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: Predicting Future Wars, Drones, Secrecy

by Micah Zenko
December 14, 2012

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper prepares for take-off from Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan (Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr./Courtesy U.S. Air Force). A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper prepares for take-off from Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan (Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr./Courtesy U.S. Air Force).


Remarks by Secretary Leon Panetta at Ali Salem Air Base, December 12, 2012.

The war of the future is going to involve cyber war.  That’s a reality.  We will do that; others will do that.”

(3PA: Actually, this assertion is not “a reality,” it is a prediction. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the U.S. military is terrible at predicting future wars. As Panetta himself admitted just two days later: “you never know necessarily what the next crisis is going to be.”)

Jake Tapper, Fiscal Cliff Negotiations and Drones, ABCNews.com, December 12, 2012.

TAPPER: I wasn’t here when The New York Times published this report. I mean, I was off for a couple of weeks, for their report about the Obama administration drafting policy for drones in the weeks leading up to elections just in case the Obama administration was not going to be in charge for the next four years. Given the administration’s desire to be — stated desire to be more open about its drone policy, as exemplified by John Brennan’s speech a few months ago, is there anything more you can tell us about that policy? Is there anything more we can expect in terms of transparency and discussion about the drone policy?

CARNEY: There is nothing more that I can add to that discussion beyond what John Brennan said in his speech that you refer to. And you know, obviously the broader focus of the president on taking the actions that are necessary to keep America safe will continue. But I don’t have any more details about that issue in terms of moving forward.

TAPPER: Those actions that are done in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere sometimes result in civilian deaths. And yet because this program is not discussed very often, certainly not from that podium but also not by the Pentagon in press releases, we don’t know what is being done in the name of national security that is resulting in not just bad guys being killed but also sometimes women and children who are either related to the bad guys or just happen to be in the wrong place at the — at the wrong time. Is there no desire for greater transparency at all when it comes to this? I mean, would that not live up to the president’s desire for transparency, as repeatedly stated?

CARNEY: Without discussing classified matters or other intelligence matters, I would point you to the remarks that John Brennan made, which I think demonstrate our position on these issues and the broader issue you talk about in terms of transparency. I just don’t have anything new to say or to add to that conversation today.

(3PA: For the two Brennan speeches where he mentions certain aspects of U.S. drone strikes, see here and here.)

Gideon Rachman, “America’s Drone War Is Out of Control,” Financial Times, December 10, 2012.

Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt, “Libyan Reluctance Hampers U.S. Investigation Into Deadly Benghazi Attack,” New York Times, December 10, 2012.

When you deal with a foreign country, you have to play by their rules,” the official said. “You can’t just go around the world and conduct an independent investigation wherever it is happening.”

“This is nothing specific to Libya. You wouldn’t be able to go into London or somewhere in Canada, where you think you think they would be cooperative and friendly, and just do whatever you want. It is just a fact of doing business outside the United States.”

Gary Fields and Cameron McWhirter, “In Medical Triumph, Homicides Fall Despite Soaring Gun Violence,” Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2012.

The number of U.S. homicides has been falling for two decades, but America has become no less violent. Crime experts who attribute the drop in killings to better policing or an aging population fail to square the image of a more tranquil nation with this statistic: The reported number of people treated for gunshot attacks from 2001 to 2011 has grown by nearly half.

“Did everybody become a lousy shot all of a sudden? No,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, a union that represents about 330,000 officers. “The potential for a victim to survive a wound is greater than it was 15 years ago.”

U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Combined Air Forces Component Command Airpower Statistics, December 6, 2012.

Number of Weapons Releases from Remotely Piloted Aircraft

2009: 257; 2010: 279; 2011: 294; 2012: 447

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