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.

How the U.S. Military Can Battle Zika

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, July 28, 2016
A Cuban military reservist fumigates inside a home as part of the preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in Havana on the outskirts of Cuba, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino A Cuban military reservist fumigates inside a home as part of the preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in Havana on the outskirts of Cuba, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Gabriella Meltzer is a research associate in the Global Health program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Aaron Picozzi is the research associate for the military fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Coast Guard veteran, and currently serves in the Army National Guard. Read more »

Red Team at Aspen

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, July 20, 2016
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 Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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 »

Chilcot Report: Lessons Learned or Mistakes to Be Repeated?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Monday, July 11, 2016
Journalists examine copies of The Iraq Inquiry Report by Sir John Chilcot, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London, Britain July 6, 2016. (Mitchell/Reuters) Journalists examine copies of The Iraq Inquiry Report by Sir John Chilcot, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London, Britain July 6, 2016. (Mitchell/Reuters)

Jennifer Wilson is a Research Associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Last week, the results of a seven-year British investigation into the decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq were released. The 2.6 million-word Chilcot Report (after former civil servant Sir John Chilcot) details the faulty decision-making and flawed intelligence that contributed to the 2003 invasion, placing much of the blame on Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government. The report offers a comprehensive review of failures in leadership and is intended to offer lessons to safeguard against their repetition. Chilcot, in his statement accompanying the release of the report, observes that military intervention may be necessary in the future, and his report will prepare future leaders to make better decisions. However, the report’s principal conclusions—which confirm what is already known about the war in Iraq—highlight shortcomings that could very well precipitate the inevitable next war. Read more »

Guest Post: Preventing a Strategic Reversal in Afghanistan

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Friday, July 8, 2016
Marines Helmand Afghanistan U.S. Marines prepare to depart upon the end of operations for Marines and British combat troops in Helmand October 27, 2014. (Sobhani/Reuters)

Jared Wright is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

President Barack Obama’s recent announcement that 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan at the end of his administration, nearly 3,000 more troops than his previous timeline, reflects the tenuous stability that Afghanistan has achieved after nearly fifteen years of U.S. involvement. A resurgent Taliban and the appearance of self-proclaimed Islamic State forces have tested the ability of the increasingly fragile central government to provide security and political stability and demonstrated the limits of U.S. training and support. Meanwhile, economic and political frustrations across all levels of Afghan society have gone largely unaddressed by the National Unity Government (NUG). The security situation in Afghanistan could worsen, which would threaten U.S. interests in the region. Read more »

Questioning Obama’s Drone Deaths Data

by Micah Zenko Friday, July 1, 2016
Pre-flight inspection of an MQ-1B Predator unmanned drone aircraft on September 3, 2008 (Christopher  Griffin/Reuters). Pre-flight inspection of an MQ-1B Predator unmanned drone aircraft on September 3, 2008 (Christopher Griffin/Reuters).

Months after promising to release the number of civilians that have been killed in U.S. lethal counterterrorism operations outside of “areas of active hostilities,” the Obama Administration today released its count in a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. According to the numbers provided, there were 473 “strikes” [presumably this includes both manned and unmanned aircraft conducted by both the CIA and the U.S. military] which killed between 2,372 and 2,581 combatants, and between 64 and 116 civilians. Read more »

How Not To Estimate and Communicate Risks

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, June 29, 2016
An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launches in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 28, 2015 (Michael Berrigan/Reuters). An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launches in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 28, 2015 (Michael Berrigan/Reuters).

Estimating and translating the probability of an event for decision-makers is among the most difficult challenges in government and the private sector. The person making the estimate must be able to categorize or quantify a likelihood, and willing to relay that analysis to the decision-maker in a way that is comprehensible and timely. The decision-maker then must consider the probability within the context of other information, and subsequently consider the trade-offs between one course of action over another. The ultimate goal of perceiving and communicating risks is to best assure any institution has managed those risks and made the most sound choice possible in the time allotted. Read more »

Merkel’s Erdogan Problem

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Germany-Merkel-Turkey-Erdogan German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan address the media after talks in Berlin February 4, 2014 (Reuters/Tobias Schwarz).

Sabina Frizell is a research associate in the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

This week alone, Turkey jailed two journalists on trumped-up terrorism charges, threatened to sue a professor for insulting President Erdogan, and pushed forward the same construction project that sparked massive anti-government protests in 2013. As Turkey’s democracy deteriorates, German-Turkish relations have gone from tense to outright hostile. Chancellor Angela Merkel is vacillating on whether to hold firm to core European Union (EU) values of democracy and human rights or appease Turkey. She can either continue to waver, tacitly accepting Erdogan’s behavior, or send Turkey a strong signal that its human and civil rights violations are unacceptable. Read more »

Bargaining and Military Coercion: A Conversation with Todd Sechser

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Today, I spoke with Todd Sechser, Associate Professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. We spoke about his important new article in Journal of Conflict Resolution, “Reputations and Signaling in Coercive Bargaining,”  his next book with Matthew Fuhrman, Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), and why the United States has such a poor record at coercive diplomacy. Todd also provides advice for young scholars in international relations. Listen to my conversation with one of the smartest scholars doing policy-relevant research on coercion, reputations, and U.S. foreign policy. Read more »

New Commander, New Rules

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Wednesday, June 15, 2016
AfghanistanPOE Incoming Commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General John Nicholson attends a change of command ceremony in Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (Rahmat Gu/Reuters)

Harry Oppenheimer is a research associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan has been subject to restrictive rules of engagement that prohibited targeting the Taliban directly unless they posed a threat to U.S. personnel, or an extreme threat to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Reportedly, this has changed. The recent news was the first major policy change for the Afghan War since General John Nicholson took over command exactly one hundred days before the announcement on March 2, 2016. Combined with today’s story that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bases will remain open in Afghanistan into 2017, Nicholson has latitude that would be the envy of his predecessors. Read more »