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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Ask the Experts: Social Media and Conflict Prevention

by Micah Zenko
An opposition supporter lifts a placard at the front line near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2011 (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters). An opposition supporter lifts a placard at the front line near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2011 (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters).

An increasing number of policymakers and think-tank residents are championing the power of social media and big data to pressure governments, empower civil society, deter human rights abuses through the power of witness, and semi-accurately forecast political instability and conflict without the false positives. In a column today, Thomas Friedman endorsed utilizing existing social networks “to our advantage to gain leverage in diplomacy” by speaking directly to Iranians, Israelis, and Palestinians, who will then somehow force their governments to finally do what they have not (because, of course, ordinary citizens are aligned with U.S. interests once they are addressed in Persian, Hebrew, or Arabic). Read more »

Ask the Experts: Preventing Sexual Violence

by Micah Zenko
Female victims of sexual violence at Panzi hospital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on September 6, 2007 (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters). Female victims of sexual violence at Panzi hospital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on September 6, 2007 (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, forty members of Congress re-introduced the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). As Amnesty International’s Cristina Finch explains, the I-VAWA “would coordinate and improve the U.S. government’s efforts to stop this global scourge by making it a priority in diplomatic and foreign assistance initiatives. This will help to ensure that the United States lives up to its international responsibility to end violence against women and girls.” Read more »

Ask the Experts: Will America ‘Win’ in Afghanistan?

by Micah Zenko
An Afghan National army soldier keeps watch as a U.S. helicopter flies overhead in Khan Neshin district of Helmand province (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood). An Afghan National army soldier keeps watch as a U.S. helicopter flies overhead in Khan Neshin district of Helmand province (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood).

Last fall, a two-part question circulated throughout the Pentagon: Can the United States win in Afghanistan? Will the United States win in Afghanistan?

In this case, “win” meant accomplishing the strategic objectives of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, as presented in President Obama’s December 2009 speech at West Point: disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan through “a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.” Read more »

Ask the Experts: Where Are the Women in Foreign Policy?

by Micah Zenko
President Barack Obama meets with the national security team on Iraq in the Situation Room of the White House (Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama meets with the national security team on Iraq in the Situation Room of the White House (Courtesy Reuters).

Having worked at a number of institutions over the past fifteen years, I have long been struck by the proportional underrepresentation of women in U.S. foreign policy and national security positions. In an attempt to understand the scope and extent of this gender gap, I wrote a piece that examined the best available data for the government, military, academy, and think tanks. With few exceptions, I found that women make up less than 30 percent of senior positions across these institutions. Read more »

Ask the Experts: What Would Iran Do With a Bomb?

by Micah Zenko
View of the nuclear facility in the southwestern Iranian city of Bushehr in June 2005 (Courtesy Reuters/Damir Sagolj). View of the nuclear facility in the southwestern Iranian city of Bushehr in June 2005 (Courtesy Reuters/Damir Sagolj).

In 1995, Kenneth Waltz and Scott Sagan coauthored the book, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate, which sought to address the question: what are the likely consequences of the spread of nuclear weapons? Read more »