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.

CIA Drones Emerge from the Shadows

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft pictured at a forward deployed location (Courtesy Reuters). Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft pictured at a forward deployed location (Courtesy Reuters).

U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan in the years after 9/11 focused primarily on law enforcement and intelligence exploitation through arrest and interrogation—including torture—of suspected terrorists. According to the State Department’s report, Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2002, “The government of Pakistan arrested and transferred to U.S. custody nearly 500 suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists.” By 2004, however, the United States essentially stopped detaining suspected terrorist operatives in Pakistan, and instead began targeting and killing them with armed drones. Read more »

Guest Post: Special Operations Forces and the Army’s Future

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Monday, January 30, 2012
A special operations soldier hustles to his position on the roof of a training building during a fast rope training exercise. A special operations soldier hustles to his position on the roof of a training building during a fast rope training exercise.

Kevin Benson served in the U.S. Army for thirty years in eighteen posts, including in Germany. He is currently working for AECOM and teaching at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

I am second to none in my admiration of U.S. special operations forces and our Army Special Forces. However, I am also suspect of the unnamed military officer and adviser to Pentagon leadership who recently stated, “What we really want is to see the Army adopt the mentality of special forces.” As the bad guy says in the animated movie, The Incredibles: “When everybody is special, nobody will be special.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Chinese Drones, Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, and Human Rights

by Micah Zenko Friday, January 27, 2012
Female victims of sexual violence listen to a UN humanitarian worker at the Panzi hospital in eastern Congo (Courtesy Reuters/James Akena). Female victims of sexual violence listen to a UN humanitarian worker at the Panzi hospital in eastern Congo (Courtesy Reuters/James Akena).

iPhones, Drones, and Nuclear Weapons

by Micah Zenko Thursday, January 26, 2012
U.S. soldiers use their smartphones.

On Tuesday, Apple released its financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2012, which comprised fourteen weeks and ended on December 31, 2011. The company earned record quarterly revenues of $46 billion, largely due to the thirty-seven million new iPhones  sold in that quarter—an increase of 128 percent from the same period last year. Overall, however, smartphones like the iPhone are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, as they are now used by 43 percent of all Americans and 27 percent of all people worldwide. Read more »

Nuclear Weapons: U.S. Strategy from Pyongyang to Tehran

by Micah Zenko Monday, January 23, 2012
Soldiers of the three services of the Korean People's Army attend a rally at the plaza of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang in January 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA KCNA). Soldiers of the three services of the Korean People's Army attend a rally at the plaza of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang in January 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA KCNA).

In March 2003, two weeks before a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction program, President George W. Bush was asked to assess progress on U.S. policy toward North Korea, which was the “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement” of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Bush replied: “It’s in process. If they don’t work diplomatically, they’ll have to work militarily. And military option is our last choice.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: The Iranian Nuclear Threat, Freedom Rankings, and More

by Micah Zenko Friday, January 20, 2012
A soldier investigates the crater caused by an explosion at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Mohammad Ismail). A soldier investigates the crater caused by an explosion at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2011 (Courtesy Reuters/Mohammad Ismail).

The political uprisings that have swept the Arab world over the past year represent the most significant challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism … A total of 26 countries registered net declines in 2011, and only 12 showed overall improvement, marking the sixth consecutive year in which countries with declines outnumbered those with improvements. While the Middle East and North Africa experienced the most significant gains—concentrated largely in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya—it also suffered the most declines, with a list of worsening countries that includes Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Syria and Saudi Arabia, two countries at the forefront of the violent reaction to the Arab Spring, fell from already low positions to the survey’s worst-possible ratings. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Nuclear Materials, Economic Sanctions, and Afghanistan

by Micah Zenko Friday, January 13, 2012
Afghanistan soldier

- Nuclear Materials Security Index (PDF), Nuclear Threat Intiative, January 2012.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Materials Security Index includes findings for each of 176 countries, including thirty-two with at least one kilogram of weapons-usable nuclear materials and 144 with less than one kilogram of or no weapons-usable nuclear materials. Read more »

Iranian Scientists and U.S. Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko Thursday, January 12, 2012
Bomb blast Tehran

Driving in rush hour traffic yesterday morning in Tehran, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, chemical engineer and department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, was killed. Reportedly, two men on a motorcycle attached a “sticky bomb” to Ahmadi Roshan’s Peugeot, killing the scientist and his bodyguard. Read more »

Ten Whats With…Dr. Susan Bissell

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, January 11, 2012
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0180/Susan Markisz. © UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0180/Susan Markisz.

Dr. Susan Bissell is Associate Director and Programmes Chief Child Protection, UNICEF, based in New York.  Susan joined UNICEF in 1987 where her work has taken her to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Haiti, Guatemala and Ethiopia. She holds a PhD in public health and medical anthropology from the University of Melbourne.  While completing her doctorate, she also co-produced the documentary “A Kind of Childhood” about human trafficking.  Susan is widely published and was a member of the Editorial Board of the report of the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children which was released in 2006. Read more »