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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You Might Have Missed: Gender Equality, Private Contractors, and a Syrian No-Fly Zone

by Micah Zenko
October 2, 2011

 U.S. Army soldiers returning from duty in Iraq walk through smoke as they arrive during a welcome home ceremony in Colorado Springs on February 13, 2009 (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters).

U.S. Army soldiers returning from duty in Iraq walk through smoke as they arrive during a welcome home ceremony in Colorado Springs on February 13, 2009 (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters).

- World Health Organization, “Global Status Report on Noncommunicable Diseases 2010,” September 2011.

“A total of 57 million deaths occurred in the world during 2008; 36 million (63%) were due to [Non-Communicable Diseases],  principally cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Nearly  80% of these NCD deaths (29 million) occurred in low- and middle-income countries.” (9)

- World Health Organization, “10 Facts About Violence Prevention,” September 2011.

“90% of deaths due to violence occur in low- and middle-income countries. Countries with higher levels of economic inequality tend to have higher rates of death due to violence. Within countries, the highest death rates occur among people living in the poorest communities.”

- The World Bank, “World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development,” September 2011.

“The second half of the 20th century also saw large improvements in men’s and women’s health. Life expectancy at birth most clearly reflects improvements in health in populations across the world. The average number of years women could expect to live rose from 54 (51 for men) in 1960 to 71 (67 for men) in 2008. This period also saw the world’s fastest ever decline in fertility—from an average of about 5 births per woman in 1960 to 2.5 in 2008, lowering the number of deaths associated with maternal mortality. And bearing fewer children has given women more time to invest in acquiring human capital and to participate in market work.” (62)

“The problem of skewed sex-ratios at  birth in China and India (and in some countries in the Caucasus and the Western Balkans) remains unresolved. Population estimates suggest that an additional 1.4 million girls would have been born (mostly in China and India) if sex ratios at birth in these countries resembled those found worldwide.  Second, compared with developed economies,  the rate at which women die relative to men in  low- and middle-income countries is higher  in many regions of the world. Overall, missing girls at birth and excess female mortality under age 60 totaled an estimated 3.9 million women in 2008—85 percent of them were in China, India, and Sub-Saharan Africa. In other countries—notably some post-transition economies—excess male mortality has  become serious.” (77)

- United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraq and Afghanistan: DOD, State, and USAID Cannot Fully Account for Contracts, Assistance, Instruments, and Associated Personnel,” September 2011.

“Although all [State Department, USAID, and DOD] are required to track the number of personnel  killed or wounded while working on contracts and assistance instruments  in Iraq or Afghanistan, DOD still does not have a system that reliably  tracks killed and wounded contractor personnel.” (15) (3PA: It is a significant operational and moral shortcoming that the U.S. government has no system to monitor the number of contractors killed and wounded while conducting duties that were once held primarily by U.S. troops. According to a ProPublica analysis of the first half of 2010, more private contractors than U.S. soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

- Speech by Admiral Mike Mullen, United States Naval Academy Forrestal Lecture Series, September 21, 2011.

“As I travel throughout the country, time and time again, I’ve been struck by how little the American people know about what we’ve been through.  They certainly know we’re at war.  They certainly know that we’re losing people.  They are almost unanimously supportive of us in uniform.  But they don’t know I’ve been on five or six or seven deployments or if I’m a special operator, I’ve been 15 or 16 or 17 deployments…They are not aware of the challenges we have with suicides, which have doubled since these wars started and now exceed the national rates.  They are not aware of the post-traumatic stress, the degree to it; the traumatic brain injuries, mild and serious.  And yet 80 percent of those who join the military return to cities and townships and counties all over the country.”

- Kimblerly Dozier, “AP Sources: Official Resigns Over Alleged Spy Ring,” Bloomberg Businessweek, September 27, 2011.

“A man accused of running an illegal contractor spy ring in Afghanistan has resigned from the Air Force, still maintaining his innocence, and still facing possible criminal charges…Defense officials say Furlong and subcontractor Clarridge maintained their information even led to CIA Predator strikes inside Pakistan. The officials insist investigations have not proven a link between data gathered by Clarridge’s network and GPS coordinates of known U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.”

- By Jay Soloman and Nour Malas, “Syrian Opposition Seeks No-Fly Zone,” Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2011.

“Syrian opposition groups are calling for the first time for an international intervention to protect civilians from the Assad regime’s ongoing military onslaught, including the establishment of a United Nations-backed no-fly zone…”

“One proposed scenario for a no fly-zone would cover a 10-kilometer (six-mile) area inside Syria’s northern border with Turkey that would serve as a safe haven for defected soldiers. It would be modeled on the U.N.-mandated safe haven in northern Iraq in 1991.”

(3PA: As was true in Libya in February and March, Syrian opposition groups are not being killed by government aircraft, yet the enduring appeal of no-fly zones remains.  What Syrian opposition groups actually seek–as described in this article–is  international close air support against government ground forces; a much more difficult and resource-intensive military mission.)

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