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.

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Targeted Killings, and Nuclear Weapons

by Micah Zenko Friday, June 29, 2012
The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Government Accountability Office, State and DOD Face Challenges in Finalizing Support and Security Capabilities, June 28, 2012.

The Departments of State (State) and Defense (DOD) planned for a civilian-led presence in Iraq consisting of more than 16,000 personnel at 14 sites in fiscal year 2012. As of May 2012, State and DOD were reassessing the Mission Iraq presence, and State had a plan to reduce the presence to 11,500 personnel at 11 sites by the end of fiscal year 2013. Even with the reductions, Mission Iraq would remain the largest U.S. diplomatic presence in the world. State and DOD allocated an estimated $4 billion for the civilian-led presence for fiscal year 2012, 93 percent of which was for security and support costs. In addition, State requested $1.9 billion in police and military assistance and $471 million in other foreign assistance for fiscal year 2012. Read more »

Washington’s Chronic Threat Inflation

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, June 27, 2012
U.S. republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event in Pennsylvania on June 16, 2012 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event in Pennsylvania on June 16, 2012 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

In the March/April print edition of Foreign AffairsMichael Cohen and I coauthored an essay challenging the prevailing rhetoric of Washington-centric threat inflation, “Clear and Present Safety: The United States Is More Secure than Washington Thinks.” We argue 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 »

Of Course We Can’t Have It All

by Micah Zenko Monday, June 25, 2012
A mother swings her young son while walking along the tidal basin in Washington, DC (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). A mother swings her young son while walking along the tidal basin in Washington, DC (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, two very different yet equally fascinating publications were released about how we choose to spend our time. One was based on the personal experiences of a prominent international relations scholar and former high-ranking State Department official, the second a statistical database compiled annually by the federal government. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: David Sanger’s Revelations

by Micah Zenko Friday, June 22, 2012
U.S. president Barack Obama on the phone in the Oval Office in Washington, DC (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama on the phone in the Oval Office in Washington, DC (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

This week, I’ve compiled highlights from David Sanger’s recently released book, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, that address national security concerns, from cyberwars to drone strikes and targeted killings. Read more »

Domestic Drones Are Here…To Stay

by Micah Zenko Thursday, June 21, 2012
A pair of Customs and Border Protection UAS aircraft located at the southern border are standing by for air operations (Gerald L. Nino/Courtesy Customs and Border Protection). A pair of Customs and Border Protection UAS aircraft located at the southern border are standing by for air operations (Gerald L. Nino/Courtesy Customs and Border Protection).

Today, I have a piece in Foreign Policy that assesses the use of surveillance drones by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). While many are understandably anxious about the seemingly inevitable expansion of drones across the United States, I argue that many fears are either overblown or based on misperceptions. Read more »

Targeted Killings and Congressional Oversight

by Micah Zenko Monday, June 18, 2012
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters). The U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters).

Late Friday afternoon, the Obama administration marginally pulled back the curtain on targeted killings conducted by the U.S. military—but not those carried out by the CIA—in Somalia and Yemen. Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution (WPR), whenever the U.S. military is involved in “hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicate by the circumstances,” the president is required to report every six months to Congress “on the status of such hostilities or situation as well as on the scope and duration of such hostilities or situation.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Public Opinion, and Pakistan’s Complicity

by Micah Zenko Friday, June 15, 2012
Tribesmen gather at a damaged house struck by a drone missile in northern Waziristan (Stringer Pakistan/Courtesy Reuters). Tribesmen gather at a damaged house struck by a drone missile in northern Waziristan (Stringer Pakistan/Courtesy Reuters).

Pew Research Center, “Drone Strikes Widely Opposed: Global Opinion of Obama Slips, International Policies Faulted,” June 13, 2012.

(3PA: For my reaction to the poll numbers on international opinion of U.S. drone strikes, click here.) Read more »

The World (and Women) Hates U.S. Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, June 13, 2012
MQ-1 Predator returns to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, after a mission (Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester/Courtesy U.S. Air Force). MQ-1 Predator returns to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, after a mission (Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester/Courtesy U.S. Air Force).

Today, the Pew Research Center released its latest Pew Global Attitudes Project public opinion survey, conducted in twenty-one countries in March and April of this year through phone or in-person interviews. The results lead with the headline (which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone following U.S. targeted killing policies) “Drone Strikes Widely Opposed.” Read more »

Ask the Experts: Preventing Sexual Violence

by Micah Zenko Monday, June 11, 2012
Female victims of sexual violence at Panzi hospital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on September 6, 2007 (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters). Female victims of sexual violence at Panzi hospital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on September 6, 2007 (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, forty members of Congress re-introduced the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). As Amnesty International’s Cristina Finch explains, the I-VAWA “would coordinate and improve the U.S. government’s efforts to stop this global scourge by making it a priority in diplomatic and foreign assistance initiatives. This will help to ensure that the United States lives up to its international responsibility to end violence against women and girls.” Read more »

A Brief History of National Security Leaks

by Micah Zenko Friday, June 8, 2012
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the press in the White House press briefing room in Washington, DC, (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the press in the White House press briefing room in Washington, DC, (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

In today’s White House press briefing, President Obama responded to claims that his administration permitted the unauthorized leaking of classified information, particularly regarding U.S. targeted killing policy and efforts to sabotage Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges through cyber attacks. Obama declared: Read more »