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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Entrepreneurship, Erdogan, and Interrupting: A Conversation with Elmira Bayrasli

by Micah Zenko
Cover art from World Policy Journal's 2016/2017 winter issue by Molly Crabapple.

The wonderful Elmira Bayrasli joined me again for discussion that ranged from the rise of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to women’s role in shaping foreign policy. Elmira is a fellow in New America’s International Security program, a professor at NYU School of Professional Studies and Bard College’s Global and International Affairs program, author of From the Other Side of the World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places. (In case you missed it, you can listen to our talk last April about From the Other Side of the World here) She is also co-founder with Lauren Bohn of Foreign Policy Interrupted (FPI), an education and media startup dedicated to increasing female foreign policy voices in the press. Read more »

A New U.S. Strategy for Russia? A Conversation with Kimberly Marten

by Micah Zenko
Putin talks to servicemen Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to servicemen during a training exercise at the Donguz testing range in Orenburg region, Russia, September 19, 2015 (Reuters/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Pool).

While policymakers continued to struggle with investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election, I sat down with Professor Kimberly Marten to talk about how the Trump administration can effectively manage the increasingly tense relationship with Russia. Marten is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, a faculty member of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, and director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at Columbia’s Harriman Institute. She is also the author of a recent Center for Preventive Action Council Special Report, Reducing Tensions Between Russia and NATO. Read more »

How to Use Red Teams and Be a Red Teamer: A Conversation with Mark Mateski

by Micah Zenko
(Pixabay)

I sat down again with Mark Mateski, an expert in red teaming and one of the most insightful people I learned from while writing my book, Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy. In 1997, Mark founded Red Team Journal, a fantastic resource for red teamers and those seeking to learn more about the practice. Mark also gave a presentation at the 2014 Black Hat conference, The Devil Does Not Exist: The Role of Deception in Cyber, which I highly recommend watching. Read more »

Rethinking the U.S. Approach in Northern Syria: A Conversation with Aaron Stein

by Micah Zenko
Kurdish fighters gesture while carrying their parties' flags in Tel Abyad of Raqqa governorate after they said they took control of the area June 15, 2015 (Reuters/Rodi Said).

Yesterday I spoke with Aaron Stein, resident senior fellow in the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council and author of the new Center for Preventive Action paper, “Reconciling U.S.-Turkish Interests in Northern Syria.” We discussed developments on the ground in northern Syria and the many complex and competing interests among the armed groups there. Stein also reviewed the strategic options for the United States going forward and made recommendations for the Donald J. Trump administration to strengthen the U.S.-Turkish relationship while pursuing the U.S. counterterrorism objectives in Syria. Though a young scholar himself, Stein also provides some great advice for professionals just entering the field. Read more »

Failed States, Rebel Diplomats, and Pirates: A Conversation with Bridget Coggins

by Micah Zenko
Power Politics and State Formation in the Twentieth Century: The Dynamics of Recognition by Bridget Coggins (Cambridge University Press 2016).

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Bridget Coggins, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Coggins has a fascinating body of work that examines often overlooked non-traditional security issues and uses fact-based research to counter even the most pervasive conventional wisdom. We discussed her book, Power Politics and State Formation in the Twentieth Century: The Dynamics of Recognition, and her analysis of the politics—and implications—of state recognition. We also talked about her research into the the logic of rebel diplomacy, whether state failure causes terrorism, and the relationship between governance and maritime policy. Read more »

Ending the South Sudan Civil War: A Conversation with Kate Almquist Knopf

by Micah Zenko

Kate Almquist Knopf, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, is the author of a recent Center for Preventive Action report on Ending South Sudan’s Civil War. We discussed the crisis in South Sudan and her outside-the-box proposal to address it, which involves establishing an international transitional administration for the country. She also offered some near-term recommendations for the Trump administration. Read more »

Superforecasters, Software, and Spies: A Conversation With Jason Matheny

by Micah Zenko
A center of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, IARPA invests in high-risk/high-payoff research programs (iarpa.gov).

This week I sat down with Dr. Jason Matheny, director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).  IARPA invests in high-risk, high-payoff research programs to address national intelligence problems, from language recognition software to forecasting tournaments to evaluate strategies to “predict” the future. Dr. Matheny shed light on how IARPA selects cutting-edge research projects and how its work helps ensure intelligence guides sound decision- and policymaking.  He also offers his advice to young scientists just starting their careers. Read more »

Why Trump’s Foreign Policy Appointments Matter: A (Second) Conversation with Elizabeth Saunders

by Micah Zenko
President-Elect Donald Trump, then Republican presidential nominee, speaks along side retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn during a campaign town hall meeting, September 6, 2016 (Reuters/ Segar).

I was lucky enough to again be joined by the brilliant Elizabeth Saunders, assistant professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, and currently a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. We discussed the role that President-Elect Donald Trump’s advisers will play in shaping his approach to foreign policy and response to international crises. Professor Saunders also talks about two of her recent articles published on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, “What a President Trump Means for Foreign Policy” and “How Much Power Will Trump’s Foreign Policy Advisers Have?” Follow her on Twitter @ProfSaunders and, if you haven’t already, listen to the conversation we had back in March, “Presidents and Foreign Policy.” Read more »

The Politics of Proliferation: A Conversation with Matthew Fuhrmann

by Micah Zenko
Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy, by Todd S. Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann (Cambridge University Press 2017).

I spoke with Matthew Fuhrmann, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University, visiting associate professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and one of the  most innovative scholars of nuclear proliferation. We discussed Matt’s soon-to-be released book Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). The book was co-authored with University of Virginia associate professor of politics Todd Sechser, whom I spoke with earlier this year. Read more »

Drone Memos: A Conversation With Jameel Jaffer

by Micah Zenko
The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law, ed. by Jameel Jaffer (The New Press, 2016)

This week, I spoke with Jameel Jaffer, inaugural director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. We discussed his new book, The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law, and the judicial precedents for targeted strikes and secrecy set during the Obama administration. We also talked about Jameel’s concerns for protecting civil liberties and human rights under the Trump administration. Jameel spoke about his transition from the private sector to the American Civil Liberties Union, where he worked as deputy legal director and headed the Center for Democracy, and also shared his advice for young conscientious  lawyers. Read more »