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.

Is Operation Desert Fox a Useful Comparison for Bombing Iran?

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, briefs reporters at the Pentagon on December 21, 1998, on his assessment of Operation Desert Fox. (Ward/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense) Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, briefs reporters at the Pentagon on December 21, 1998, on his assessment of Operation Desert Fox. (Ward/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense)

 

In an interview with the Family Research Council last week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) described what U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear-related facilities would entail:

The president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case. Read more »

Ten Whats With…Sheila A. Smith

by Micah Zenko Thursday, April 9, 2015
"Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China," by Sheila A. Smith (Columbia University Press, 2015). "Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China," by Sheila A. Smith (Columbia University Press, 2015).

Sheila A. Smith is a senior fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China (Columbia University Press, 2015) and Japan’s New Politics and the U.S.-Japan Alliance (Council on Foreign Relations, 2014).  Read more »

CIA Director: We’re Winning the War on Terror, But It Will Never End

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, April 8, 2015
CIA Director John Brennan speaks at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 7, 2015. (Ertl/Courtesy Reuters) CIA Director John Brennan speaks at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 7, 2015. (Ertl/Courtesy Reuters)

Last night, Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan participated in a question-and-answer session at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. The first thirty-seven minutes consisted of an unusually probing exchange between Brennan and Harvard professor Graham Allison (full disclosure: Graham is a former boss of mine). Most notably, between 19:07 and 29:25 in the video, Allison pressed Brennan repeatedly about whether the United States is winning the war on terrorism and why the number of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups has only increased since 9/11: “There seem to be more of them than when we started…How are we doing?” Read more »

Guest Post: Stuck Between Maduro and a Hard Place

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a military parade on February 4, 2015 to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of late President Hugo Chavez’s failed coup attempt in Caracas. (Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters) Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a military parade on February 4, 2015 to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of late President Hugo Chavez’s failed coup attempt in Caracas. (Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters)

Brian Garrett-Glaser is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Venezuela is experiencing a protracted political and economic crisis that is likely to worsen in the next twelve to eighteen months. Nicolás Maduro, the hand-picked successor of former President Hugo Chávez, inherited leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela—the party of the Bolivarian Revolution—in 2013 after Chávez succumbed to cancer. Maduro narrowly won the presidency in a special election that year, campaigning with the slogan “we are all Chávez” and referring to himself as the “son of Chávez.” But as his predecessor’s economic policies are increasingly blamed for Venezuela’s crisis, Maduro’s unwavering commitment to Chávez’ legacy is proving to be disastrous. Read more »

Yemen: The Worst Reason for War

by Micah Zenko Friday, April 3, 2015
People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike, launched by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi militia, near Sanaa Airport in Yemen on March 31, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters) People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by an air strike, launched by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi militia, near Sanaa Airport in Yemen on March 31, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters)

The excellent New York Times journalists David K. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim have an article tacking stock of the nine-day old Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi and Houthi-affiliated fighting forces in Yemen. On the evening of the first airstrikes, the White House revealed that the United States was aiding this intervention: “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations.” Read more »

Putting Iran’s Nuclear Program in Context

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, March 31, 2015
U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Robert Malley of the National Security Council, and European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and others wait for a meeting in Switzerland to continue negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program. (Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Robert Malley of the National Security Council, and European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and others wait for a meeting in Switzerland to continue negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program. (Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters)

The April 24, 1984, edition of the British defense publication Jane’s Defence Weekly informed its readers: “Iran is engaged in the production of an atomic bomb, likely to be ready within two years, according to press reports in the Persian Gulf last week.” Subsequent warnings from U.S. and foreign sources about Iran’s imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon have been offered over the past four decades. These false guesses are worth bearing in mind as news from the P5+1 nuclear negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland emerges. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Yemen, Islamic State, and MDGs

by Micah Zenko Friday, March 27, 2015
Shiite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen on March 26, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters) Shiite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen on March 26, 2015. (Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters)

Lt. Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski and Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, “Presentation to the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, House of Representatives,” U.S. Department of the Air Force, March 26, 2015, p. 16.

All three mission areas (Stand-Off, Direct Attack, and Penetrator munitions) in the Air-to-Surface munitions inventory are short of inventory objectives. Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and SDB weapons along with Low Observable platforms are force multipliers in a highly contested environment and their shortage could increase friendly force attrition driving a much higher level of effort enabling the attack of other critical targets. Read more »

How the U.S. Military Thinks About Complexity

by Micah Zenko Thursday, March 19, 2015
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 6, 2014. (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 6, 2014. (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

If you routinely read Pentagon reports, speeches, hearings transcripts, and news articles, you occasionally come across an assumption or claim that stands out. Yesterday, the Pentagon released a news article that summarized a speech given by Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. David Goldfein at the Brookings Institution. The article included the line: “Last year was the most complex year since 1968, the general said.” Read more »

Guest Post: U.S. Interest in Tunisia’s Successful Democratic Transition

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Friday, March 13, 2015

Brian Garrett-Glaser is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tunisia’s transition to inclusive democracy is not a fait accompli. Despite holding successful 2014 elections and recently receiving a “free” rating for political rights and civil liberties from Freedom House, the small North African nation is struggling with significant economic and security challenges as well as eroding popular support for democratic reforms. The Jasmine Revolution, which ousted Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in early 2011 and sparked a wave of protests across the Middle East, was as much a call for better economic conditions and stability as democracy and human rights. Yet, absent the expansion of economic opportunities and improved security, democratic reforms in Tunisia will not satiate the previous demands for change. Read more »