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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Recommended Reading For the Fall Semester

by Micah Zenko
A series of books in former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's office in Johannesburg (Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). A series of books in former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's office in Johannesburg (Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

A friend who teaches U.S. foreign policy at a public policy school asked me for a few reading recommendations for the fall semester. Specifically, she requested books or reports written in the past academic year that she might have missed. Below you will find some works worth adding to your fall syllabus if you teach foreign policy or national security to undergraduate or graduate students. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes, Armed Conflict Data, and Snowden’s Fate

by Micah Zenko

Hope Hodge, The Pentagon’s Hollywood Liaison, Army Times, July 8, 2013.

The U.S. military has played a supporting role in blockbuster films almost since the invention of the silver screen…

Since 1989, Philip Strub has headed up the Defense Department’s Film and Television Liaison Office, where filmmakers can ask the Pentagon for assistance on their projects, from consultation on uniforms and military procedures to use of real military aircraft and equipment. Not every production gets the green light; Strub vets scripts to ensure they portray the U.S. military accurately and positively… Read more »

Refining the Obama Administration’s Drone Strike Narrative

by Micah Zenko
Drone An X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft is launched for the first time off an aircraft carrier, the USS George H. W. Bush, off the coast of Virginia on May 14, 2013 (Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Last night, NBC News ran an extremely rare story that aptly challenged the veracity of U.S. government claims about the precision of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Part of the title used by NBC was misleading: “Exclusive: CIA Didn’t Always Know Who it Was Killing in Drone Strikes, Classified Documents Show.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Syrian Air Defenses? Drones, and Benghazi

by Micah Zenko
Witnesses Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for counterterrorism, Gregory Hicks, foreign service officer and former deputy chief of mission/charge d'affairs in Libya at the State Department, and Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya at the State Department, are sworn in at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on May 8, 2013 (Gripas/Courtesy Reuters). Witnesses Mark Thompson, Gregory Hicks, and Eric Nordstrom are sworn in at the May 8, 2013, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya (Gripas/Courtesy Reuters).

Sea Power in the Pacific, Drones in Lebanon, and America’s “Dirty Wars”

by Micah Zenko
The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) departs for a deployment to the Asia-Pacific region, in San Diego Bay, California. (Christine Walker-Singh/Courtesy Reuters). The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) departs for a deployment to the Asia-Pacific region, in San Diego Bay, California. (Christine Walker-Singh/Courtesy Reuters).

David C. Gompert, “Sea Power and American Interests in the Western Pacific,” Rand Corportation, to be published June 3, 2013,  pp. 160-162.

If we are indeed in for a change in the basic premise of sea power, the main reason would be that globalization is making cooperative maritime security more attractive and even compelling. But why would globalization favor cooperation over confrontation at sea? This is a legitimate question: After all, economic interdependence did not prevent naval rivalry or, for that matter, world war a century ago. More to the point at hand, why would the common economic interests of China and the United States, including secure trade, foster maritime cooperation when such an approach was not pursued by Great Britain and Germany, also major trading partners when they became rival sea powers? The answer is complex but worth examining. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Spending on Overseas Bases, Drones over Boston, and Benghazi

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim at Seoul Air Base (Paul J. Richards/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim at Seoul Air Base (Paul J. Richards/Courtesy Reuters).

Donna Cassata, “Report: US Footing Greater Bill for Overseas Bases,” Associated Press, April 17, 2013.

The United States is footing more of the bill for overseas bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the military reduces the number of American troops in Europe and strategically repositions forces in Asia, a congressional report says. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Secrets, Noise, and Civil Liberties

by Micah Zenko
A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport. (Massoud Hossaini/Courtesy Reuters). A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport. (Massoud Hossaini/Courtesy Reuters).

Jameel Jaffer, “The Drone Secrets We Should See,” Politico, March 29, 2013.

The administration owes the public a fuller account of the program. It should begin by releasing the legal memos that supposedly justify the program. In litigation, the government has acknowledged the existence of three memos; it has shown other memos to some members of Congress. Disclosure of the memos to the public — redacted, if necessary, to protect intelligence sources and methods — would help the public better understand who the government considers to be lawful targets and why the government believes the program to be consistent with domestic and international law. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Iraq, Yemen, and Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
The lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). The lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Government Accountability Office, “U.S. Assistance to Yemen: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Emergency Food Aid and Assess Security Assistance,” March 20, 2013.

Two DOD programs account for the vast majority of U.S. security assistance to Yemen; however, DOD has yet to evaluate their effectiveness in building Yemeni counterterrorism capacity. As noted earlier, of the $497 million in total security assistance allocated to Yemen between fiscal years 2007 and 2012, DOD allocated over 70 percent ($361 million) to its Section 1206 and 1207(n) programs…. Read more »

U.S. Public Opinion on Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
An armed drone prepares to take off in Afghanistan (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). An armed drone prepares to take off in Afghanistan (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Although the United States has been killing suspected terrorists with drone strikes in nonbattlefield settings for over ten years, public opinion polling of the controversial tactic began only a year and a half ago. Averaged together, the polls demonstrate that 65 percent of Americans support the targeted killing of suspected terrorists, and 51 percent approve killing U.S. citizens who are suspected of terrorism. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Cybersecurity, and Iraq

by Micah Zenko
The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the Straits of Hormuz (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the Straits of Hormuz (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Christopher P. Cavas, “Stennis’ Long Haul,” Navy Times, March 18, 2013.

REAR ADM. MIKE SHOEMAKER: We pay very close attention to Iran. In the gulf it is almost a daily interaction with the Iranian forces. Over the time I’ve been here, they have depressurized a little, or have given us a bit more standoff room both in the straits and the [Persian] Gulf. Read more »