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 Autonomous Robots

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 26, 2012
An armed unmanned Reaper drone prepares for takeoff (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). An armed unmanned Reaper drone prepares for takeoff (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Maria Abi-Habib, “Troops Shot After Taliban Leader’s Call,” Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2012.

Anti-American feelings are rife in the Afghan army and police, the two forces that are supposed to take over once the coalition’s military mandate ends in 2014. “We call the Americans troops infidels. They may be our allies in military terms, but under our religion they are our enemies,” said an Afghan army sergeant serving in Khost province. “The Quran says that Christians and Jews can never be friends of the Muslims.” Read more »

Obama’s Long-Term Drone Concerns

by Micah Zenko Thursday, October 25, 2012
U.S. president Barack Obama in a meeting about the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama in a meeting about the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

While reading Mark Bowden’s new book on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, I came across these startling comments by President Obama: Read more »

Planning for 2013: What Are the Next Threats?

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, October 24, 2012
A soldier from the U.S. Army scans across the Pakistani border (Tim Wimborne/Courtesy Reuters). A soldier from the U.S. Army scans across the Pakistani border (Tim Wimborne/Courtesy Reuters).

If you ask ten forecasters to predict the next conflict, you’ll likely get ten very different answers. But, they will agree on one thing: it is impossible to know for sure where and when the next conflict will emerge. Even the U.S. military acknowledges this certainty of uncertainty. Recently, Major General H.R. McMaster quipped: “We have a perfect record in predicting future wars…And that record is 0 percent.” Although experts have called for improved statistical models and “assigning more explicit, testable, and accurate probabilities” to improve existing U.S. government methodologies, prediction will always be an imperfect science. Read more »

Institutionalizing America’s Targeted Killing Program

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, October 24, 2012
A U.S. unmanned drone hovers over the tarmac (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). A U.S. unmanned drone hovers over the tarmac (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

In today’s Washington Post, Greg Miller delivers a comprehensive, forward-looking, must-read report on the Obama administration’s vast and expanding targeted killing program. In the piece, Miller provides three significant details that were previously unreported. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Targeted Killings, and Cyberattacks

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 19, 2012
U.S. President Obama speaks on the phone at the White House (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Obama speaks on the phone at the White House (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Nassar Arrabyee, “Qaeda Leader Reported Dead in Yemen Attack,” New York Times, October 18, 2012.

A drone fired on a group of people preparing to attack Yemeni troops on Thursday, killing at least nine, including a man identified as a leader of the local branch of Al Qaeda, according to Yemeni and security officials, who said the aircraft was American-operated. The strike took place less than a mile from a Yemeni brigade’s position in the southern province of Abyan, the officials said, Read more »

Foreign Policy Puzzles of the Vice Presidential Debate

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 12, 2012
Paul Ryan and Joe Biden at the conclusion of the U.S. vice presidential debate on October 11, 2012, in Danville, Kentucky (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters). Paul Ryan and Joe Biden at the conclusion of the U.S. vice presidential debate on October 11, 2012, in Danville, Kentucky (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters).

Although likely U.S. voters are evenly split between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, nearly all Americans agree that foreign policy issues are not important in this election. The latest poll found that only 6 percent think “foreign policy and the Middle East” is the most important issue. However, last night’s vice presidential debate devoted a significant amount of time on foreign policy questions, perhaps because moderator Martha Raddatz (who actually moderated) previously covered the Pentagon and the State Department, and is now a senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News. Read more »

Five Principles of Romney’s Foreign Policy

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivers his foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington on October 8, 2012 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters). Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivers his foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington on October 8, 2012 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, Mitt Romney delivered his first major foreign policy address since he spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention on July 24. Although there were few differences from his previous speeches, it is increasingly apparent that there are five core principles that underlie the Romney worldview. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Iran, Drones, and U.S. Government Surveillance

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 5, 2012
Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour, president of Yemen addresses the sixty-seventh UN General Assembly in New York (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters). Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansour, president of Yemen addresses the sixty-seventh UN General Assembly in New York (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

Bill Sizemore, “Ex-Defense Chief Says Hit on Iran Would Be Disastrous,” The Virginian-Pilot, October 4, 2012.

Neither the United States nor Israel is capable of wiping out Iran’s nuclear capability, he said, and “such an attack would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable. They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert.” Iran could respond by disrupting world oil traffic and launching a wave of terrorism across the region, Gates said. “The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.” Read more »

How to Watch the U.S. Presidential Debate

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, October 3, 2012
A worker helps to erect an ornamental eagle on the stage for the U.S. presidential debate in Denver, Colorado (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters). A worker helps to erect an ornamental eagle on the stage for the U.S. presidential debate in Denver, Colorado (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters).

Tonight’s presidential debate in Denver is supposed to focus on domestic issues, so prepare yourself for lots of talk about the power of job creators, Romneycare versus Obamacare, and fiscal cliffs. Nevertheless, given that foreign policy issues have been at the heart of Mitt Romney’s recent attacks on President Obama, it is likely that international affairs will creep into the discussion. Read more »