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: Conflict Prevention, Cyber War, and Conspiracy Theories

by Micah Zenko
April 6, 2013

A South Korean soldier looks to the north near the demilitarized zone. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters). A South Korean soldier looks to the north near the demilitarized zone. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters).

Claudette Roulo, “Dempsey Arrives in Afghanistan to Assess Progress,” American Forces Press Service, April 6, 2013.

Any conflict in history, when it is resolved, is resolved through some form of reconciliation,” [Gen. Martin Dempsey chairman of the joint chiefs of staff] said. “I support the effort to try … through the Afghans to encourage them to take reconciliation as an important line of effort.”

(3PA: This quote should be printed on a banner and hung above the entrance to the Pentagon.)

Jim Michaels, “Pentagon Seeking ‘Rules of Engagement’ for Cyber War,” USA Today, April 4, 2013.

The Pentagon is putting the finishing touches on rules that will give military commanders clearer authority if they have to respond to an enemy cyber-attack, military officials and cyber-security experts say.  Defense Department officials have started talking more openly about offensive cyber-capabilities, including the creation of 13 teams capable of offensive operations if the United States is attacked.

“This is all putting the world on notice, particularly the Chinese, that we’re tired of them breaking into private companies,” said Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer at Mandiant, a computer security company. The so-called rules of engagement will “provide a defined framework for how best to respond to the plethora of cyber-threats we face,” said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman.

The rules will be secret and cover more conventional combat as well.

(3PA: When the United States uses offensive cyber teams it is to defend against, or respond to, cyber-threats. When other states use offensive cyber teams, they are conducting cyberattacks, or engaged in “cyberwar.”)


Thom Shanker, “Military See Broader Role for Special Operations Forces, In Peace and War,” New York Times, April 3, 2013.

“The nation does not want another Afghanistan,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland head of the Army Special Operations Command. “So, how do we prevent conflict? Army Special Operations forces can be out there looking at instability, and looking at how to build capabilities.”

General Cleveland said he envisioned preparing his soldiers for two broad missions. “When I am at war, I have to campaign to win,” he said. “When I am not at war, I am campaigning to either shape the environment or I am campaigning to prevent war.” Although the large conventional military is out of Iraq and is leaving Afghanistan, Special Operations forces will remain “in an era of persistent operations,” he said.


Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Dials Back on Korean Show of Force,” Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2013.

Officials said intelligence agencies told policy makers that they could probably push the North harder than they planned to without triggering a serious military response, according to officials briefed on the intelligence.

Within the intelligence community, officials still doubt the North will act militarily. This week, intelligence officials defended their assessments. “At this point, what you continue to see out of North Korea is rhetoric,” one official said. “Nothing points to any action on the part of North Korea, which seems to support the intelligence assessments.”

But caution is growing in some administration circles. “There’s some sense that we overachieved in a way, that we were so successful [in sending messages to the North] that there is consideration of pulling back somewhat while continuing to reassure the South Koreans,” a senior administration official said.


David Cameron, “We Need  a Nuclear Deterrant More than Ever,” The Telegraph, April 3, 2013.

First, we need our nuclear deterrent as much today as we did when a previous British Government embarked on it over six decades ago. Of course, the world has changed dramatically. The Soviet Union no longer exists. But the nuclear threat has not gone away. In terms of uncertainty and potential risk it has, if anything, increased. The significant new factor we have to consider is this: the number of nuclear states has not diminished in recent years – and there is a real risk of new nuclear-armed states emerging.

All governments should, of course, carefully examine all options, but I have seen no evidence that there are cheaper ways of providing a credible alternative to our plans for a successor and I am simply not prepared to settle for something that does not do the job.


George Jahn, “AP Interview UN Nuke Chief Concerned About Iran,” Associated Press, April 2, 2013.

“We do not know for sure, but we have information indicating that Iran was engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices in the past and now,” he told The Associated Press in what appeared to be his most specific assertion that such activities are continuing into the present.

While not going into detail, Amano said the IAEA’s information was “cross checked … so we have concerns.”


David Ignatius, “Sorting Out the Syrian Opposition,” Washington Post, April 2, 2013.

Realistically, the best hope for U.S. policy is to press the Saudi-backed coalition and its 37,000 fighters, to work under the command of Idriss and the Free Syrian Army. That would bring a measure of order and would open the way for Idriss to negotiate a military transition government that would include reconcilable elements of Assad’s army.

“Consolidating forces under Gen. Idriss would extend his recognition and credibility,” explained a Syrian rebel activist here Tuesday night. But without a strong Saudi push, this coordination is a long shot.

Rebel sources here say the opposition has developed plans to train Syrian police, purify water supplies and teach forces how to dispose of chemical weapons — all pending approval. Such plans offer the best chance for mitigating the Syrian disaster. What is the United States waiting for?


Democrats and Republicans Differ on Conspiracy Theory Beliefs,” Public Policy Polling, April 2, 2013.

44% of voters believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the public about weapons of mass destruction to promote the Iraq War, while 45% disagree. 72% ofDemocrats believed the statement while 73% of Republicans did not. 22% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans and 28% of independents believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Just 6% of voters think Osama bin Laden is still alive. There is an intense partisan divide on whether or not global warming is a hoax: 58% of Republicans agree that it is a conspiracy, while 77% of Democrats disagree. 20% of Republicans believe that President Obama is the Anti-Christ, compared to 13% of independents and 6% of Democrats who agree. 51% of Americans believe there was a larger conspiracy at work in the JFK assassination, while 25% think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. 29% believe aliens exist and 21% believe a UFO crashed at Roswell in 1947.


Jackson Diehl, “What the Iraq War Taught Me About Syria,” Washington Post, March 31, 2013.

Iraq prompted a temporary souring of relations between the United States and France and Germany, and Arab Sunni monarchies never fully accepted the Shiite-led government that democracy produced. But U.S. influence in the Middle East remained strong. Now it is plummeting: Not just Britain and France but every neighbor of Syria has been shocked and awed by the failure of U.S. leadership. If it continues, Syria — not Iraq — will prove to be the turning point when America ceases to be regarded as what Bill Clinton called the “indispensable nation.”

 

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