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.

Podcast: Anxious Politics: A Conversation with Shana Kushner Gadarian

by Micah Zenko Monday, May 9, 2016
Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World  by Shana Kushner Gadarian and Bethany Albertson (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World by Shana Kushner Gadarian and Bethany Albertson (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

How do threats portrayed in the media imprint on the human mind? Why do people seek out threatening information in the news? How do they perceive of these threats and what protective policies do they expect from politicians? I discuss these questions, social science methodologies, and career advice with Shana Kushner Gadarian, assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Read more »

Guest Post: Is American Fear of Islamic Terrorism Grounded in Evidence?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Members of the New York City Police Department's newly formed Critical Response Command anti-terrorism unit stand in formation as they gather for their first deployment outside their headquarters on Randall's Island in New York City on November 16, 2015. (Mike Segar/Reuters) Members of the New York City Police Department's newly formed Critical Response Command anti-terrorism unit stand in formation as they gather for their first deployment outside their headquarters on Randall's Island in New York City on November 16, 2015. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Tina Huang in an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Five months, three countries, one hundred and seventy-six dead. The self-proclaimed Islamic State has left a trail of carnage in the Western hemisphere (as well as tens of thousands of victims in the Middle East and North Africa). Subsequently, 51 percent of Americans fear that they or a family member will be killed in a terror attack. This level of fear among Americans is nearly equivalent to that experienced after 9/11, when 2,699 Americans died. The tragedy of 9/11 and more recent Islamic extremism attacks are also correlated with a rise of anti-Islamic hate crimes, which have more than doubled since 2008. Read more »

Five Red Team Insights for Leaders and Practitioners

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, May 3, 2016
'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 »

Podcast: Entrepreneurship: A Conversation with Elmira Bayrasli

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, April 26, 2016
"From The Other Side of The World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places" by Elmira Bayrasli  (PublicAffairs, 2015). "From The Other Side of The World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places" by Elmira Bayrasli (PublicAffairs, 2015).

What is an entrepreneur? How do entrepreneurs in other countries, such as Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, India, Russia, and China, differ from those in the United States? To what extent is entrepreneurship innate within the individual, or can be cultivated by the conditions, including governance or society, in which they grow up? Read more »

Are Drones More Precise Than Manned Aircraft?

by Micah Zenko Monday, April 25, 2016
A U.S. airman guides a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on March 9, 2016. (Josh Smith/Reuters) A U.S. airman guides a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone as it taxis to the runway at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on March 9, 2016. (Josh Smith/Reuters)

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

In our latest piece at ForeignPolicy.com, we evaluate the Obama administration’s long-standing claim that drone strikes are more “precise” and cause fewer civilian fatalities than airstrikes by manned aircraft. We approach this challenge recognizing the limits of understanding who is being targeted and killed by all U.S. aerial operations. In addition, we admit that there are no wholly reliable or independently verifiable data sources, either from the U.S. government or research NGOs. Read more »

Podcast: Geoeconomics and Statecraft: A Conversation with Jennifer M. Harris

by Micah Zenko Thursday, April 21, 2016
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 »

Guest Post: Preventing Another Russia-Georgia Confrontation

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, April 14, 2016
Protesters stand near a border sign erected by Russian and Ossetian troops along Georgia's de-facto border with its breakaway region of South Ossetia in the village of Khurvaleti, Georgia, on July 14, 2015. (Reuters/Mdzinarishvili) Protesters stand near a border sign erected by Russian and Ossetian troops along Georgia's de-facto border with its breakaway region of South Ossetia in the village of Khurvaleti, Georgia, on July 14, 2015. (Reuters/Mdzinarishvili)

Shahin Badkoubei is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The next twelve to eighteen months will be a critical test of already tense and tenuous relations between Russia and Georgia. What could escalate to a level similar to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, territorial disputes over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain unresolved since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, and are a potential trigger of conflict. Russia has not fulfilled its obligations under the 2008 cease-fire agreement, and continues to push territorial markers in the breakaway regions and grant Russian passports to citizens living there. Upcoming events, including the July Warsaw North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit and Georgia’s parliamentary elections in fall 2016, could escalate tensions or renew confrontation. Read more »

Obama’s Latest Admission on Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko Friday, April 8, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Chicago Law School in Chicago, Illinois, on April 7, 2016. (Young/Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Chicago Law School in Chicago, Illinois, on April 7, 2016. (Young/Reuters)

Yesterday, President Obama was asked a revealing question at the end of an appearance at the University of Chicago defending the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.  A student inquired about the president’s unilateral authority to authorize drone strikes outside of traditional battlefields, asking specifically:  “How are these killings morally and legally justified, and what kind of message does this drone program send about American values to the world, the American people, and to law students like myself who refuse to put trust in an opaque process.”  Naturally, Obama did not respond directly to the student’s question, but this twelve minute video segment (starting at 1:10:42) is worth reviewing in its entirety, as it is Obama’s longest unscripted reflection of the drone strikes that have come to define his approach to counterterrorism. Read more »

Podcast: Presidents and Foreign Policy: A Conversation with Elizabeth Saunders

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, March 29, 2016
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 »

Guest Post: Mounting Pressure Threatens Stability in Jordan

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, March 24, 2016
Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders, wait to cross into Jordan after a group of them crossed into Jordanian territory, near the town of Ruwaished, east of the capital Amman, on January 14, 2016. (Reuters/Hamed) Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders, wait to cross into Jordan after a group of them crossed into Jordanian territory, near the town of Ruwaished, east of the capital Amman, on January 14, 2016. (Reuters/Hamed)

Tina Huang is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the Syrian civil war continues at lower levels of violence, neighboring countries face enduring security threats and international pressures to protect refugees pouring across their borders. In a new Center for Preventive Action (CPA) Contingency Planning Memorandum Update, “Growing Stress on Jordan,” Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), and David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at WINEP, discuss the implications of Jordan reaching its “saturation point” for accepting Syrian refugees. Satloff and Schenker state that the risk of domestic unrest stemming from economic privatization, corruption, and a lack of reform—which was the focus on their 2013 report, “Political Instability in Jordan”—has since diminished, while spillover from the Syrian civil war is an increasing threat. They offer policy recommendations for how the U.S. government can support its partner in the Middle East. Read more »