petty/Reuters)

Bogdan Belei is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tensions between China and Vietnam over the South China Sea are rising and a miscalculation or miscommunication risks an outbreak of hostilities. Earlier this month, satellite imagery revealed that China is constructing its third airstrip in the disputed Spratly Islands, an archipelago of 750 reefs, cays, and islands claimed—in whole or in part—by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. This news follows a tense summer, during which China deployed oil rigs in disputed waters and naval standoffs between China and Vietnam culminated in a ship ramming. Beijing’s construction establishes a permanent Chinese base in disputed waters, with airstrips that could be used to launch military missions against regional rivals. China has so far only used them to conduct surveillance missions, but this alone has increased tensions and resulted in political disagreements with the United States. As the intensity and frequency of disputes over territory in the South China Sea increase, the situation has the potential to escalate into militarized conflict. Read more »

Where Are the Women in Foreign Policy Today?

by Micah Zenko
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington September 10, 2014. (Souza/White House Handout via Reuters) President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington September 10, 2014. (Souza/White House Handout via Reuters)

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

If you follow the republican presidential race, you’ll notice the feud brewing between candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. Remarking on Fiorina’s capacity to be President, Trump said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Although Fiorina gave a cool-headed response by releasing an advertisement in which she says she is “proud of every year and every wrinkle,” Trump further perpetuated his faux pas in last week’s debate. “I think she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman.” Read more »

Obama’s War of Choice: Supporting the Saudi-led Air War in Yemen

by Micah Zenko
A man who lost his relatives in a Saudi-led air strike cries at the site of the strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa on September 21, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters) A man who lost his relatives in a Saudi-led air strike cries at the site of the strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa on September 21, 2015. (Abdullah/Reuters)

Six months ago today, the White House announced U.S. support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen via press release: “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations.” As is true for all interventions, U.S. officials offered a buffet of justifications and objectives for backing the GCC side in Yemen’s chaotic civil war. In an earlier piece, I counted seven. Unsurprisingly, these are no longer mentioned by officials. Rather, they call upon all parties in the conflict to halt their fighting, failing to mention that the United States military is one of the parties by providing material support, without which the GCC would not be able sustain airstrikes over Yemen for any period of time. When pushed by reporters about U.S. responsibilities, they reply “we continue to discuss with Saudi authorities….We’re in constant and close communication with them,” or simply deflect, “I would refer you to the Saudis.” Read more »

Guest Post: Preventing the Third Intifada

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Anas Taha during his funeral in the West Bank village of Qatana, near Jerusalem on August 10, 2015. Israeli troops shot dead Tah, who stabbed an Israeli man at a petrol station in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, police said. (Awad/Reuters) Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Anas Taha during his funeral in the West Bank village of Qatana, near Jerusalem on August 10, 2015. Israeli troops shot dead Tah, who stabbed an Israeli man at a petrol station in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, police said. (Awad/Reuters)

Patrick Romano is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

If tensions escalate further, the West Bank could erupt in a violent uprising—sometimes referred to as the third intifada—for the first time since 2005. The death of a Palestinian toddler in an arson attack by Jewish extremists on July 31 was the latest example of an increasingly violent situation. Recent flare-ups between Israeli police and Palestinians over the al-Aqsa mosque, sometimes deadly arrest raids by Israeli forces on West Bank homes, and continued discord over Israeli settlements all underscore growing Palestinian frustration with the perceived status quo: lack of political independence, a depressed economy, encroaching Israeli settlements, and an increasingly divided Palestinian Authority (PA). Read more »

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 »