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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Obama Should Change his Counter-ISIS Strategy

by Micah Zenko

Last month, I wrote about how President Obama’s announced end state to “degrade, and ultimately destroy ISIL” would not be achieved, just as previous promises by Bush and Obama administration officials to “destroy” and “eliminate” Al Qaeda and the Taliban were not. I also noted how U.S. officials have offered contradictory end states since then, a practice that continues. For example, on September 22, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. Martin Dempsey declared: “We want them to wake up every day realizing that they are being squeezed from multiple directions. If we can get [ISIS] looking in about five different directions, that’s the desired end state.” That is a plausible strategic objective given the relatively limited military and non-military resources that have been committed by the United States and coalition members. However, it is nowhere near as difficult as “destroy.” Read more »

Guest Post: Jokowi’s Small Victory Over Corruption in Indonesia

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attends a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta July 9, 2014. (Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters) Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attends a rally in Proklamasi Monument Park in Jakarta July 9, 2014. (Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

This blog post was authored by Timothy F. Higgins, a graduate of the University of St. Andrews with an MA in political philosophy.

The recent presidential victory of Joko Widodo (popularly known as “Jokowi”) has the potential to be a watershed moment in Southeast Asian politics. For the first time in Indonesia’s (albeit short) history as an independent nation, control of its government will pass from one democratically elected leader to another in relative peace. 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 »

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 »