Micah Zenko

The Shape-Shifting Coalition

America's allies in the fight against the Islamic State may seem willing now. But what happens when they want to start bombing Assad?

On Sept. 19, six weeks after the United States began airstrikes on Islamic State targets, France announced that a Rafale fighter jet had destroyed a terrorist supply depot in northeastern Iraq. From that one airstrike, the multinational military coalition attacking the Islamic State emerged. Since then, eight other countries have either bombed suspected Islamic State targets in Iraq or Syria, or declared that they will in the future. The relatively sudden formation of the coalition -- a group that otherwise agrees on little else -- participating in the kinetic military element of the international campaign against the Islamic State is remarkable, though unsurprising. Many of these governments had been eager to intervene in Syria's civil war for years and, more recently, to attack the Islamic State directly. Yet it was only once U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the first airstrikes that the rest signed up, having secured the full weight of U.S. military power to backstop the effort.

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Mission Improbable

When it comes to fighting terror, America’s leaders have offered nothing but wildly unrealistic strategies destined to fail. And Obama's plan to defeat the Islamic State is no different.

Two weeks ago, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attempted to clarify the United States' military objectives against the militant organization the Islamic State (IS). He noted: "We will do everything possible that we can do to destroy their capacity to inflict harm on our people and Western values and our interests."

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Barack Obama and the 'Wimp Factor'

Americans think the president lacks "toughness." But does showing strength really matter?

More than ever, Americans think that President Barack Obama lacks toughness. He is "not tough enough" on foreign policy and national security, according to 54 percent in a Pew Research Center poll released in August. By comparison, in June 2009, only 38 percent believed he was not tough enough.

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Mission Leap

5 signs your "limited" Iraq intervention is spiraling out of control.

On Feb. 12, 1993, journalist Christopher Burns filed a story from Somalia containing a term that had never before appeared in English language press: "The U.S.-led military mission to halt clan warfare and get aid to the needy has unofficially widened its role to include such tasks as rebuilding houses, digging wells and creating police forces. Officials call it 'mission creep.'"

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The Slippery Slope of U.S. Intervention

America's rescue mission in Iraq is going to be messier, longer, and more expensive than the White House wants to admit.

During his recent hour-long interview with the New York Times's Thomas Friedman, President Barack Obama mentioned something in passing when he described the need to be better prepared for post-conflict rebuilding and reconstruction before authorizing an intervention: "Our participation in the coalition that overthrew Qaddafi in Libya. I absolutely believed that it was the right thing to do." Note the phrase I've italicized above -- it's an unnoticed but entirely remarkable acknowledgment from the commander-in-chief, because it is directly at odds with what he told the American people prior to, and just after, the start of the Libya intervention in 2011.

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