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"

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 »

Ten What’s With…Daniel Markey

by Micah Zenko
No Exit from Pakistan:America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad by Daniel Markey No Exit from Pakistan:America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad by Daniel Markey

Daniel Markey is Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he specializes in security and governance issues in South Asia. He has published a book on the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad (Cambridge University Press, October 2013). Read more »

The Federal Shutdown and Foreign Credibility

by Micah Zenko
Boehner shutdown Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner at 1:00 am on October 1, 2013, after a vote by the House prompted a shutdown of portions of the U.S. government (Bourg/Courtesy Reuters).

At midnight last night, the U.S. federal government began partial shutdown procedures, which are mandated whenever Congress and the President do not appropriate funds at the start of a new fiscal year, either through an appropriations bill or a continuing resolution. Subsequently, all affected federal agencies have to stop any programs funded by annual appropriations which are not deemed “essential” under the law. This means that employees of these agencies are placed on emergency furlough, a time during which they cannot come to work, bring work home, or even check their work emails. Subsequently the Department of Commerce will lose 87 percent of its workforce, Department of Energy 81 percent, Health and Human Services 52 percent, and the Department of Defense roughly half of its eight-hundred thousand civilian employees. Read more »

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 »