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: Syria, Drones, Gender Citation Gap

by Micah Zenko
September 13, 2013

14-year-old Syrian fighter A 14-year-old fighter, whom activists say is the youngest fighter in the Khadraa brigade operating under the Free Syrian Army, on July 9, 2013 (Khalil/Courtesy Reuters).

Contracts: Air Force, U.S. Department of Defense, September 12, 2013.

General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, Calif., has been awarded a $12,844,738 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the MQ-9 stationary targeting improvements. This contract action is for the development and delivery of an improved targeting capability with the Lynx synthetic aperture radar (SAR) on the MQ-9 platform to allow for a more streamlined approach to targeting and quicker decision making by the crew.


Gerald F. Seib, “McCain Passionately Defends Syrian Opposition,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2013.

“The Syrian people are moderate,” [McCain] said. “The Syrians are not going to stand to be governed by al Nusra and foreign fighters. They’re not. They’re the most highly educated, most literate nation in the Middle East. And to somehow believe they are going to fall prey to al Qaeda and al Nusra is not a possibility.”

(3PA: According to UNESCO and World Bank estimates, Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians, have higher literacy rates.)


6th Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, United Nations, September 11, 2013.

Government and pro-government forces have continued to conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance as crimes against humanity. They have laid siege to neighbourhoods and subjected them to indiscriminate shelling. Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of torture, hostage-taking, murder, execution without due process, rape, attacking protected objects and pillage.


Tony Perry, “If Ordered to Strike Syria, Navy is Ready, Admiral Tells Sailors,” Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2013.

“My philosophy is: Don’t try to impress someone from China with Chinese food,” [chief of naval operations Adm. Jonathan] Greenert said.


Joel Achenbach, “Obama’s Syria Push Scrambles Hill Alliances,” Washington Post, September 10, 2013.

He could use an “aye,” for example, from Rep. Trent Franks, the Arizona Republican and far-right conservative. But here’s Franks, in a subterranean corridor, emerging Monday night from a high-level briefing on Syria: “It just seems that everything the president touches in foreign policy, he injects it with chaos and death.”


Karen DeYoung, “U.S. Officials Identify Extremist Groups in Benghazi Attack,” Washington Post, September 10, 2013.

In the past four months, as crises have erupted and terrorist threats led the department to temporarily close embassies and consulates in 20 countries, the official said, military forces have been moved around to respond quickly “70 to 80 times.”


Tom Vanden Brook, “Strike to Degrade Syrian Forces Would Still be Limited,” USA Today, September 8, 2013.

A second senior official, who has seen the most recent planning, offered this metaphor to describe such a strike: If Assad is eating Cheerios, we’re going to take away his spoon and give him a fork. Will that degrade his ability to eat Cheerios? Yes. Will it deter him? Maybe. But he’ll still be able to eat Cheerios.


New York Times/CBS News poll, September 6-8, 2013.

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(3PA: This is the highest recorded percent of Americans that believe the United States should not take a leading role in solving international conflicts.)


Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers, and Barbara F. Walter, “The Gender Citation Gap in International Relations,” International Organization, August 2013.

A look at our data reveals that women in IR do, in fact, cite their work significantly less than men…Among those single-authored articles, male-authored articles have 0+4 self-cites on average, while articles authored by one woman self-cite 0+25 articles+ Looking at only coauthored articles reveals a similar pattern, where those written by two or more men cite themselves more than women.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Kir Komrik

    Thanks for that key quote from Mr. McCain and the poll data,

    “The Syrian people are moderate,” [McCain] said. “The Syrians are not going to stand to be governed by al Nusra and foreign fighters. They’re not. They’re the most highly educated, most literate nation in the Middle East. And to somehow believe they are going to fall prey to al Qaeda and al Nusra is not a possibility.”

    In my opinion a clear, unambiguous demarcation between the extremist elements of FSA and its remainder should be made sooner than later. There are any number of ways that demarcation can be highlighted. Then we can see where everyone stands. In any case, I, for one, would not rely on the FSA to remove the rotten apples. That’s my two cents.

    “(3PA: This is the highest recorded percent of Americans that believe the United States should not take a leading role in solving international conflicts.)”

    When Caligula asked his best friend and General, “what has happened to the Roman Citizen”, the right words to tell him that he was a poisoned man must have seemed elusive; that he was a product of a system of “law” he thought was all glory; that shining city on a hill. There could have been little hope that someone like him would ever see past the nominal but clever design for its day, to find the tiny, hidden grains it contained extruding to the surface after centuries of erosion. When you wipe your finger over a painting and draw color you see what isn’t true. I think this, like other polls, conceals a deeper phenomenon that the leadership is tragically not seeing; a cancer that is corroding public confidence, and it’s cause is structural.
    This poll is not an aberration. It is a trend. Americans don’t believe the basic facts on the ground … the reality of what we are facing. Since WWII there has been far too much secrecy and it is coming home to roost. That need not imply any wrongdoing. The point is that by withholding so much from the general public USG has unwittingly created a credibility issue; and opened the door for propaganda circus clowns to exploit. And Joe Public doesn’t need to know much to realize that he is not the best expositor of the well-informed voter and lobbyist. For the absence of evidence is not, in “their” mind, evidence of absence but evidence of secrecy. And much of that secrecy might be necessary, which was my point in saying that this is structural. Representative governance and secrecy are not compatible. There is only the space to touch briefly on one of the reasons for this here, but there are many discussed in the link below.

    So, for most Americans to doubt the facts on the ground and maintain their belief system they must harbor some degree of cognitive dissonance; and reach for the most catch-penny answers they can find. This process additionally alienates the populace from important national and international affairs and only encourages a willful ignorance of Civics. And that is what the respondents are doing.

    The modern neo-liberal Western Democracy is in bad need of an update and rebuild, but not a trashing. I, for my part, have found Madison and Hamilton a good anchor, but there are many others that in some way or another have led to our current, best understanding of representative governance. But it is not infallible either by design or in practice. There are reasons why this is happening and they can be fixed. We have nearly 1000 years experience to guide us ineluctably to the formulation of the body of law and economics that will deliver that fix.

    - kk

    One idea for how to fix this can be found here:

    http://kirkomrik.wordpress.com/rule-of-law/global-constitutionalism/

    Oops, did I cite myself? :-)

  • Posted by Peter Duveen

    The “necessary” secrecy Kir speaks of is not warranted, because poor (read disastrous) decisions and strategies have been made with its help. Leaders should own up to their misguided policies, and retrace their steps. The most efficacious and least costly policy would be to support Assad, and remove support from the rebels. One must not forget the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group–to engage in diplomacy with Iran and Syria with an eye toward using their influence to stabilize the Middle East. These recommendations, instead of being shunned as they have been for close to a decade, should be implemented, and the playthings of the Neocons should be recognized as a prescription for disaster and duly sidelined.

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