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 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) '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). 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) 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) 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 »

Highlights of the Global Threat Briefings

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 9, 2016.

REED:  Are you confident that you could detect a serious deviation from the [Iran nuclear] agreements in sufficient time to give the executive options? Read more »

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 »