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.

Drone Strikes and Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its bi-annual protection of civilians in armed conflict report. The mission determined that civilian fatalities and casualties increased by 23 percent over the first six months of 2013, compared to the same time period in 2012. Moreover, consistent with all previous reports, the vast majority (74 percent) of all civilian casualties were attributed to “Anti-Government Elements,” meaning primarily the Taliban, and nine percent by “Pro-Government Forces.” The rest occurred in combat between the two sides, or count not be attributed. Read more »

Report: U.S. Policies for Reducing Gun Violence in the Americas

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Colombia's Army general chief Gen. Alejandro Navas reviews grenades and weapons seized from Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas at an army base in Tame, Arauca province on July 21, 2013 (Gomez/Courtesy Reuters).

Julia Sweig is the Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin America Studies and director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Joel Hernandez is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine: massacres that punctuate the more than ten thousand gun homicides perpetrated every year in the United States. Yet what often goes missing from each subsequent debate in the United States about gun control is the international impact of lax American gun laws, especially in Latin America. Read more »

Recommended Reading For the Fall Semester

by Micah Zenko Monday, July 29, 2013
A series of books in former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's office in Johannesburg (Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

A friend who teaches U.S. foreign policy at a public policy school asked me for a few reading recommendations for the fall semester. Specifically, she requested books or reports written in the past academic year that she might have missed. Below you will find some works worth adding to your fall syllabus if you teach foreign policy or national security to undergraduate or graduate students. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: CIA in Pakistan, Syria, Special Ops in Trans-Sahara

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 26, 2013

Kathy Gannon and Sebastian AbbotCriticism Alters US Drone Program in Pakistan, ABC News, July 25, 2013.

The CIA has been instructed to be more cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping the practice of so-called “signature strikes” — hitting larger groups of suspected militants based purely on their behavior, such as being armed and meeting with known militants, said a current U.S. intelligence official and a former intelligence official briefed on the drone program… Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Were Early Humans Warlike?, U.S.-Pakistan Relations, and Opinion Polls

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 19, 2013

Donald Fry and Patrik Soderberg, “Lethal Aggression in Mobile Forager Bands and Implications for the Origins of War,” Science, July 19, 2003, pp. 270-273.

A controversy exists regarding mobile forager band societies (MFBS)and warfare…We extracted a subsample of purely MFBS (n = 21) from the standard cross-cultural sample (SCCS)…The 21 MFBS produced a total of 148 lethal aggression events. The median number was 4 (mean = 7.05; SD = 14.64), with a range from 0 to 69. One society, the Tiwi of Australia, had an exceptionally large number of lethal events (n = 69). If the Tiwi case is removed, the median number of lethal events for the remaining 20 societies drops to 3.5, the mean is almost cut in half (mean = 3.95; SD = 3.69), and the range is reduced to 0 to 15. Read more »

Guest Post: UNSC Debate on the Protection of Journalists in Armed Conflict

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Julia Trehu is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Wednesday, July 17, the United States Mission to the United Nations (UN), which holds the UN Security Council (UNSC) presidency, will host an open debate in the council chamber on the protection of journalists in armed conflict. Chaired by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, participants in the open debate will include NBC’s Richard Engel, Somali journalist Mustafa Haji Abdinur of Radio Simba and Agence France Presse, Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad of the Guardian, and Kathleen Carroll, Associated Press executive editor and vice chair of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Read more »

Guest Post: An Unwritten Definition: Humanitarian Intervention After Mali

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Monday, July 15, 2013
MINUSMA peacekeepers UN peacekeepers mark the start of the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) in Mali, on July 1, 2013 (Palm/Courtesy Reuters).

Amelia M. Wolf is a research associate for the Center for Preventive Action and the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

Guest Post: In Morocco, King Curbs Free Speech

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, July 9, 2013
King Mohammed VI and Francois Hollande Morocco's King Mohammed VI and France's President Francois Hollande wave to the crowd upon his arrival in Casablanca on April 3, 2013 (Bertrand/Courtesy Reuters).

Tyler McBrien is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on coerced confessions in Morocco, which was released last week, has led many observers to question whether the United States’ North African ally actually represents a democratic oasis in the region, as it is often presented to be. The study noted that many Moroccans are currently imprisoned “for their nonviolent speech or political activity.” American officials and Western media outlets often credit King Mohammed VI with deftly sidestepping the Arab Spring through liberalization and political reform. However, as the HRW report suggests, some elements of these heralded reforms are noticeably lagging behind. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes, Armed Conflict Data, and Snowden’s Fate

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 5, 2013

Hope Hodge, The Pentagon’s Hollywood Liaison, Army Times, July 8, 2013.

The U.S. military has played a supporting role in blockbuster films almost since the invention of the silver screen…

Since 1989, Philip Strub has headed up the Defense Department’s Film and Television Liaison Office, where filmmakers can ask the Pentagon for assistance on their projects, from consultation on uniforms and military procedures to use of real military aircraft and equipment. Not every production gets the green light; Strub vets scripts to ensure they portray the U.S. military accurately and positively… Read more »