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.

How Many Pakistani Civilians Have Been Killed by CIA Drones?

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How many Pakistani civilians have been killed by CIA drone strikes? As I have noted, this is an inherently difficult question to answer due to the covert nature of the operations, the fact that some groups targeted by drones purposefully operate out of civilian facilities in an effort to avoid being killed, and the lack of reliable direct access for journalists who are threatened by the Pakistani army or targeted groups. To appreciate how contested the answer to this question is, consider three separate Pakistani government estimates of civilian casualties caused by drones. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Syria, and Technology

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 25, 2013
Drone site People gather at the site of a drone strike in southern Yemen on August 11, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Allegation of U.S. Spying on Merkel Puts Obama at Crossroads,” New York Times, October 24, 2013.

“This was colossally bad judgment — doing something because you can, instead of asking if you should,” said one career American official with long experience in Europe. A senior administration official declined to say what Mr. Obama knew or did not know about monitoring of Ms. Merkel’s phone, but said the president “doesn’t think we are in the right place.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes, the CIA, and Polls on Syria and Iran

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 18, 2013
Afghan policemen keep watch during celebrations for Afghan New Year. (Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters) Afghan policemen keep watch during celebrations for Afghan New Year. (Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters)

Drop the Pilot,” Economist, October 19, 2013.

A 2009 poll in three of the tribal agencies found 52% of respondents believed drone strikes were accurate and 60% said they weakened militant groups. Other surveys have found much lower percentages in favour. But interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military. They also insisted that the drones do not kill many civilians—a view starkly at odds with mainstream Pakistani opinion. “No one dares tell the real picture,” says an elder from North Waziristan. “Drone attacks are killing the militants who are killing innocent people.” Read more »

What New Threats and Conflicts Will Emerge in 2014?

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Child with Mortar Shell in Aleppo Issa, 10 years old, carries a mortar shell in a weapons factory of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, Syria on September 7, 2013 (Khatib/Courtesy Reuters).

In August 2009, President Obama declared in a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars: “One of the best ways to lead our troops wisely is to prevent the conflicts that cost American blood and treasure tomorrow.” As I previously noted, the U.S. military has a terrible record of predicting the locations and types of conflicts that it will face. For the past five years, in an effort to assist policymakers in anticipating and planning for thirty contingencies that threaten U.S. national interests, we at the Center for Preventive Action have conducted a Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS). Each year the PPS evaluates ongoing and potential violent conflicts based on the impact they could have on U.S. interests and their likelihood of occurring in the coming year. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Special Operations Raids, European Drones, and CIA Detentions

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 11, 2013
USS San Antonio The USS San Antonio transits through the Gulf of Oman on February 4, 2009. An elite American interrogation team is now questioning the senior al-Qaeda figure Abu Anas al-Liby, who was seized by special operations forces in Libya, onboard the USS San Antonio in the Mediterranean Sea (Zalasky/Courtesy Reuters).

Hearing to consider the nominations of Mr. Michael D. Lumpkin, Honorable Jamie M. Morin, and Honorable Jo Ann Rooney, U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, October 10, 2013.

Lumpkin: We’re not going to be able to kill our way to victory. One at a time, doing one-eaches…

I would argue [al-Qaeda is] less capable to attack the homeland directly but U.S. interests – it still has the capability. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Japanese Drones, Shutdown, CIA in Syria

by Micah Zenko Friday, October 4, 2013

John Hudson, “U.S. Rules Out a New Drone War in Iraq,” Foreign Policy Magazine, October 3, 2013.

In 2013 alone, Iraq is averaging 68 car bombings a month. The United Nations reports that 5,740 civilians were killed since January, which is almost two times more deaths than recorded in all of 2010. Read more »

The Federal Shutdown and Foreign Credibility

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Boehner shutdown Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner at 1:00 am on October 1, 2013, after a vote by the House prompted a shutdown of portions of the U.S. government (Bourg/Courtesy Reuters).

At midnight last night, the U.S. federal government began partial shutdown procedures, which are mandated whenever Congress and the President do not appropriate funds at the start of a new fiscal year, either through an appropriations bill or a continuing resolution. Subsequently, all affected federal agencies have to stop any programs funded by annual appropriations which are not deemed “essential” under the law. This means that employees of these agencies are placed on emergency furlough, a time during which they cannot come to work, bring work home, or even check their work emails. Subsequently the Department of Commerce will lose 87 percent of its workforce, Department of Energy 81 percent, Health and Human Services 52 percent, and the Department of Defense roughly half of its eight-hundred thousand civilian employees. Read more »