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.

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Micah Zenko"

Podcast: Presidents and Foreign Policy: A Conversation with Elizabeth Saunders

by Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro shake hands during their first meeting on the second day of Obama's visit to Cuba, in Havana on March 21, 2016. (Ernst/Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro shake hands during their first meeting on the second day of Obama's visit to Cuba, in Havana on March 21, 2016. (Ernst/Reuters)

Can high-level diplomatic visits, such as President Obama’s recent trip to Cuba, fundamentally transform bilateral relations? Why do two presidents facing the same foreign conflict diagnose the nature of the underlying threat differently, and thus pursue different intervention strategies? Do American voters really care about foreign policy?  I discuss these questions—plus her current research and career advice for young scholars—with Elizabeth N. Saunders, assistant professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, and currently a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at CFR. Read more »

Ten Whats With…Adam Segal

by Micah Zenko
"The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age" by Adam Segal (New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2016). "The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age" by Adam Segal (New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2016).

Adam Segal is the Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is author of The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age (New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2016). Read more »

Remembering the Iraqi Uprising Twenty-Five Years Ago

by Micah Zenko
Iraq's deposed dictator Saddam Hussein appears before an Iraqi tribunal in Iraq on July 1, 2004. (New/Reuters) Iraq's deposed dictator Saddam Hussein appears before an Iraqi tribunal in Iraq on July 1, 2004. (New/Reuters)

On February 15, 1991, four weeks into Operation Desert Storm, President George H.W. Bush, using identical language twice—at the White House and later at a Raytheon defense plant in Massachusetts—encouraged “the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.” Bush’s message was beamed into Iraq via every international television and radio channel, while coalition aircraft dropped leaflets calling on Iraqi soldiers and civilians to “fill the streets and alleys and bring down Saddam Hussein and his aides.” Kurdish rebels in the north and the Shias in the south began building upon years of clandestine planning to topple Hussein. Read more »

Red Teaming Nuclear Intelligence: The Suspected Syrian Reactor

by Micah Zenko
This undated combination image released by the U.S. Government shows the North Korean reactor in Yongbyon and the nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. The White House on April 24, 2008 broke its official silence on the mysterious September 6, 2007 Israeli air strike. (U.S. Government/Reuters) This undated combination image released by the U.S. Government shows the North Korean reactor in Yongbyon and the nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. The White House on April 24, 2008 broke its official silence on the mysterious September 6, 2007 Israeli air strike. (U.S. Government/Reuters)

In former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden’s new memoir, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror, he describes the case of Al Kibar, in which Israeli officials informed the United States in 2007 about a building under construction in Syria that they thought was a nuclear reactor. Hayden writes, “Then we gave the data to a red team, dedicated contrarians, and directed they come up with an alternative explanation. Build an alternative case as to why it’s not a nuclear reactor; why it’s not intended to produce plutonium for a weapon; why North Korea is not involved.” (p. 258) Read more »

Sen. Ted Cruz and the Myth of Carpet Bombing

by Micah Zenko
Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a rally at the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows in Reno, Nevada on February 22, 2016. (Glover/Reuters) Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a rally at the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows in Reno, Nevada on February 22, 2016. (Glover/Reuters)

On December 5, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) while speaking at the FreedomWorks “Rising Tide” Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, made the alarming pledge, “If I am elected president, we will utterly destroy ISIS…We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!” Cruz’s promise to authorize the commitment of war crimes, presumably in an effort to sound “tough,” was met with derision by most other Republican presidential candidates, politicians of both parties, and senior military officials. Cruz subsequently amended his initial promise to say, “you would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops…you have embedded special forces to direction [sic] the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.” Read more »

Evaluating Michael Hayden’s Defense of CIA Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
An MQ-9 Reaper takes off on Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on December 5, 2015. (Cloys/U.S. Air Force) An MQ-9 Reaper takes off on Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on December 5, 2015. (Cloys/U.S. Air Force)

Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Gen. Michael Hayden has an op-ed in today’s New York Times: “To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare.” The two-thousand-word piece provides some unique insights into the process by which CIA directors authorize—including over the phone—individual drone strikes and even order the specific munition to be used. Moreover, Hayden provides a more plausible and granular defense than those offered by other former CIA chiefs, including George Tenet, Leon Panetta, and Michael Morrell. He even makes some effort to engage directly with certain prominent criticisms of these lethal operations. Read more »

Highlights of the Global Threat Briefings

by Micah Zenko

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, “Worldwide Threats,” witnesses: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, February 9, 2016.

REED:  Are you confident that you could detect a serious deviation from the [Iran nuclear] agreements in sufficient time to give the executive options? Read more »

Why a Syria Safe Zone Still Won’t Work or Protect Civilians

by Micah Zenko
Residents inspect damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 4, 2016. (Ismail/Reuters) Residents inspect damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on February 4, 2016. (Ismail/Reuters)

Respected former U.S. diplomats Nicholas Burns and James Jeffrey published a Washington Post op-ed today, calling on the U.S. military to lead the creation of a “safe zone” in northern Syria. The authors propose, “to locate it over twenty-five to thirty miles south of the Turkish border….Its central purpose would be to help local forces drive out the Islamic State and to provide a haven for civilians until the war can be brought to a close.” Burns and Jeffrey further acknowledge some of the difficulties involved with their proposal, admitting that, “the United States would have to deploy U.S. soldiers on the ground inside Syria along the Turkish border in order to recruit the majority of the zone’s soldiers from Turkey and other NATO allies, as well as the Sunni Arab states.” This safe haven would be further protected by a no-fly zone operating primarily out of Turkish airbases. Read more »

Donald Trump as Commander-in-Chief

by Micah Zenko
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up gesture at his caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa on February 1, 2016. (Bourg/Reuters) Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up gesture at his caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa on February 1, 2016. (Bourg/Reuters)

I have a piece on ForeignPolicy.com that attempts to evaluate what sort of commander in chief Donald Trump might be if actually elected president. After his second place finish in the Iowa caucuses last night, pundits might be writing off his chances to secure the Republican nomination, yet again. However, the Iowa caucus process is wholly unique and may not be representative of Trump’s overall national momentum. In addition, he has retained double-digit leads over his rivals in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the site of the next primaries scheduled for February 9 and 20, respectively. Read more »