Micah Zenko

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.

Continue Reading

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).

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

The More You Talk, the Less You Know

The real experts don't want your retweets, likes, or shares.

"The smartest folks I know in just about every academic or policy field, don't tweet, blog, or actively appear in the media." I tweeted that line recently; I meant it as an innocuous observation, neither intended to slander any prominent intellectuals nor to challenge lesser-known, media-shy experts or academics. Nevertheless, I received several objections to my comment from individuals who are the tops in their fields and are unafraid of self-promotion and publicity. But I stand by what I wrote. Since Twitter does not provide adequate space, please allow me to clarify.

Continue Reading