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: China, Air Power, and Bahrain’s Democracy Deficit

by Micah Zenko
April 27, 2012

A woman runs from an air strike by the Sudanese air force in Rubkona, South Sudan (Courtesy Reuters/Goran Tomasevic). A woman runs from an air strike by the Sudanese air force in Rubkona, South Sudan (Courtesy Reuters/Goran Tomasevic).


Background Briefing on the U.S. Military Realignment in Japan, April 26, 2012.

QUESTION: And then how this [US-Japan security agreement] fits into the emerging strategic view of this building that rotational, small forces are better than these colossal bases that have been historically our footprint?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, as you know, one of the goals of the administration in Asia is to create a—to build a presence in the Asia-Pacific that’s more geographically distributed.  And I think this agreement is part and parcel of that.  When you look at it in combination with our plans to build a rotational presence in Australia, what you have are sort of an ongoing ability for U.S. forces to be visible and present in multiple places across the region at any given time.  And we think that that presents advantages in building relations with partner countries; helping to respond to, for example, humanitarian emergencies; and as needed, respond to contingencies.

Khar: U.S. Not Listening to Our Drone Protests,” Dawn, April 26, 2012.

“On drones, the language is clear: a clear cessation of drone strikes,” Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said.

“I maintain the position that we’d told them categorically before. But they did not listen. I hope their listening will improve,” she said during an interview.

General John Michael Loh (Ret.), “Stop Terrorists With More Airpower,” Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2012.

The solution now should be to change the strategy from nation-building to relying on airpower to stop terrorists. President Barack Obama now recognizes that the precision, efficiency, low cost and near-zero casualties from an airpower strategy can allow withdrawal from Afghanistan soon while still attacking al Qaeda from wherever it chooses to operate globally. That is the unmistakable lesson from successful air attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere using airpower, not thousands of ground forces. Airpower provides the capabilities and global range for success against terrorism at a small fraction of the cost without huge ground invasions and unwanted occupation forces.

Reverend Franklin Graham, “Bombing Sudan’s Air Bases Only Way to Protect Innocents,” Washington Times, April 25, 2012.

As a pilot with 40 years of experience, I can assure you that an airplane doesn’t do well with holes in the runway. I certainly am not asking the president to kill anyone, just to break up some concrete to prevent the bombers from taking off. I think that by destroying those runways, we can force Mr. Bashir to the negotiating table.

Tony Capaccio, “Al-Qaeda Seeks Cyber-Attack Skills, U.S. Official Says,” Bloomberg News, April 25, 2012.

Cox said the constant references in the media to “cyber attacks” may be immunizing the public against concern because the term doesn’t capture the different dimensions of hacking the U.S. faces.

In some respects, it’s been a little over-hyped” because “the likelihood that an adversary is going to take down the entire power grid of the U.S. or stop the Internet—there’s huge amounts of resiliency built into the system that makes that kind of catastrophic thing very difficult,” he said.

“But you could do more tailored, precise-type strikes” against the U.S. financial network “that results in an uncontrolled run on U.S. banks,” Cox said.

Thanassis Cambanis, “You Can Stop Being Scared Now,” Boston Globe, April 22, 2012.

(3PA: This is an assessment of the piece that Michael Cohen and I coauthored in the February/March issue of Foreign Affairs.)

Global Immunization Data, World Health Organization, March 2012.

Nearly 17 percent of all deaths in children under five are vaccine preventable. 29 percent of deaths in children between one and fifty-nine months of age are vaccine preventable.

(3PA: For a fun depiction of the lifesaving power of vaccines, watch this short animated video in the 2011 annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates.)

Douglas Jehl, “Bahrain Rulers Say They’re Determined to End Village Unrest,” New York Times, January 28, 1996.

“Yes, the Western countries and the people here talk about democracy,” Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa said. “We are not afraid of democracy. We are afraid of the people who would misuse it.”

(3PA: Sheikh Khalifa is still the prime minister of Bahrain and is still afraid of democracy. As the latest State Department Human Rights Report stated in its chapter on Bahrain, “Citizens did not have the right to change their government.”)

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