Micah Zenko

Senior Fellow


Conflict prevention; U.S. national security policy; military planning and operations; nuclear weapons policy


Center for Preventive Action United Nations Roundtable Series


Micah Zenko is a senior fellow in the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Previously, he worked for five years at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and in Washington, DC, at the Brookings Institution, Congressional Research Service, and State Department's Office of Policy Planning.

Zenko has published on a range of national security issues, including articles in Foreign Affairs, the Journal of Strategic StudiesDefense and Security Analysis, and Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and op-eds in the Washington PostLos Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, and the New York Times. He writes the blog Politics, Power and Preventive Action, which covers U.S. national security policy, international security, and conflict prevention, and also has a column on He tweets at @MicahZenko and has been named by Foreign Policy as one of “The FP Twitterati 100” multiple times.

He is the author or coauthor of five Council Special Reports: Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation, Reforming U.S. Drone Strike PoliciesPartners in Preventive Action: The United States and International InstitutionsToward Deeper Reductions in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons; and Enhancing U.S. Preventive Action. His first book, Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World, was published by Stanford University Press in 2010 and his more recent book, Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy, was published by Basic Books in 2015. 

Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy

A failure to comprehensively anticipate and understand emerging threats will result in unnecessary risk for decision-makers. There are evolving threats of cyber war, pandemic disease, and environmental catastrophe, adversaries are progressing toward becoming nuclear powers, and the United States no longer holds the unequivocal international standing it once did. As it stands, methods of planning and operations are insufficient to cope with a changing landscape. Red teaming is the best tool to address the gap between threats and U.S. strategic planning and operations, but it is currently underappreciated and, in many cases, ignored. My forthcoming book, Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy, uses case studies and in-depth analysis to identify the best practices of red teaming, and has the potential to transform institutional structures and the thinking processes of those who use it. A failure to understand potential adversaries in a world of emerging threats and outdated operational plans will be detrimental to the infrastructure, economy, and leading position of the United States.

U.S. and UN Peace and Security Issues

Though the United States and United Nations have a common goal in addressing critical issues of international peace and security, there is often a lack of awareness of each other's efforts and coordination. The U.S.-UN Roundtable Series brings together senior UN officials, including officials from member states and regional organizations, on timely issues related to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and international security. These high-level discussions provide UN officials with the opportunity to raise awareness of their efforts and gain insight from other practitioners in the field. Additionally, given the conceivable sources of instability and conflict around the world in which the United States could take preventive action, I research, write, and hold meetings on ways to prevent, defuse, and reduce deadly conflict and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention. These efforts include Preventive Action Workshops and Flashpoint Roundtables, and daily updates to the Global Conflict Tracker. I also post regularly on my blog, Politics, Power, and Preventive Action, write articles on, and publish CFR publications such as Council Special Reports, Contingency Planning Memoranda, and the annual Preventive Priorities Survey.

This project is made possible through support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Robina Foundation.

National Security and Military Policy Analysis

Counterterrorism has been the crux of U.S. national security for more than a decade. U.S. policymakers continue to debate the most effective counterterrorism strategies—ranging from controversial U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East and North Africa to building partnership capacity for foreign militaries. To contribute to the ongoing debate on topics of national security, military policy, international security, and conflict prevention, I offer insights and analyses through blog entries, regular op-eds on, roundtables and workshops, and numerous CFR publications.

This project is made possible through support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Featured Publications


Red Team

Author: Micah Zenko

In Red Team, CFR Senior Fellow Micah Zenko provides an in-depth investigation into the work of red teams, revealing the best practices, most common pitfalls, and most effective applications of these modern-day devil's advocates.

See more in Global; Defense and Security

Council Special Report No. 69

Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation

Authors: Micah Zenko and Sarah E. Kreps

In this Council Special Report, Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko and Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow Sarah Kreps argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones. By doing so, they predict, the United States will create standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.

