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"

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 »

You Might Have Missed: Syria , al-Qaeda Retaliates Against Drones, and Private Contractors

by Micah Zenko
U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testify at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria on September 4, 2013 (Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Colleen McCain Nelson, “Obama’s Curbs on Executive Power Draw Fire,” Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2013.

A senior administration official said that while the new drone-strike policy does rein in executive authority, the NSA and Syria proposals weren’t a reduction of power but an effort to increase transparency and build public confidence. Read more »

Don’t Gut the Foreign Operations Budget

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Syrian refugees U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets a group of Syrian refugees during a joint meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq on July 18, 2013 (Ngan/Courtesy Reuters).

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

In what is becoming an annual practice, congressional appropriators are once again trying to reduce America’s $16.7 trillion gross federal debt by slashing President Obama’s $52 billion foreign operations budget request. The budget includes everything from embassy security to protect diplomats, vaccination programs to prevent new incidents of polio and measles, humanitarian aid for victims of war and natural disasters, and United Nations (UN) peacekeepers. All of this, and more, for an amount that is roughly a mere 8% of the $615 billion that the White House has requested for the Pentagon. Read more »

Report: U.S. Policies for Reducing Gun Violence in the Americas

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Colombia's Army general chief Gen. Alejandro Navas reviews grenades and weapons seized from Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas at an army base in Tame, Arauca province on July 21, 2013 (Gomez/Courtesy Reuters). Colombia's Army general chief Gen. Alejandro Navas reviews grenades and weapons seized from Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas at an army base in Tame, Arauca province on July 21, 2013 (Gomez/Courtesy Reuters).

Julia Sweig is the Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin America Studies and director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Joel Hernandez is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine: massacres that punctuate the more than ten thousand gun homicides perpetrated every year in the United States. Yet what often goes missing from each subsequent debate in the United States about gun control is the international impact of lax American gun laws, especially in Latin America. Read more »

Recommended Reading For the Fall Semester

by Micah Zenko
A series of books in former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's office in Johannesburg (Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). A series of books in former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's office in Johannesburg (Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

A friend who teaches U.S. foreign policy at a public policy school asked me for a few reading recommendations for the fall semester. Specifically, she requested books or reports written in the past academic year that she might have missed. Below you will find some works worth adding to your fall syllabus if you teach foreign policy or national security to undergraduate or graduate students. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Were Early Humans Warlike?, U.S.-Pakistan Relations, and Opinion Polls

by Micah Zenko

Donald Fry and Patrik Soderberg, “Lethal Aggression in Mobile Forager Bands and Implications for the Origins of War,” Science, July 19, 2003, pp. 270-273.

A controversy exists regarding mobile forager band societies (MFBS)and warfare…We extracted a subsample of purely MFBS (n = 21) from the standard cross-cultural sample (SCCS)…The 21 MFBS produced a total of 148 lethal aggression events. The median number was 4 (mean = 7.05; SD = 14.64), with a range from 0 to 69. One society, the Tiwi of Australia, had an exceptionally large number of lethal events (n = 69). If the Tiwi case is removed, the median number of lethal events for the remaining 20 societies drops to 3.5, the mean is almost cut in half (mean = 3.95; SD = 3.69), and the range is reduced to 0 to 15. Read more »

Guest Post: In Morocco, King Curbs Free Speech

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
King Mohammed VI and Francois Hollande Morocco's King Mohammed VI and France's President Francois Hollande wave to the crowd upon his arrival in Casablanca on April 3, 2013 (Bertrand/Courtesy Reuters).

Tyler McBrien is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on coerced confessions in Morocco, which was released last week, has led many observers to question whether the United States’ North African ally actually represents a democratic oasis in the region, as it is often presented to be. The study noted that many Moroccans are currently imprisoned “for their nonviolent speech or political activity.” American officials and Western media outlets often credit King Mohammed VI with deftly sidestepping the Arab Spring through liberalization and political reform. However, as the HRW report suggests, some elements of these heralded reforms are noticeably lagging behind. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: U.S. Humanitarian Interventions, Syria, and the Cheapness of IEDs

by Micah Zenko

Brian T. Haggerty, “Safe Havens in Syria: Missions and Requirements for an Air Campaign,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, July 2012. (PDF)

Discussion of military intervention in Syria to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on an anti-government uprising began to receive sustained attention in the U.S. media in early 2012, more than ten months after the first major protests began…To date, however, the details of such planning have not been elaborated further and there has been virtually no systematic, open-source analysis of a possible Syrian contingency…
Read more »

Illicit Networks, Political Instability, and Criminal Violence

by Micah Zenko
FARC The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) set up explosives on the Caldono-Toribio road on June 4, 2013 to prevent the approach of government troops trying to regain territory held by the FARC in Cauca province. This soldier patrols the street. (Saldarriaga/Courtesy Reuters)

Two weeks ago, CFR’s Center for Preventive Action and International Institutions and Global Governance program convened a workshop on “Illicit Networks, Political Instability, and Criminal Violence.” The workshop intended to analyze trends in transnational criminal networks, examine the latest developments in the field, and identify gaps and challenges in U.S. and multilateral responses to criminal violence. In an off-the-record setting, we brought together government, academic, nonprofit, and private sector experts in the field of transnational crime from across the United States. Read more »

Refining the Obama Administration’s Drone Strike Narrative

by Micah Zenko
Drone An X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft is launched for the first time off an aircraft carrier, the USS George H. W. Bush, off the coast of Virginia on May 14, 2013 (Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Last night, NBC News ran an extremely rare story that aptly challenged the veracity of U.S. government claims about the precision of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Part of the title used by NBC was misleading: “Exclusive: CIA Didn’t Always Know Who it Was Killing in Drone Strikes, Classified Documents Show.” Read more »