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.

Where the Drones Are

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, May 30, 2012
A MQ-9 Reaper sits on a runway in Kandahar (Corporal Steven Follows, Courtesy U.S. Air Force). A MQ-9 Reaper sits on a runway in Kandahar (Corporal Steven Follows, Courtesy U.S. Air Force).

Every day, the media reports a new story about the Obama administration’s policy of targeted killings, the vast majority of which are carried out by armed drones. On Monday, for instance, Newsweek ran a piece by Daniel Klaidman that described President Obama’s “uneasy acceptance” of signature strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and how he resisted administration officials who sought to expand the target set. And yesterday, the New York Times ran an excellent feature that described the discomfort of many within the administration regarding the seductive allure of seemingly cost-free drone strikes (which echoes what many current and former officials have told me for years). According to a former senior intelligence official, “It bothers me when [counterterrorism officials] say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants. They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.” Read more »

Guest Post: Remember Our Veterans This Memorial Day Weekend

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Sunday, May 27, 2012
Crashed U.S. fighter plane is seen on waterfront in France after the D-Day invasion of 1944 (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters). Crashed U.S. fighter plane is seen on waterfront in France after the D-Day invasion of 1944 (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters).

This is a guest post by CFR military fellow, Colonel Chad T. Manske, U.S. Air Force.

This weekend is a time to honor and reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans, particular those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the freedoms we hold so dear. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Yemen, Drone Wars, and More

by Micah Zenko Friday, May 25, 2012
A military band plays at Arlington National Cemetery (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). A military band plays at Arlington National Cemetery (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

2011 Human Rights Report: Yemen, U.S. Department of State, May 24, 2012.

The government also employed air strikes against rebellious tribes in Nihm and Arhab. Human rights observers and local residents accused the government of targeting villages of these tribesmen in both areas with aerial bombardment, leading to significant noncombatant casualties. The government also employed air strikes against AQAP and affiliated insurgents in Abyan, with some strikes hitting civilian areas. Although some accused the government of intentionally striking civilians in Abyan, most if not all noncombatant casualties from these bombardments were attributed to a lack of air force training and technical capability. Read more »

Human Rights Report and Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko Thursday, May 24, 2012
A MQ-1B Predator from the 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron in February 2012 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey (Anthony Sanchelli/U.S. Air Force). A MQ-1B Predator from the 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron in February 2012 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey (Anthony Sanchelli/U.S. Air Force).

Today—eighty-nine days past its legal deadline—the State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. The new, user-friendly interface allows you to find and read individual country chapters much more quickly and easily (and might explain the delay). For all its flaws, the report remains a must-read for its reporting and candor. It serves as a generally honest counter to the rosier assessments of U.S. partners and allies’ human rights practices. Read more »

Happy Anniversary

by Micah Zenko Thursday, May 24, 2012
A girl lights a candle in Bangkok (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). A girl lights a candle in Bangkok (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

One year ago today, with no strategy and no working knowledge of the blogosphere, I started this blog: Politics, Power, and Preventive Action. As I reread my first post, I was heartened to see that I characterized myself as “someone who is massively curious about foreign affairs” and concluded, “This should be fun!” Reflecting on this past year, blogging has been tremendously fun—although much more work than I had anticipated. Read more »

U.S. Foreign Policy and Contested Sovereignty

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, May 22, 2012
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference on the second day of the NATO Summit in Chicago (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference on the second day of the NATO Summit in Chicago (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters).

In his memoir Decision Points, President George W. Bush described his frustration after reading intelligence reports about a growing Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan in the summer of 2008. Bush recalls an encounter with a Navy Seal in Afghanistan in 2006, who said: “Mr. President, we need permission to go kick some ass inside Pakistan.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Yemen and Drone Wars

by Micah Zenko Friday, May 18, 2012
An anti-government protester shouts slogans during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen (Courtesy Reuters/Mohamed Al-Sayaghi). An anti-government protester shouts slogans during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen (Courtesy Reuters/Mohamed Al-Sayaghi).

Iona Craig, “Toll Climbs in Yemen’s Fight Against al-Qaeda,” USA Today, May 18, 2012.

Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Rethinks Secrecy on Drone Program,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2012. Read more »

How to Grow Terrorists in Yemen

by Micah Zenko Thursday, May 17, 2012
A drone circles the skies (Courtesy Reuters/Andy Clark). A drone circles the skies (Courtesy Reuters/Andy Clark).

The Obama administration’s strategy against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as articulated by White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan, is to assure that it is “destroyed and is eliminated.” In January 2010, Brennan warned: “We’ve seen over the past several years in Yemen is increasing strengthening of Al Qaida forces in Yemen. There are several hundred Al Qaida members there.” Read more »

Escalating America’s Third War in Yemen

by Micah Zenko Monday, May 14, 2012
Yemen's President Hadi meets with the top U.S. counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, in Sanaa, Ymen, on May 13, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Handout). Yemen's President Hadi meets with the top U.S. counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, in Sanaa, Ymen, on May 13, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Handout).

America’s Third War is escalating quickly in the skies over Yemen. Despite previous rebuffs from the White House, last month the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the CIA—which both run parallel drone campaigns in Yemen—were granted broad authority to conduct “signature strikes” against anonymous suspected militants, who are determined to support al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) based on the observed “patterns of suspicious behavior” from multiple intelligence sources. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Israel’s Nuclear Weapons, and “Big Boy Pants”

by Micah Zenko Friday, May 11, 2012
U.S. soldiers with patrol the Zharay district in southern Afghanistan on April 24, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Baz Ratner). U.S. soldiers with patrol the Zharay district in southern Afghanistan on April 24, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Baz Ratner).

Nick Paumgarten, “The World of Surveillance,” The New Yorker, May 14, 2012.

Patrick Egan, president of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Association for Unmanned Systems International: “The first time a drone Tases the wrong dude at a Phish concert, you’re going to have problems.” Read more »