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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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
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China’s Resource Quest: A Conversation with Economy and Levi

by Micah Zenko
By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World, by Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World, by Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at CFR, coauthored a book on the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy and the global effects of its meteoric growth, By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest is Changing the World (Oxford University Press, 2014). Read more »

Why the U.S. and Russia Won’t Cooperate to Protect the Sochi Games

by Micah Zenko

With the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia scheduled to start in twelve days, U.S. officials and policymakers have repeatedly raised the possibility of a terrorist attack by Chechen militant groups. On Friday, the State Department issued a qualified travel alert for U.S. athletes and visitors to Sochi: “There is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens, but U.S. citizens should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices.” That same day, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel declared: “If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do that.” 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 »

Mapping Global Conflict

by Micah Zenko

We are excited to announce the launch of the Center for Preventive Action’s new interactive guide to U.S. conflict prevention priorities in 2014. The Global Conflict Tracker is based upon the findings of our Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS), which evaluates ongoing and potential conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring in 2014 and their impact on U.S. interests. Read more »

Will Afghanistan Allow U.S. Drone Strikes into Pakistan?

by Micah Zenko
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai speaks during the opening of the Loya Jirga, in Kabul November 21, 2013 (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters). Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai speaks during the opening of the Loya Jirga, in Kabul November 21, 2013 (Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, the CIA was suspected of conducting a drone strike consisting of three or four missiles that destroyed part of a madrasa in the Hangu district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. The strikes killed either five or six people, who were reported to be members of the Haqqani Network, which has been involved in many suicide and roadside bomb attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  Of more than 350 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, yesterday’s strike was just the fourth outside of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Read more »

How Many Pakistani Civilians Have Been Killed by CIA Drones?

by Micah Zenko

How many Pakistani civilians have been killed by CIA drone strikes? As I have noted, this is an inherently difficult question to answer due to the covert nature of the operations, the fact that some groups targeted by drones purposefully operate out of civilian facilities in an effort to avoid being killed, and the lack of reliable direct access for journalists who are threatened by the Pakistani army or targeted groups. To appreciate how contested the answer to this question is, consider three separate Pakistani government estimates of civilian casualties caused by drones. 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 »

You Might Have Missed: Counterterrorism, Washington Credibility, and Insurgencies

by Micah Zenko
A U.S. Marine walks out of Camp Lemonier in Djibouti in 2002. Camp Lemonier is a U.S. military base used for counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen (Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters). A U.S. Marine walks out of Camp Lemonier in Djibouti in 2002. Camp Lemonier is a U.S. military base used for counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen (Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters).

A Conversation with Hassan Rouhani, Council on Foreign Relations, September 26, 2013.

ROUHANI: …While interdependence and competitive cooperative approach, and not enmity, is the order of the day, zero-sum game and win-lose approaches in international relations has already lost ground when it comes to international ties, as no country could pursue its interests at expense of others… Read more »