Micah Zenko

Waste of Space

135 million pieces of junk are orbiting Earth at 18,000 mph -- and U.S. space dominance is in danger of being ripped to shreds.

By the time the film Gravity won seven Academy Awards in March, casual viewers probably knew it as much for its arresting visual imagery as for its lengthy list of technical errors. Amplified by the Twitter feed of celeb astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, space watchers identified problems with Sandra Bullock's hair (why wouldn't if float in a zero-G environment), and why would the Hubble telescope and International Space Station have the same sight lines (given they are over 100 miles apart). However, the one tweet from deGrasse Tyson that got overlooked was that the movie was plausible: "The film #Gravity depicts a scenario of catastrophic satellite destruction that can actually happen."

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The Keys to the Foreign-Policy Kingdom

A four-step guide to navigating the pressures and prerogatives of the powers-that-be.

The recent emergence of the Twitter hashtag #WhereAreTheWomen is a helpful reminder that the U.S. foreign policy and national security communities remain characterized by similar-looking people repeating variations of a similar conventional wisdom. The distinct impression that one has is that there is a marked underrepresentation of not just women, but also minorities, non-Americans, younger analysts and scholars, and generally people who alter the status quo or provide alternative approaches. Many often describe the perpetrators of this situation pejoratively with the monolithic shorthand of: "the media," "the academy," "think tanks," or -- worst of all -- "D.C." While these descriptors are accurate, they are also misleading, because they diffuse any responsibility for the current state of these communities.

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How to Avoid a Naval War With China

In the contested waters of Asia, it's difficult to understand Beijing's intentions.

War between the United States and China is not preordained. But tensions are high, especially in the fiercely contested waters of the East and South China seas -- and even further into the Pacific. Communication is the best medicine: the United States should be explicit with what it needs to know about China's behavior in the waters near its coast. Unfortunately, the intentions and supporting doctrine for Beijing's growing naval capabilities are unclear, specifically regarding disputes with China's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

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The Drone Invasion Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Why sensationalizing drone proliferation is going to kill our ability to control them.

A casual observer of recent reporting and analysis of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) -- most commonly referred to as drones -- might assume that the world is already awash in drones of all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. Amazon's contrived hint of drone-delivered packages only tantalized the public's imagination back in December, and seemingly new uses for drones are found each day, from identifying rhinoceros poachers, to border control, to tracking whaling ships. But this apparent runaway train of drone proliferation (and its misreported uses) is actually stymieing efforts to promote or influence responsible armed-drone exports and their uses. Because if drones are already ubiquitous, then efforts to control their spread -- whether through tight export controls or pressure on major producers to restrict their transfers, which Barack Obama's administration is now contemplating in a long, contentious interagency review of U.S. drone exports -- are unnecessary and even misguided.

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When Terrorism (That Never Happened) Made Headlines in Sochi

If attacks were unlikely at the Olympic Games, why was it spun as inevitable?

The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, ended just as they began: with an ostentatious, exhaustive, and carefully scripted celebration of Russian heritage and culture. The 17 days of athletic competition featured all the riveting performances, unexpected disappointments, and weather-related updates that one would expect.

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