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.

Understanding Atrocities: A Conversation with Dara Kay Cohen

by Micah Zenko Monday, October 31, 2016
Rape During Civil War, by Dara Kay Cohen (Cornell University Press 2016).

I spoke with Dara Kay Cohen, assistant professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, about her book, Rape During Civil War. To better understand this underexamined wartime atrocity, Dara built an original dataset and conducted extensive interviews in Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, and El Salvador, including with perpetrators and victims. We discuss Dara’s research and her counterintuitive findings, which indicate that rape is often used as a tactic by some groups in civil wars to bond militants. We also talk about the role of academic research in informing policy, and Dara gives advice to young scholars considering a career in academia. A fascinating conversation with a thoughtful and brilliant scholar. Read more »

Military Endorsements and Civ-Mil Relations: A Conversation with Peter Feaver

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Retired USMC General John Allen is joined by veterans while addressing at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016. (Audette/Reuters)

Last week, I spoke with Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy at Duke University and fellow columnist on ForeignPolicy.com. We talk about how he became interested as a grad student in civil-military relations, and how that led to his seminal book on the subject, Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations. We also discuss Peter’s two experiences on the National Security Council, his concerns about the dangers of military officers’ endorsements in presidential campaigns, and his advice to young scholars on balancing careers with personal lives. A timely discussion given the presidential candidates’ reliance on the non-partisan legitimacy of military officials, listen to my conversation with a leading expert in an important field. Read more »

Trump and the Makings of a Constitutional Crisis

by Micah Zenko Thursday, October 20, 2016
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. (Reuters/Wilking)

During yesterday’s third and (mercifully) final presidential debate, Republican candidate Donald Trump stated explicitly what he has hinted at for months: he will not agree ahead of time to accept the results of the election on November 8. When asked directly by moderator Chris Wallace, Trump only promised: “I will look at it at the time.” Wallace pressed further by explaining the American tradition of a peaceful transition of power, and inquiring, “Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?” The candidate, trailing Hillary Clinton by 6.4 percent in averaged national polls and forecasted a 12.7 percent likelihood of winning, replied: “What I’m saying is I’ll tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?” Read more »

Is it Still 1968? A Conversation with Michael A. Cohen

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, October 18, 2016
American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division, by Michael A. Cohen (Oxford University Press 2016)

Today, I spoke with Michael A. Cohen, regular contributor at The Boston Globe, about his new book, American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division (also available on iTunes here). We talk about the chaotic U.S. presidential election of 1968, which not only bears a striking resemblance with the 2016 election, but sowed the seeds for many political currents running through the United States today. Michael also offers his advice to passionate aspiring journalists and writers. Listen to our conversation, check out his last book, Live From the Campaign Trail: The Greatest Presidential Campaign Speeches of the Twentieth Century and How They Shaped Modern America, and follow him on Twitter @speechboy71. Read more »

What Threats or Conflicts Will Emerge or Escalate in 2017?

by Micah Zenko Monday, October 10, 2016
A boy walks past damaged buildings in the northern Syrian rebel-held town of al-Waqf, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, October 9, 2016. (Ashawi/Reuters)

In last night’s presidential debate, it took little time for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to bring up the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Responding to moderator Anderson Cooper’s question about a leaked recording of Trump bragging about groping women, Trump promised that he would “knock the hell out of ISIS.” For the amount of time spent by both candidates talking about defeating terrorists, viewers might think that they pose the greatest threat to the United States. Read more »

A Literal Cold War: The EU-Russian Struggle Over Energy Security

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, October 6, 2016
An employee walks at Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom's Sudzha pumping station, January 13, 2009 (Sinyakov/Reuters).

Niall Henderson is an Interdepartmental Program Assistant at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On September 14, Ukraine initiated arbitration against the Russian Federation for violations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, with specific reference to access of energy resources off the coast of Ukraine and Russian-annexed Crimea. This development follows the Russian seizure of Crimean oil rigs in the Black Sea in late 2015, and the installation of rigs bearing Russian flags in the area more recently. Regardless of the outcome of the litigation, the escalation of Russian-Ukrainian tensions has serious consequences for European energy security. Ukraine lies at a critical juncture between Europe and Russia, and therefore its ability to resist Russian energy securitization has widespread implications for the European Union (EU) as well as for U.S. strategic options in the region. Read more »

Predictions of the Candidates’ Promises to “Secure America”

by Micah Zenko Monday, September 26, 2016
A TV cameraman works during a rehearsal for the first U.S. presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York September 25, 2016. (Wilking/Reuters)

This blog post was coauthored with my research associate, Jennifer Wilson.

Last week, President Obama announced the unprecedented step of connecting U.S. national security with the threats posed by climate change. Obama’s Presidential Memorandum directs twenty federal agencies to integrate climate change into national security policy and planning—meaning collecting climate science data and identifying how climate change will affect agency missions. Melting ice and rising temperatures are not traditionally considered national security concerns, but the memorandum is the most recent development in a years-long effort to focus on the dangers of global environmental change that has been applauded by security professionals and environmentalists alike. Read more »

The Colombia Peace Agreement Does not Mean the End of U.S. Involvement

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, September 20, 2016
A fighter from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during the opening of ceremony congress at the camp where they prepare for ratifying a peace deal with the government. (Vizcaino/Reuters).

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

How Not to Red Team

by Micah Zenko Thursday, September 8, 2016
Passenger TSA A woman passes through a TSA checkpoint at Reagan National Airport. (Lamarque/Reuters).

During the 2015 summer travel season, airline passengers were stunned by a finding that was never supposed to be made public, but which leaked to ABC News. Auditors from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) had successfully smuggled weapons and fake explosives past Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints sixty-seven times out of seventy attempts at multiple domestic airports earlier that year. The DHS Inspector General John Roth later told a Congress that the auditors did not have “any specialized background or training,” meaning they were not especially proficient or skilled red teamers. Read more »

Hackers, Pen Tests, and Security Research: A Conversation with Chris Rohlf

by Micah Zenko Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I spoke with Chris Rohlf, former head of Yahoo’s red team in New York and a thoughtful and respected voice in the security community. Chris has extensive experience as a pen tester, developer, engineer, and consultant for various organizations, including within the Department of Defense and on the Black Hat review board. We discuss how the government should bridge the gap with the security community, like the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) and the recent Hack the Pentagon bug bounty. We also talk about how organizations will grapple with the challenges presented by the Internet of Things, the “IoT”: the growing network of objects that sense and interact with each other. Chris offers useful advice for aspiring hackers, and three practical suggestions for how you can protect your own devices. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisrohlf. Read more »