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.

North Korean Nuclear Weapons Program: The Latest

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, February 29, 2012
A satellite image of the nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea, in 2006. A satellite image of the nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea, in 2006.

Today, the State Department surprised North Korea watchers with the following announcement:

“The DPRK has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities. The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities.” Read more »

What Else We Don’t Know About Drones

by Micah Zenko Monday, February 27, 2012
U.S. secretary of defense Casper Weinberger and Israeli minister of defense Ariel Sharon inspect a pilotless airplane September 2, 1982 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer). U.S. secretary of defense Casper Weinberger and Israeli minister of defense Ariel Sharon inspect a pilotless airplane September 2, 1982 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer).

In 1982, on a tour of the Middle East to monitor the deployment of U.S. Marines to Beirut, Lebanon, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger received a security briefing from his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon. As Weinberger later recounted of his visit with Sharon in his memoirs: Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Israel, Food Aid, and the Iranian Nuclear Program

by Micah Zenko Saturday, February 25, 2012
A damaged tank is seen in a neighbourhood in Homs, Syria, on February 23, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer). A damaged tank is seen in a neighbourhood in Homs, Syria, on February 23, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer).

America Is a Safe Place

by Micah Zenko Friday, February 24, 2012
A cyclist bikes along the Kinzie Protected Bike Lane in Chicago (Courtesy Reuters/Jim Young). A cyclist bikes along the Kinzie Protected Bike Lane in Chicago (Courtesy Reuters/Jim Young).

In yesterday’s post, I highlighted a piece that my colleague, Michael A. Cohen, and I have in the current print edition of Foreign Affairs: “Clear and Present Safety: The United States Is More Secure than Washington Thinks.” We challenge the prevailing rhetoric of Washington-centric threat inflation by arguing that the world today is one with fewer violent conflicts, increased political freedom, and greater economic opportunity than at virtually any other point in human history. Read more »

Clear and Present Safety: The United States Is More Secure than Washington Thinks

by Micah Zenko Thursday, February 23, 2012
The sun sets over the city in a phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge" in New York in 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Lucas Jackson). The sun sets over the city in a phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge" in New York in 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Lucas Jackson).

Listening to U.S. policymakers, you might believe that today’s world poses a dizzying and multiplying array of new threats to the United States. Last fall, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered up his own threat buffet when he stated, “[It is] wishful thinking that the world is becoming a safer place. The opposite is true. Consider simply the jihadists, a near-nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, an unstable Pakistan, a delusional North Korea, an assertive Russia, and an emerging global power called China. No, the world is not becoming safer.” Just last week, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional hearing: “I can’t impress upon you that in my personal military judgment, formed over thirty-eight years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime, right now.” Read more »

Ask the Experts: What Would Iran Do With a Bomb?

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, February 21, 2012
View of the nuclear facility in the southwestern Iranian city of Bushehr in June 2005 (Courtesy Reuters/Damir Sagolj). View of the nuclear facility in the southwestern Iranian city of Bushehr in June 2005 (Courtesy Reuters/Damir Sagolj).

In 1995, Kenneth Waltz and Scott Sagan coauthored the book, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate, which sought to address the question: what are the likely consequences of the spread of nuclear weapons? Read more »

Iranian Nuclear Program: Rhetoric and Reality

by Micah Zenko Friday, February 17, 2012
Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attending an unveiling ceremony of new nuclear projects in Tehran (Courtesy Reuters/Handout). Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attending an unveiling ceremony of new nuclear projects in Tehran (Courtesy Reuters/Handout).

Reading the professional punditry in Washington or the rhetorical nuclear and military pronouncements from Tehran, one would assume that Iran is very close to acquiring a nuclear weapon—and that the United States and Iran are on the brink of war.

In the United States, serious thinkers have offered articles that make “The Case for Military Action in Iran,” advocate for “Why Obama Should Take Out Iran’s Nuclear Program,” and assert it is “Time to Attack Iran.” Earlier this week, a more extreme version of the Iran-war-determinism meme was penned by Thomas P.M. Barnett, chief analyst at Wikistrat, an organization that refers to itself as “the world’s first Massively Multiplayer Online Consultancy.” In an op-ed entitled, “The New Rules: The Coming War with Iran,” Barnett wrote: Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Al-Qaeda, Post-Qaddafi Libya, and the Interrupters

by Micah Zenko Friday, February 17, 2012
A child stands in her room after her family returned to their home in Sirte, Libya (Courtesy Reuters/Youssef Boudlal). A child stands in her room after her family returned to their home in Sirte, Libya (Courtesy Reuters/Youssef Boudlal).

Even where there is enough food, people do not seem healthier. On top of 1 billion without enough calories, another 1 billion are malnourished in the sense that they lack micro-nutrients (this is often called “hidden hunger”). And a further 1 billion are malnourished in the sense that they eat too much and are obese. It is a damning record: out of the world population of 7 billion, 3 billion eat too little, too unhealthily, or too much. Read more »

Defense Spending, Special Operations, and Secrecy

by Micah Zenko Thursday, February 16, 2012
U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, answers a question during an all-call at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on January 31, 2012. U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, answers a question during an all-call at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on January 31, 2012.

After the release of the Pentagon’s core budget request of $525 billion for fiscal year 2013, pundits are picking the winners and losers. While the defense budget has increased by 45 percent from $365 billion in 2001, the Obama administration’s current proposal is only a 1 percent reduction from last year; targeted programs to cut include the Joint Strike Fighter (179 fewer purchases in the next five years) and the conventional Army (shrinking its currently authorized level of 570,000 troops to 490,000 by 2017). Read more »

Guest Post: The Case for U.S. Foreign Aid

by Emma Welch Tuesday, February 14, 2012
American soldiers carry relief supplies for families affected by a typhoon in the Philippines in 2006 (Courtesy Reuters/Romeo Ranoco). American soldiers carry relief supplies for families affected by a typhoon in the Philippines in 2006 (Courtesy Reuters/Romeo Ranoco).

Yesterday, the Obama administration released its highly anticipated $3.8 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2013, and will begin the process of obtaining Congressional approval for how to allocate and disperse government funds, domestically and abroad. The proposal calls for $43.4 billion for the core budget of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, with an additional $8.2 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. A 1.6 percent increase overall from last year’s budget (essentially a cost-of-living adjustment), it includes a new Middle East and North Africa Fund to incentivize regional political and economic reform efforts offset by reduced funding to a number of commitments. Read more »