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, Afghanistan, and Military Intervention

by Micah Zenko Saturday, July 28, 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).

Department of Defense News Briefing with General Norton Schwartz, July 24, 2012.

Q:  I just had a question about [remotely piloted aircraft].  There was statements recently that in the next year or so the military estimates that there will be more unmanned pilots than pilots in the air.  Is that possible? Read more »

A U.S.-Iran Naval Clash Is Not Inevitable

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 27, 2012
U.S. Navy handout photo of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln (Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Navy handout photo of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln (Courtesy Reuters).

The headline of today’s Washington Post reads, “Iran Expands Ability to Strike U.S. Navy in Gulf.” The piece describes Persian Gulf war games, paranoid comments by regional officials, and hollow threats from Iranian officials. Read more »

Guest Post: Iran’s Nuclear Program: The Unintended Consequences of Nuclear Exports

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Wednesday, July 25, 2012
A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, located under one thousand miles south of Tehran, Iran (Stringer Iran/Courtesy Reuters). A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, located under one thousand miles south of Tehran, Iran (Stringer Iran/Courtesy Reuters).

Matthew Fuhrmann is assistant professor of political science at Texas A&M University and a former Stanton nuclear security fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Atomic Assistance: How “Atoms for Peace” Programs Cause Nuclear Insecurity. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Invading Syria, Arming Yemen, and Military Dogs

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 20, 2012
A soldier patrols with his dog in a village in southern Afghanistan (Denis Sinyakov/Courtesy Reuters). A soldier patrols with his dog in a village in southern Afghanistan (Denis Sinyakov/Courtesy Reuters).

Government Accountability Office, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Use in the National Airspace and the Role of the Department of Homeland Security,” July 19, 2012.

GAO’s ongoing work has identified several UAS issues that, although not new, are emerging as areas of further consideration in light of greater access to the national airspace. These include concerns about privacy relating to the collection and use of surveillance data. Currently, no federal agency has specific statutory responsibility to regulate privacy matters relating to UAS. Another emerging issue is the use of model aircraft (aircraft flown for hobby or recreation) in the national airspace. FAA is generally prohibited from developing any rule or regulation for model aircraft. The Federal Bureau of Investigation report of a plot to use a model aircraft filled with plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol in September 2011has highlighted the potential for model aircraft to be used for unintended purposes. An additional emerging issue is interruption of the command and control of UAS operations through the jamming and spoofing of the Global Positioning System between the UAS and ground control station. Read more »

Op-Ed Militarism

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, July 18, 2012
A copy of the Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2007 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters). A copy of the Wall Street Journal on July 31, 2007 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters).

In his 1977 study on military and civilian influence on U.S. uses of force, Soldiers, Statesmen, and Cold War Crisis, political scientist Richard Betts examined Cold War military intervention and escalation decisions. Comparing the opinions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with those of civilian leaders, Betts found, “The stereotype of a belligerent chorus of generals and admirals intimidating a pacific civilian establishment is not supported by the evidence.” Read more »

Targeted Killings and Signature Strikes

by Micah Zenko Monday, July 16, 2012
U.S. president Obama walks out of the Oval Office on June 15, 2012 (Kevin Lemarque/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Obama walks out of the Oval Office on June 15, 2012 (Kevin Lemarque/Courtesy Reuters).

In his memoir My American Journey, Colin Powell recollects his tours in Vietnam, first as a U.S. Army captain in 1962 and 1963, and later as a major in 1968 and 1969. Due to the length of the war, Powell notes that many officers and noncommissioned officers deployed to Vietnam were wholly unprepared, leading to a “breakdown in morale, discipline, and professional judgment.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes, Threat Inflation, and Iran’s Military Power

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 13, 2012
Yemeni army forces fire a missile towards positions of al Qaeda-linked militants in Abyan, Yemen, on June 6, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Handout). Yemeni army forces fire a missile towards positions of al Qaeda-linked militants in Abyan, Yemen, on June 6, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Handout).

Rebecca Hamilton, “Special Report: The Wonks Who Sold Washington on South Sudan,” Reuters, July 11, 2012.

They called themselves the Council and gave each other clannish nicknames: the Emperor, the Deputy Emperor, the Spear Carrier. The unlikely fellowship included an Ethiopian refugee to America, an English-lit professor and a former Carter administration official who once sported a ponytail. Read more »

Mother Nature’s Kill List

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, July 10, 2012
A firefighter sprays water on a burning house in Santa Barbara, California (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters). A firefighter sprays water on a burning house in Santa Barbara, California (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters).

Oppressive Heat,” “Chimp Attacks,” “Sharks,” “Forest Fires,” “Africanized Bees,” “Death by Drowning.” These hard-hitting reports have been staples of the mainstream media since Publick Occurrences: Both Forreign and Domestick first hit the presses in September 1690. Today, news broadcasts and reality television depict harrowing tales of the the enemy that Americans must collectively fear and face: nature. Read more »

How the Obama Administration Justifies Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko Thursday, July 5, 2012
U.S. attorney general Holder delivers a speech at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago on March 5, 2012 (Jeff Haynes/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. attorney general Holder delivers a speech at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago on March 5, 2012 (Jeff Haynes/Courtesy Reuters).

Despite almost ten years of operations and nearly four hundred airstrikes that killed an estimated three thousand people (both militants and civilians), both the Bush and Obama administrations have provided limited information about U.S. targeted killings policies. The scope and intensity of the strikes represent an undeclared Third War beyond Afghanistan and Iraq, for which policymakers offer adjectives (“surgical,” “discriminate,” targeted,” and “precise”) but refuse to directly address any questions. According to White House spokesperson Jay Carney in February, “I’m not going to discuss broadly or specifically supposed covert programs.” Read more »