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: Drones, al-Shabaab in Somalia, and the NSA.

by Micah Zenko
November 1, 2013

Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, “As Security Deteriorates at Home, Iraqi Leader Arrived in U.S. Seeking Aid,” New York Times, October 31, 2013.

Until now, Mr. Maliki was reluctant to openly ask for United States support. A former American official said that in 2012 Mr. Maliki was on the verge of asking the United States to fly reconnaissance drones over Iraq to help pinpoint the growing terrorist threat but backed off at the last moment when the request became public.

(3PA: For why the United States should refrain from conducting drone strikes on behalf of Iraq’s embattled leader read here.)


Claudette Roulo, “Carter Praises U.S. Soldiers’ ‘Ferocious Ingenuity,” American Forces Press Service, October 29, 2013.

The current political squabbles in the nation’s capital are disruptive to the U.S. military, he said.

Having just flown [-in] from Washington … there’s nothing good I can say about it,” [deputy secretary of defense Ashton] Carter said. “It’s inexcusable. It’s leading to real disruption in how we manage our armed forces.


Allison Nielsen, “Americans Highly Opposed to Use of Drones for U.S. Police Work,” Sunshine State News, October 28, 2013.

According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, 69 percent of likely U.S. voters favor the use of unmanned drone aircraft to kill al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists overseas while 20 percent oppose the use of drones to kill terrorists overseas.

Sixty-four percent believe it’s at least somewhat likely that drone strikes overseas have killed more innocent civilians than the U.S. government is officially reporting, but just 21 percent consider that unlikely.


Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Kony 2013: U.S. Quietly Intensifies Effort to Help African Troops Capture Infamous Warlord,” Washington Post, October 28, 2013.

Several senior military commanders voiced skepticism in the early strategy sessions, questioning whether deploying forces to kill or capture Kony met core U.S. national security interests. Civilians in the Pentagon, State Department officials and staffers at the National Security Council, some of whom had worked closely with Invisible Children and Resolve, were far more supportive of a military deployment, viewing it as the quickest, most effective way to resolve the problem.

(3PA: This article provided further confirming evidence about the differing civilian-military perceptions about using military force. You will not find many combatant command or joint staff planners who work closely with NGO advocacy groups.)


Erik Gartzke, “The Myth of Cyberwar: Bringing War in Cyberspace Back Down to Earth,” International Security, Vol. 38, No. 2, Fall 2013.

There is significant fault, however, in the theme of impending cyber apocalypse: it is far from clear that conflict over the internet can actually function as war…This article assesses the salience of the internet for carrying out functions commonly identified with terrestrial political violence.


U.S. Navy Employment Options for Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs),” Rand Corporation, 2013.

The Current USV Market

We identified 63 USVs in the current market. We obtained publicly available data on size, speed, endurance, level of autonomy, payload mass, and power provided to payloads. Where exact values were not available, we estimated based on vehicle and concept descriptions, comparisons with similar vehicles, and rough-order-of-magnitude technology-based assessments.

The Current USV Marketplace Focuses on Relatively Few Categories of Applications

While current USVs perform a range of missions and functions, the majority of activity in the USV marketplace tends to coalesce around a relatively small set of mission categories. Collectively, the 63 USVs in the current market perform 16 distinct types of missions, listed on the vertical axis of Figure 2.1. As most of these USVs are designed to perform more than one type of application and many are modular (allowing a range of missions through tailored payloads), the set of 63 USVs collectively demonstrates 148 individual missions. Nearly 80 percent of the applications fall into just five categories. The “observation and collection” application category is the most common; this partly reflects the fact that most USVs need to have some ability to observe their environment, enabling a remote operator or algorithm to respond to that environment, enabling a remote operator or algorithm to respond to that environment. The large number of USV applications under the “characterizing the physical environment” category is accounted for by the large number of civilian-sector USVs that perform environmental survey work, while the number of USV applications under the MCM category reflects both a large number of legacy European drones conducting influence sweeping, as well as a few modern systems. (pp. 8-10)

 

 

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