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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Rogue Justice: A Conversation with Karen Greenberg

by Micah Zenko
Rogue Justice Greenberg book cover Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State by Karen J. Greenberg (Crown 2016).

Today I spoke with Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. We spoke about her comprehensive account of the national security legal debates since 9/11 in her new book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State (Crown, 2016), as well as a new report from the Center on National Security that details all 101 publicly known Islamic State-related cases. Karen also offered her sobering and honest advice for young legal and national security scholars. Follow Karen’s work on Twitter @KarenGreenberg3, and listen to my conversation with one of the most respected and knowledgeable scholars in the world of national security, counterterrorism policy, and civil liberties. Read more »

Questioning Obama’s Drone Deaths Data

by Micah Zenko
Pre-flight inspection of an MQ-1B Predator unmanned drone aircraft on September 3, 2008 (Christopher  Griffin/Reuters). Pre-flight inspection of an MQ-1B Predator unmanned drone aircraft on September 3, 2008 (Christopher Griffin/Reuters).

Months after promising to release the number of civilians that have been killed in U.S. lethal counterterrorism operations outside of “areas of active hostilities,” the Obama Administration today released its count in a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. According to the numbers provided, there were 473 “strikes” [presumably this includes both manned and unmanned aircraft conducted by both the CIA and the U.S. military] which killed between 2,372 and 2,581 combatants, and between 64 and 116 civilians. Read more »

How Not To Estimate and Communicate Risks

by Micah Zenko
An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launches in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 28, 2015 (Michael Berrigan/Reuters). An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launches in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 28, 2015 (Michael Berrigan/Reuters).

Estimating and translating the probability of an event for decision-makers is among the most difficult challenges in government and the private sector. The person making the estimate must be able to categorize or quantify a likelihood, and willing to relay that analysis to the decision-maker in a way that is comprehensible and timely. The decision-maker then must consider the probability within the context of other information, and subsequently consider the trade-offs between one course of action over another. The ultimate goal of perceiving and communicating risks is to best assure any institution has managed those risks and made the most sound choice possible in the time allotted. Read more »

Bargaining and Military Coercion: A Conversation with Todd Sechser

by Micah Zenko

Today, I spoke with Todd Sechser, Associate Professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. We spoke about his important new article in Journal of Conflict Resolution, “Reputations and Signaling in Coercive Bargaining,”  his next book with Matthew Fuhrman, Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), and why the United States has such a poor record at coercive diplomacy. Todd also provides advice for young scholars in international relations. Listen to my conversation with one of the smartest scholars doing policy-relevant research on coercion, reputations, and U.S. foreign policy. Read more »

The Orlando Massacre and Global Terrorism

by Micah Zenko
blogterrorism People gather at a vigil in solidarity for the victims of the Orlando nightclub mass shooting at Taylor Square in Sydney, Australia, June 13, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

A brief note to place Sunday morning’s horrific massacre in Orlando, Florida, within the broader global context of terrorism. In 2014, the last year for which there is complete data, there were eighty-two terror attacks around the world that killed more than fifty people—twenty-eight of them killed over 100 people. This is according to the Global Terrorism Database, which is maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The country and number of attacks with more than fifty fatalities is listed below. Read more »

What Clinton’s E-mails Reveal About Her Support for CIA Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
Hillary-2011 U.S. Secretary of State Clinton talks before House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington (Larry Downing/Reuters)

A revelation today about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State may indicate her preference using military force over diplomatic considerations. It was known since January that the content of twenty-two emails that went through the private server were classified at the “top secret/SAP [special access programs]” level, referring to highly classified intelligence gathering or covert programs run by the Pentagon and CIA. At the time, Clinton told NPR, “the best we can determine” is that the emails in question consisted solely of a news article about drone strikes in Pakistan. As Clinton stated: “How a New York Times public article that goes around the world could be in any way viewed as classified, or the fact that it would be sent to other people off of the New York Times site, I think, is one of the difficulties that people have in understanding what this is about.” Read more »

The State of Global Terrorism in 2015

by Micah Zenko
Jamaat-ud-Dawa-burn-flag-protest Supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamic organization burn a mock U.S. flag during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan, May 27, 2016. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

Today, the U.S. State Department published its Country Reports on Terrorism: 2015—a congressionally mandated analytical and statistical review of global terrorism. It is important to understand how the U.S. government defines this subjective phenomena: “The term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” Read more »

Will Killing Mullah Mansour Work?

by Micah Zenko
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 »

The 1990 U.S. Pledge to the Soviet Union on NATO Expansion: A Conversation with Joshua Shifrinson

by Micah Zenko

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 »