See more in Global; Drones; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Contingency Planning Memorandum

Dangerous Space Incidents

Author: Micah Zenko

Dangerous incidents in outer space pose an increasing threat to U.S. assets and risk escalating into militarized crises. Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko details how the Obama administration could reduce the likelihood of such crises, or mitigate their consequences should they occur.

See more in Global; Space

All Publications


Confront and Confuse

Author: Micah Zenko
Foreign Policy

In response President Obama's recent speech about drones Micah Zenko writes, "What matters now is whether the Obama administration will actually tell Congress and the American public how it is conducting targeted killings."

See more in United States; Drones


How Barack Obama Has Tried to Open Up the One-Sided Drone War

Author: Micah Zenko
Financial Times

Micah Zenko examines U.S. President Barack Obama's May 23, 2013 speech on drone strike and counterterrorism policies. "The enduring impact of Mr. Obama's speech will not be what he says, but whether the new policies are reflected in how drone strikes are conducted, and whether his administration will finally and faithfully engage with the public, more than a decade after the operations began," Zenko writes.

See more in United States; Drones; Wars and Warfare


Talking in Circles

Author: Micah Zenko
Foreign Policy

Micah Zenko explains why the speech made by Harold Koh, former state department legal adviser, earlier this week is nothing more than a reiteration of the "fundamental myth of the Obama administration's targeted killing program."

See more in United States; Drones


Outsourcing Lethality

Author: Micah Zenko
Foreign Policy

Micah Zenko explains why critics of U.S. targeted killing policies should not overlook "similar attacks conducted by allies and partners who receive U.S. money, weapons, or actionable intelligence."

See more in United States; Drones

Ask CFR Experts

What right does the United States have to use drones?

Due to the 9/11 attacks and the continued threat posed by international terrorism, the United States claims it is "currently at war with al-Qaeda and its associated forces," a conflict that extends beyond traditional battlefield settings to any country that is "unwilling or unable" to take action itself. The United States reserves the right to conduct targeted killings, although only against "senior" members of al-Qaeda who "pose an imminent threat the United States of America." Although the U.S. military has a vast array of tools in its arsenal, the primary vehicle for its targeted killings program are drones, which have been used in over 95 percent of the 420—and counting—targeted killings over the last decade.

Read full answer

See more in United States; Drones; International Law


Killing Isn't Cool

Author: Micah Zenko
Foreign Policy

Micah Zenko says, "Military officials increasingly believe that the Obama administration must think through its current practices and policies of targeted killings, and consider how they can be reformed, or risk others following in U.S. footsteps."

See more in United States; Drones


The Warrior King

Author: Micah Zenko
Foreign Policy

Micah Zenko says, "Most analysts and journalists have focused on President Obama's expanded scope, intensity, and institutionalization of targeted killings against suspected terrorists and militants. However, perhaps the enduring legacy of the Obama administration will be its sustained, rigorous effort to shape and define-down the idea of war."

See more in Presidents and Chiefs of State; Wars and Warfare; United States


Flyover Country

Author: Micah Zenko
Foreign Policy

Micah Zenko says, "The Obama administration's lack of a military response in Algeria reflects how sovereign states routinely constrain U.S. intelligence and military activities."

See more in Algeria; United States; Drones

Recent Activity from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action


Center for Preventive Action United Nations Roundtable Series

Director: Micah Zenko, Senior Fellow
April 2009—Present

The UN Roundtable meeting series seeks to organize high-level discussions with senior UN officials, including officials from member states and regional organizations, on timely issues related to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and international security. A core group of selected invitees from member state governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental communities will participate in these discussions. The goal of these not-for-attribution meetings is to raise awareness of the role of the UN in addressing critical issues of peace and security. The UN Roundtable meeting series is cosponsored by the Center for Preventive Action and the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, and made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.

CFR Events


The Implications of Drones on U.S. Foreign Policy

Speakers Sarah E. Kreps
Associate Professor, Department of Government, Cornell University
, Micah Zenko

Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Moderator Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

December 4, 2014 12:00–1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.


