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: Drone Strikes, Armed Conflict Data, and Snowden’s Fate

by Micah Zenko
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…

Q. …What criteria are you looking for when you decide to help a production?
A. Our criteria are very broad and rather subjective. We’re looking for an opportunity to inform the American public… but we don’t apply the same mindset for every project that comes in…

Q. Some think the Pentagon can become too involved in Hollywood productions. How do you respond to the criticism that the military is too protective of its image?
A. I think the whole notion that we censor is so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that people take it seriously. Hollywood… has to be the most influence-resistant institution ever. The last thing they will tolerate is interference. Pictures (related to the military) are made all the time without support from DoD, for one reason or another…


Paul Sonne and Peter Nicholas, “Snowden’s Asylum Effort Hits Roadblock,” The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2013.

Now, a sustained private and public diplomatic campaign by the White House and State Department appears to have at least halted the odyssey. Events, said one senior U.S. official, are “trending right.”


Jibran Ahmad, “Drone attack kills 17 in Pakistan’s Waziristan region,” Reuters, July 3, 2013.

A U.S. drone strike killed at least 17 people in Pakistan’s restive border region early on Wednesday, Pakistani security officials said, in the biggest such attack this year, and the second since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office.

Many were wounded in the attack, local tribesman Kaleemullah Dawar said, but rescuers delayed for fear of falling victim to a second attack, a common tactic with drone strikes.


Lotta Themner and Peter Wallensteen, “Armed Conflicts, 1946-2012,” Journal of Peace Research, July 1, 2013.

In 2012, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) recorded 32 armed conflicts with a minimum of 25 battlerelated deaths. This is a significant decrease from the 37 recorded in 2011. Overall, the 2000s has been the least conflict-ridden decade since the 1970s. A worrying finding, however, is that the number of internationalized intrastate conflicts continued to be at a high level for the fourth consecutive year. At six, the number of wars – conflicts leading to 1,000 or more battle-related deaths – remained the same as in 2011. In total, UCDP estimates that the conflicts that were active in 2012 caused between 37,175 (low estimate) and 60,260 (high estimate) battle-related deaths, with a best estimate of 37,941. The conflict that caused the highest number of fatalities in 2012 is the Syrian conflict, which led to between 14,830 (low) and 30,805 (high) battle-related deaths, with the best estimate being 15,055. Eleven armed conflicts listed in 2011 were not active in 2012; however, three new conflicts erupted during the year – India (Garoland), Mali and South Sudan vs. Sudan (common border) – and three previously registered conflicts were resumed by new actors. Lastly, 2012 saw an increase in the number of signed peace agreements which had been at a very low level over the past three years; four accords were concluded during the year, compared with one in 2011.


John McCain: U.S. must arm Syrian Rebels to deter Iran from nuclear ambitions,” Haaretz, July 1, 2013.

John McCain: There’s no good options. Would you rather have these weapons – perhaps some of them – in the hands of the wrong people, or would you rather have Bashar Assad prevail and then encourage Iran to further their ambitions on nuclear weapons?

Sen. Lindsey Graham: When you say to a leader of another country, ‘You can’t cross this line,’ and that person does and nothing happens, it’s not good. The Iranians need to believe that America’s serious about stopping their nuclear program. I think our policies in Syria are sending a mixed message.


Amy Svitak, Amy Butler, and Bill Sweetman, “Piaggio-Selex Drone Boasts Pan-European Promise,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 24, 2013.

As Europe dithers on joint development of a strategic unmanned aerial vehicle, Italy is touting a government-backed development with collaborative potential: the Piaggio-Selex HammerHead, a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone that offers a capability similar to the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper at what supporters say will be a lower price.

But after a decade of fits and starts in launching a pan-European MALE development, skeptics question whether Europe’s top defense spenders—U.K., France, Italy and Germany—are willing or able to fund a long-term industrial collaboration in a field where Europe already lags at least a decade behind the competition.

All together, we’ve lost 10 years in Europe on UAV development,” says Tom Enders, CEO of EADS, about the moribund Talarion MALE drone unveiled by the aerospace giant’s Cassidian defense unit in 2009. “Our company has spent serious money to advance UAVs, but without orders we stopped.”

A parallel development between France and the U.K. was stalled last summer when French President Francois Hollande took a clean-sheet approach to key elements of the nation’s UAV roadmap, which included plans for bilateral cooperation between Dassault Aviation and Britain’s BAE Systems on a MALE drone to be fielded by 2020, as well as an unmanned combat air system (UCAV) targeted for 2030.

Ensuing visits by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Italy, Germany and Poland hinted at broadening the Franco-U.K. collaboration. But while the minister recently signaled plans to forge ahead with joint UCAV development, Le Drian recently stated a preference for purchasing a dozen Reapers by 2020, potentially dimming prospects for French participation in a European MALE program.

(3PA: The stalled European efforts to develop advanced armed drones–like the long-delayed programs in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey–are worth bearing in mind when analysts warn of the near-term, mass proliferation of armed drones around the world.)

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