Preventive Action Update

September 1, 2010

Director's Note

Over the summer, the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) released  a new Contingency Planning Memorandum on “A Third Lebanon War” by Daniel Kurtzer which discusses the danger of renewed war between Israel and Hezbollah; we also continued to monitor escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula. CPA Fellow Micah Zenko published his book “Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World” (Stanford University Press) in which he examines the efficacy of “Discrete Military Operations” employed by the United States over the past twenty years. Finally, I am pleased to announce Elise Vaughan’s promotion to assistant director of CPA. We thank you for your continued interest in CPA’s work and appreciate your attention to these issues.

Paul Stares

Director, Center for Preventive Action


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

Between Threats and War Cover

by Micah Zenko

When confronted with a persistent foreign policy problem that cannot be adequately addressed through economic or political pressure, American policymakers have increasingly resorted to using 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 "Discrete Military Operations" (DMOs) have become a regular feature of America’s use of military force, but their efficacy remains largely unanalyzed. The critical question of whether or not they have succeeded in achieving their intended military and political objectives has been neglected by policymakers and scholars alike.

Providing a necessary and timely response, Micah Zenko examines the thirty-six DMOs undertaken by the United States over the past twenty years, discerning why they were used, if they achieved their objectives, and what determined their success or failure. In each enlightening and nuanced case study, he evaluates U.S. policy choices and recommends ways to improve uses of limited military force. Zenko’s insights and recommendations will be increasingly relevant to the development of future U.S. military policy. (Read on...)

A Third Lebanon War?

Third Lebanon WarThere is growing concern of renewed war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant Islamist group. Since the last major Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah has steadily rearmed and its arsenal is now more potent in quality and quantity. Israel could assess that the threat to its national security has grown intolerable and strike Hezbollah to degrade its military capabilities. An Israel-Hezbollah conflict could also be precipitated by Hezbollah attacking Israel, either for internal political reasons or at the behest of Iran, with which it has close ties. This Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum by Daniel C. Kurtzer discusses the most plausible scenarios and associated warning signs of a "Third Lebanon War," its implications for the United States, and U.S. policy options to reduce the likelihood of renewed Israel-Hezbollah conflict and mitigate the consequences should it occur. Kurtzer recommends that the United States work to avert a third Lebanon war between Israel and Hezbollah by taking measures to reassure Israel, deter Hezbollah, and pressure Syria from providing Hezbollah access to destabilizing weapons. Concurrently, the United States should heighten its preparedness to respond quickly in the event of war between Israel and Hezbollah including, potentially, a wider diplomatic initiative for regional peace.

Additional CPA Publications

Handling Tensions on the Korean Peninsula
by Paul Stares
August 12, 2010

Israel, the Bomb, and Openness
by Micah Zenko
Los Angeles Times
August 9, 2010

What Will Future Leaks Reveal?
by Micah Zenko
New York Times, "Room for Debate"
July 26, 2010