Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World

Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World

Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World

Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World

Synopsis

When confronted with a persistent foreign policy problem that threatens U. S. interests, and that cannot be adequately addressed through economic or political pressure, American policymakers and opinion formers have increasingly resorted to recommending the use of limited military force: that is, enough force to attempt to resolve the problem while minimizing U. S. military deaths, local civilian casualties, and collateral damage.

These recommendations have ranged from the bizarre- such as a Predator missile strike to kill Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, or the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez- to the unwise- the preemptive bombing of North Korean ballistic missile sites- to the demonstrably practical- air raids into Bosnia and Somalia, and drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.

However, even though they have been a regular feature of America's uses of military force through four successive administrations, the efficacy of these "Discrete Military Operations" (DMOs) remains largely unanalyzed, leaving unanswered the important question of whether or not they have succeeded in achieving their intended military and political objectives.

In response, Micah Zenko examines the thirty-six DMOs undertaken by the US over the past 20 years, in order to discern why they were used, if they achieved their objectives, and what determined their success or failure. In the process, he both evaluates U. S. policy choices and recommends ways in which limited military force can be better used in the future. The insights and recommendations made by Zenko will be increasingly relevant to making decisions and predictions about the development of American grand strategy and future military policy.

Excerpt

“The thesis, then, must be repeated: war is an act of force, and there is no
logical limit to the application of that force.”

Major General Carl Von Clausewitz, Prussian Army

“[The use of force] doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We should be able to use
limited force in limited areas.”

Madeline Albright, U.S. Secretary Of State

“As soon as they tell me it is limited, it means they do not care whether you
achieve a result or not. As soon as they me tell me ‘surgical,’ I head for the
bunker.”

General Colin Powell, Chairman Of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WHEN CONFRONTED with a persistent foreign policy problem that threatens U.S. interests, one that cannot be adequately addressed through economic or political pressure, American policymakers routinely resort to using limited military force. Current and former government officials, foreign policy analysts, and citizens call for the limited use of force with the belief that it potentially can resolve the problem expediently and without resulting in unwanted U.S. military or local civilian casualties. Proponents of such operations are found across the entire political spectrum, and their proposals range from the practical to the satirical: from centrist former senior Pentagon and State Department officials proposing to bomb North Korean ballistic missiles poised to launch; to a liberal Washington Post columnist calling for a Predator missile strike to kill Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe—a scheme that was one-upped by a former diplomat and human rights advocate who suggested a “messy in the short run” invasion to oust Mugabe; to a White House spokesperson advocating the assassination of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein because “the cost of one bullet … is substantially less” than the cost . . .

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