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.

A Primer on Military Force

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, May 9, 2012
U.S. Sheridan tanks mothballed at Fort Irwin, California Army National Training Center (Courtesy Reuters/Rick Wilking). U.S. Sheridan tanks mothballed at Fort Irwin, California Army National Training Center (Courtesy Reuters/Rick Wilking).

As I’ve written previously, policymakers and pundits have some pretty silly proposals for the use of military force. Whether it’s President Clinton,“[It would] scare the shit out of al Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp,” or uberconservative Pat Robertson, “We really ought to go ahead and [assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez]…It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war,” such harebrained schemes lack a basic understanding of military strategy, geography, and logistics, not to mention international law. Read more »

Obama’s Afghanistan Strategy: Signaling Intent

by Micah Zenko Monday, May 7, 2012
U.S. President Obama and Afghan President Karzai meet to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement in Kabul on May 1, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Kevin Lemarque). U.S. President Obama and Afghan President Karzai meet to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement in Kabul on May 1, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Kevin Lemarque).

Last week, President Obama flew to Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai and sign the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the United States and Afghanistan. This aspirational document is a broad framework to guide U.S.-led nationbuilding efforts in Afghanistan through the end of 2024. Most interesting, however, is what is missing, namely any guaranteed future U.S. financial support, or specific authorities for U.S. forces in the country after combat troops are withdrawn by the end of 2014. Moreover, the agreement signed by Obama and Karzai specifically states: “The United States further pledges not to use Afghan territory or facilities as a launching point for attacks against other countries.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Preterm Births, and Robot Soldiers

by Micah Zenko Friday, 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. Read more »

Drone Strikes and Public Debate

by Micah Zenko Thursday, May 3, 2012
An MQ-1B Predator from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off from Balad Air Base in Iraq (Courtesy Reuters). An MQ-1B Predator from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off from Balad Air Base in Iraq (Courtesy Reuters).

David Ignatius, the CIA’s favored receptacle of leaked classified information, has a piece in today’s Washington Post that criticizes the Obama administration for acknowledging the existence of “covert” drone strikes. Ignatius makes several remarkable claims that each deserve a response. Read more »

Targeted Killings and Unanswered Questions

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, May 1, 2012
John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, speaks at a White House press briefing (Courtesy Reuters/Kevin Lemarque). John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, speaks at a White House press briefing (Courtesy Reuters/Kevin Lemarque).

“As soon as they tell me it is limited, it means they do not care whether you achieve a result or not. As soon as they tell me ‘surgical,’ I head for the bunker.” General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 1992. Read more »