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.

Will Killing Mullah Mansour Work?

by Micah Zenko Monday, May 23, 2016
Mullah Mansour, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban. (Handout via Reuters). Mullah Mansour, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban. (Handout via Reuters).

On Saturday, the Pentagon released a remarkable statement: “Today, the Department of Defense conducted an airstrike that targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mansur.” Soon after, a tweet from the Office of the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, read, “#Taliban leader #AkhtarMansoor was killed in a drone strike in Quetta, #Pakistan at 04:30 pm yesterday. His car was attacked in Dahl Bandin.” An anonymous U.S. official stated, “Mansour was the target and was likely killed,” while the Pentagon press release noted, “We are still assessing the results of the strike.” As of Monday afternoon, the Taliban had yet to release any statement. Read more »

Podcast: The 1990 U.S. Pledge to the Soviet Union on NATO Expansion

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I speak with Joshua Itzkowitz Shifrinson, an assistant professor at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service and author of “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion,” published in the current edition of International Security. We discuss what the United States pledged about NATO expansion to the Soviet Union in 1990, and why the way this is remembered shapes how we perceive of Russian intentions today. Shifrinson also explains why this debate matters for international relations theory, and provides inspiring advice for political science students. Read more »

Guest Post: Has Myanmar Fully Transitioned to a Democracy?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Friday, May 13, 2016
A woman walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar on May 3, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters) A woman walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar on May 3, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Helia Ighani is the assistant director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a majority of the votes after a landslide election in November 2015, becoming the first fully civilian-led government in Myanmar’s history. Once in power in April 2016, the NLD government released nearly two hundred political prisoners detained by the former military junta government, demonstrating Suu Kyi’s commitment to democratizing the country. However, the new NLD government has not yet attempted to reconcile animosity among Myanmar’s various ethnic groups—in particular, its Rohingya population. Up to 1.1 million Rohingya live in Myanmar, facing serious human rights violations, and thousands have been displaced due to violence with Buddhist nationalists (see CFR’s Global Conflict Tracker for an overview of the sectarian violence in Myanmar). Many have criticized Suu Kyi for refusing to touch the Rohingya issue, including the Dalai Lama. Read more »

Research Associate Opportunity–New York City

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The CFR’s David Rockefeller Studies Program is hiring a research associate to work in New York City, to support the work of a senior fellow, who happens to be me. The position requires someone who is super motivated, deeply curious about foreign policy issues, well-educated, and/or experienced in producing written content. This generally involves various administrative tasks, researching, editing, and writing—certainly your own stuff, and ideally some co-authored pieces as well (see examples here, here, and here). Read more »

Podcast: Anxious Politics: A Conversation with Shana Kushner Gadarian

by Micah Zenko Monday, May 9, 2016
Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World  by Shana Kushner Gadarian and Bethany Albertson (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World by Shana Kushner Gadarian and Bethany Albertson (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

How do threats portrayed in the media imprint on the human mind? Why do people seek out threatening information in the news? How do they perceive of these threats and what protective policies do they expect from politicians? I discuss these questions, social science methodologies, and career advice with Shana Kushner Gadarian, assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Read more »

Guest Post: Is American Fear of Islamic Terrorism Grounded in Evidence?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Members of the New York City Police Department's newly formed Critical Response Command anti-terrorism unit stand in formation as they gather for their first deployment outside their headquarters on Randall's Island in New York City on November 16, 2015. (Mike Segar/Reuters) Members of the New York City Police Department's newly formed Critical Response Command anti-terrorism unit stand in formation as they gather for their first deployment outside their headquarters on Randall's Island in New York City on November 16, 2015. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Tina Huang in an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Five months, three countries, one hundred and seventy-six dead. The self-proclaimed Islamic State has left a trail of carnage in the Western hemisphere (as well as tens of thousands of victims in the Middle East and North Africa). Subsequently, 51 percent of Americans fear that they or a family member will be killed in a terror attack. This level of fear among Americans is nearly equivalent to that experienced after 9/11, when 2,699 Americans died. The tragedy of 9/11 and more recent Islamic extremism attacks are also correlated with a rise of anti-Islamic hate crimes, which have more than doubled since 2008. Read more »

Five Red Team Insights for Leaders and Practitioners

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, May 3, 2016
'Mural' by artist Julie Mehretu is seen in the lobby of the Goldman Sachs office in Manhattan. Photo taken June 10, 2014. (Adam Hunger/Reuters) 'Mural' by artist Julie Mehretu is seen in the lobby of the Goldman Sachs office in Manhattan. Photo taken June 10, 2014. (Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Six months ago I published Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, which attempted to capture, describe, and define a relatively under-examined social phenomenon, red teaming. It is a “90-10 issue,” where 90 percent of people will not grasp what you are referring to, but are deeply curious, while 10 percent know what it is, and often have proprietary and closed minded conceptions of what is authentic red teaming. In the half year since the book release, I have given dozens of interviews with a range of outlets, and book talks at corporations, universities, military commands, and nonprofits. I also continued learning from red teamers who, unfortunately, I encountered only after publication. When you write a book about an obscure issue, the feedback that you receive after it is released makes you realize how little you knew as the author. Read more »

Podcast: Entrepreneurship: A Conversation with Elmira Bayrasli

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, April 26, 2016
"From The Other Side of The World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places" by Elmira Bayrasli  (PublicAffairs, 2015). "From The Other Side of The World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places" by Elmira Bayrasli (PublicAffairs, 2015).

What is an entrepreneur? How do entrepreneurs in other countries, such as Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, India, Russia, and China, differ from those in the United States? To what extent is entrepreneurship innate within the individual, or can be cultivated by the conditions, including governance or society, in which they grow up? Read more »

Are Drones More Precise Than Manned Aircraft?

by Micah Zenko Monday, April 25, 2016
A U.S. airman guides a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on March 9, 2016. (Josh Smith/Reuters) A U.S. airman guides a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on March 9, 2016. (Josh Smith/Reuters)

This blog post was coauthored with my research associate, Amelia M. Wolf.

In our latest piece at ForeignPolicy.com, we evaluate the Obama administration’s long-standing claim that drone strikes are more “precise” and cause fewer civilian fatalities than airstrikes by manned aircraft. We approach this challenge recognizing the limits of understanding who is being targeted and killed by all U.S. aerial operations. In addition, we admit that there are no wholly reliable or independently verifiable data sources, either from the U.S. government or research NGOs. Read more »

Podcast: Geoeconomics and Statecraft: A Conversation with Jennifer M. Harris

by Micah Zenko Thursday, April 21, 2016
Jennifer M. Harris and Robert D. Blackwill, "War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft" (Belknap Press, 2016). Jennifer M. Harris and Robert D. Blackwill, "War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft" (Belknap Press, 2016).

What is “geoeconomics” and how did it fall out of favor among U.S. officials and policymakers? How do countries like China and India use geoeconomic tools to pursue foreign policy interests? How could the U.S. government better employ geoeconomic tools—like economic sanctions, foreign direct investment, and development assistance—to compete with rising powers? Read more »