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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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 »

Red States and Green Cities: Predictions for Trump-Era Climate Action

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Commuters walk through the early morning sun in New York, October 31, 2016. (Jackson/Reuters)

Jennifer Wilson is a research associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

President-Elect Donald Trump’s reported nomination of Scott Pruitt to head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that his anti–climate change rhetoric was not just campaign bluster. Pruitt, who has a history of fighting EPA regulations, dims any optimism that Trump would take environmentally responsible action to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While he seemed to have walked back his opposition to the historic climate deal reached in Paris last year, saying that he had an “open mind” on the accord, Trump’s EPA pick seems more in line with his campaign promise to “cancel” the deal. Read more »

U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, Versus Drone Strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia

by Micah Zenko
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle assigned to the California Air National Guard's 163rd Reconnaissance Wing undergoes a postflight inspection (Reuters/U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Effrain Lopez/Handout)

Yesterday, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) published an updated estimate of civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Previously, the Pentagon had acknowledged just 55 civilian casualties for the air war that began in August 2014. The new CENTCOM estimate listed a total of 24 civilian casualty incidents, which “regrettably may have killed 64 civilians.” This makes the new official estimate of civilian fatalities 119. Read more »

Red Team at Aspen

by Micah Zenko
Fallows Zenko Aspen Red Team James Fallows interviews CFR Senior Fellow Micah Zenko on his book, Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy, at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 27, 2016.

Late last month, I was honored to be a speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival about my book Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy. The Festival, which the Aspen Institute began in 2005, invites a wide array of thinkers and doers from around the world to present their research or performances in an unusually scenic environment, and in front of super smart and challenging attendees. At this year’s festival, the big-name speakers included Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of State John Kerry, and IMF chief Christine Lagarde. I learned a great deal from the sessions I attended on food insecurity, criminal justice reform, and the expanding universe—I even got to observe evidence of this at night through high-powered telescopes. Read more »

Rogue Justice: A Conversation with Karen Greenberg

by Micah Zenko
Rogue Justice Greenberg book cover Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State by Karen J. Greenberg (Crown 2016).

Today I spoke with Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. We spoke about her comprehensive account of the national security legal debates since 9/11 in her new book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State (Crown, 2016), as well as a new report from the Center on National Security that details all 101 publicly known Islamic State-related cases. Karen also offered her sobering and honest advice for young legal and national security scholars. Follow Karen’s work on Twitter @KarenGreenberg3, and listen to my conversation with one of the most respected and knowledgeable scholars in the world of national security, counterterrorism policy, and civil liberties. Read more »

Research Associate Opportunity–New York City

by Micah Zenko

The CFR’s David Rockefeller Studies Program is hiring a research associate to work in New York City, to support the work of a senior fellow, who happens to be me. The position requires someone who is super motivated, deeply curious about foreign policy issues, well-educated, and/or experienced in producing written content. This generally involves various administrative tasks, researching, editing, and writing—certainly your own stuff, and ideally some co-authored pieces as well (see examples here, here, and here). Read more »

Five Red Team Insights for Leaders and Practitioners

by Micah Zenko
'Mural' by artist Julie Mehretu is seen in the lobby of the Goldman Sachs office in Manhattan. Photo taken June 10, 2014. (Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Six months ago I published Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, which attempted to capture, describe, and define a relatively under-examined social phenomenon, red teaming. It is a “90-10 issue,” where 90 percent of people will not grasp what you are referring to, but are deeply curious, while 10 percent know what it is, and often have proprietary and closed minded conceptions of what is authentic red teaming. In the half year since the book release, I have given dozens of interviews with a range of outlets, and book talks at corporations, universities, military commands, and nonprofits. I also continued learning from red teamers who, unfortunately, I encountered only after publication. When you write a book about an obscure issue, the feedback that you receive after it is released makes you realize how little you knew as the author. Read more »

Geoeconomics and Statecraft: A Conversation with Jennifer M. Harris

by Micah Zenko
Jennifer M. Harris and Robert D. Blackwill, "War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft" (Belknap Press, 2016).

What is “geoeconomics” and how did it fall out of favor among U.S. officials and policymakers? How do countries like China and India use geoeconomic tools to pursue foreign policy interests? How could the U.S. government better employ geoeconomic tools—like economic sanctions, foreign direct investment, and development assistance—to compete with rising powers? Read more »

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)

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 »

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)

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 »