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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Red Team Wisdom From Experts

by Micah Zenko

My book Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy will be “launched” in one week. One lasting impression that I got from reading the red team literature broadly, and speaking with over two hundred individuals in the field, is the vivid and memorable phrases that red teamers use to describe their work. This colorful language was especially remarkable because it was not at all rehearsed; most of the people who I spoke with had never been interviewed about their professional experiences or insights into red teaming. Many red teamers lack public profiles because they are in the military or government (where interviews not controlled by public affairs officers are discouraged), in the private sector (where proprietary concerns and non-disclosure agreements prohibit much real transparency), or have no personal or professional need for attention. Read more »

Red Team Reading List

by Micah Zenko
Stacks of books. (Creative Commons) Stacks of books. (Creative Commons)

In the course of researching and writing my bookRed Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, over five years, I read (or skimmed) everything I could find about the subject—within the limits of human endurance, book budgets, and the tolerance of the inter-library loan system. In total, this amounted to roughly 150 books or reports that date back decades, with many originating within academic disciplines and industry fields that I had never explored before. While few books speak directly to the subject, many provide the structural reasons why red teaming is often needed through case studies, or offer broad guidance for how red teams—when empowered and used correctly—can improve institutional performance. Read more »

Where Are the Women in Foreign Policy Today?

by Micah Zenko
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington September 10, 2014. (Souza/White House Handout via Reuters) President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington September 10, 2014. (Souza/White House Handout via Reuters)

This blog post was coauthored with my research associate, Amelia M. Wolf.

If you follow the republican presidential race, you’ll notice the feud brewing between candidates Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. Remarking on Fiorina’s capacity to be President, Trump said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Although Fiorina gave a cool-headed response by releasing an advertisement in which she says she is “proud of every year and every wrinkle,” Trump further perpetuated his faux pas in last week’s debate. “I think she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman.” Read more »

Obama’s False Dichotomy of the Iran Nuclear Deal

by Micah Zenko

In a major policy address at American University, President Barack Obama made his best case on behalf of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) and Iran. The agreement is intended to “ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program” in exchange for the comprehensive lifting of all multilateral and national sanctions related to that program. Read more »

Guest Post: Endgame in Colombia – The Need for a Bilateral Ceasefire

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters) Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos talks with Colombian armed forces chief Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez during a presentation of new military leaders at the Jose Maria Cordova military school in Bogota on July 9, 2015. (Vizcaino/Reuters)

Patrick Romano is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’s unrelenting opposition to negotiating a bilateral ceasefire with left-wing guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) threatens to derail current peace talks and indefinitely perpetuate the longest conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Though the war began in 1964, over the past fifty years more than 220,000 Colombians—80 percent civilians—have lost their lives and more than five million have been displaced. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Whack-a-mole, Sugary Drinks, and Libya

by Micah Zenko
Cans of soda are displayed in a case at a convenience store in San Diego, California on February 13, 2014. (Hodgson/Reuters) Cans of soda are displayed in a case at a convenience store in San Diego, California on February 13, 2014. (Hodgson/Reuters)

Guest Post: Promoting a Ukraine-EU Agenda on Human Trafficking

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with European Council president Donald Tusk before the Eastern Partnership Summit session in Riga, Latvia on May 22, 2015. (Kalnins/Reuters) Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with European Council president Donald Tusk before the Eastern Partnership Summit session in Riga, Latvia on May 22, 2015. (Kalnins/Reuters)

Luke Drabyn is a former intern for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ukraine has one of the highest levels of human trafficking in Europe. Over 120,000 Ukrainian men, women, and children have been exploited for labor and sex since the country became independent in 1991. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Riga, Latvia provides a valuable forum to discuss collaboration on human trafficking between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine. For Ukraine, successful reform and a display of leadership could instill trust among its disillusioned citizens. For the EU, fulfilling its commitments under the 2012–2016 Strategy Toward the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings could protect it from criticism. Many of the EU’s 90 migration-related projects to non-EU countries since 2012 have included anti-trafficking provisions. However, none address trafficking in Ukraine specifically. At its most basic level, human trafficking—the second most lucrative illicit industry worldwide—is a moral issue that contributes to the collective “deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement” for vulnerable men, women, and children alike. Ukraine-EU collaboration on human trafficking would not only be mutually beneficial, but it is also feasible, and the EaP Summit provides this opportunity. Read more »

Guest Post: The Islamic State’s Water War

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A general view of Mosul Dam in northern Iraq September 20, 2014.  (Jalal/Reuters) A general view of Mosul Dam in northern Iraq September 20, 2014. (Jalal/Reuters)

Allyson Beach is an intern for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As a requisite resource, water and its infrastructure are decisive targets in the self-declared Islamic State’s (IS) strategy for regional expansion in the Middle East. Although IS has not demonstrated the capacity to operate technologically intensive water infrastructure, it continues to pursue control of dams and water systems in Iraq and Syria that, if acquired and adequately maintained could partially legitimize its rule, or alternatively be exploited as a weapon. Read more »

Highlights of the Worldwide Threats Hearing

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 26, 2015.

CLAPPER:  2014 saw, for the first time, destructive cyberattacks carried out on U.S. soil by nation-state entities, marked first by the Iranian attack against the Las Vegas Sands Casino Corporation a year ago this month and the North Korean attack against Sony in November. Read more »