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: Drones, Preterm Births, and Robot Soldiers

by Micah Zenko
May 4, 2012

Afghan security forces members inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul on May 2, 2012, hours after President Obama departed (Courtesy Reuters/Omar Sobhani). Afghan security forces members inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul on May 2, 2012, hours after President Obama departed (Courtesy Reuters/Omar Sobhani).


AFP, “U.S.-Afghan Pact ‘Does Not Rule Out Drone Strikes,’” May 3, 2012.

The pact between the United States and Afghanistan could leave the door open for continued drone strikes against insurgent targets in Pakistan after 2014, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker indicated Wednesday.

“There is nothing in this agreement that precludes the right of self-defence for either party and if there are attacks from the territory of any state aimed at us we have the inherent right of self defence and will employ it,” he said.

Dion Nissembaum, “Taliban Hit Tempers Obama’s Afghan Visit,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2012.

(3PA: Crocker’s new legal defense of drone strikes: “Attacks planned and launched from Pakistan target civilians, international forces and Afghan security forces, and we have the right under the United Nations charter to respond to those attacks—and we will.”)

Donald G. McNeil Jr., “U.S. Lags in Global Measure of Premature Births,” New York Times, May 2, 2012.

Although American hospitals excel at saving premature infants, the United States is similar to developing countries in the percentage of mothers who give birth before their children are due, the study’s chief author noted. It does worse than any Western European country and considerably worse than Japan or the Scandinavian countries.

(3PA: Read the full World Health Organization/UNICEF report.)

Remarks of John O. Brennan—As Prepared for Delivery, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, April 30, 2012.

Yes, in full accordance with the law—and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives—the United States Government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qa’ida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones.  And I’m here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts.

(3PA: This week, I wrote several pieces in reaction to Brennan’s revelation: here and here.)

Gidget Fuentes, “SEALs Reach Out to Increase Diversity,” Navy Times, April 30, 2012.

This year, the command also extended its reach by participating in nine of the NFL’s regional scouting combines, where prospective players show off their skills.

“As it turns out, what got you here, with your opportunity with the NFL, is a lot about what makes the SEAL program successful,” Pybus told one group at a session supported by members of Naval Special Warfare Group 2. Several SEALs joined in the visits, meeting athletes and sharing their stories, including a SEAL lieutenant who had played college football before enlisting in the Navy.

’This Week’ Transcript: John Brennan, Economic Panel,” ABC News, April 29, 2012.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you stand by the statement you have made in the past that, as effective as they have been, they have not killed a single civilian? That seems hard to believe.

BRENNAN: Well, what I said was that over a period of time before my public remarks that we had no information about a single civilian, a noncombatant being killed. Unfortunately, in war, there are casualties, including among the civilian population. We’ve done everything possible in Afghanistan and other areas to reduce any risk to that civilian population. Unfortunately, Al Qaida burrows within these areas, you know, safe havens as well as areas where there are civilians, but we’ve been very, very judicious in working with our partners to try to be surgical in terms of addressing those terrorist threats. And the president has told us, we want to make sure that we protect the American people. And unfortunately, sometimes you have to take life to save lives, and that’s what we’ve been able to do to prevent these individual terrorists from carrying out their murderous attacks.

(3PA: Last June, Brennan had claimed of drone strikes in Pakistan, “There hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.”  Brennan’s implausible claim has been seriously challenged by late February reporting from the tribal areas of Pakistan, which found that in ten drone strikes over eighteen months, 30 percent of those killed were civilians or tribal police.)

Richard Leiby and Karen DeYoung, “U.S. Drone Strikes Resume in Pakistan; Action May Complicate Vital Negotiations,” Washington Post, April 29, 2012.

“When a duly elected democratic Parliament says three times not to do this, and the U.S. keeps doing it, it undermines democracy,” said a Pakistani government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preserve diplomatic relationships. “These drone strikes may kill terrorists, but the net loser is freedom and democracy.”

Kenneth Anderson and Matthew C. Waxman, “Law and Ethics for Robot Soldiers,” Policy Review.

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