Meeting ⁄ New York

Assessing U.S. Drone Strike Policies

Panelists Jameel JafferDeputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union, Michael E. LeiterSenior Counsel to the Chief Executive Officer, Palantir Technologies; Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center, Micah ZenkoDouglas Dillon Fellow, Center for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies, Council Special Report No. 65
Presider Karen J. GreenbergDirector, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School
March 1, 2013 12:30–1:00 p.m. - Lunch
1:00–2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch


Brennan Confirmation Hearings

Speaker Sarah Holewinski

Executive Director, Center for Civilians in Conflict

Presiders Micah Zenko

Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

, Gideon Rose

Editor, Peter G. Peterson Chair, Foreign Affairs magazine

February 5, 2013

This meeting is on the record.



U.S. Drone Strike Policies

Speakers Dennis C. Blair

Former Director of National Intelligence

, Micah Zenko

Douglas Dlillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider Jonathan Masters

Online Editor/Writer,

January 22, 2013

This meeting is on the record.



U.S. Drone Policy

Speaker Micah Zenko

Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Moderator Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

December 5, 2012 12:00–1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.



Countering Criminal Violence in Central America

Speaker Michael Shifter

Inter-American Dialogue

Presider Micah Zenko

Council on Foreign Relations

April 9, 2012

This meeting is on the record.


Meeting ⁄ Washington

Next Steps in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Cooperation

Speakers Rose E. GottemoellerAssistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, U.S. Department of State, Steven PiferSenior Fellow and Director, Arms Control Initiative, Brookings Institution, Micah ZenkoFellow for Conflict Prevention, Center for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider Clifford A. KupchanDirector, Europe and Eurasia, Eurasia Group
January 13, 2011 8:00–8:30 a.m. - Breakfast Reception
8:30–9:30 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch


Drone Strikes, Cruise Missiles, and Political Outcomes

Speaker Micah ZenkoFellow for Conflict Prevention, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider Irina A. FaskianosVice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
September 16, 2010

This meeting is not for attribution.




Americans more fearful of a major terror attack in the U.S., poll finds

Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Americans tend to overestimate the likelihood of a terrorist strike within the United States because “we are, as humans, hard-wired to perceive unspecific and foreign-sounding and unclear information as a threatening manner.”


How to anticipate unthinkable terrorist attacks? Hire oddballs to think of them.

The events are fictional, but the failure was real enough, as Micah Zenko recounts in his grimly well-timed book, “Red Team.”...Zenko offers a compelling argument for forcing ourselves to think differently, which is ultimately the main purpose of a red team. Even if we won’t know exactly what to expect, we might be better equipped to respond when the unexpected strikes.


Succeeding By ‘Thinking Like The Enemy’

You might not be familiar with the term “red team” but it’s a concept that is used by the CIA, the military and many corporations to assess their vulnerabilities and better protect themselves against threats. Micah Zenko, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, analyzes this concept in his new book “Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy.” He tells Here & Now‘s Indira Lakshmanan that the theme of his book is “you can’t grade your own homework.”



Formulating a policy response in anger is probably not the best way to defeat the Islamic State

When it comes to foreign policy, however, quickly formed bipartisan consensus makes me queasy. As Josh Busby notes, there is a danger in any response designed to “satisfy our collective desire for retribution but not be effective.” Or as Micah Zenko noted: "Recall Jordan and Turkey also conducted revenge attacks on ISIS, but soon after largely stopped. Revenge bombing is hard to sustain."


Six Rules for Wargaming: The Lessons of Millennium Challenge '02

For over a decade, those of us who teach wargaming and red teaming have used Millennium Challenge ‘02 (MC ‘02) as a poster child for how not to design or run a wargame. Micah Zenko offered the most comprehensive account to date of MC ’02 earlier this week here at War on the Rocks.


Book Review: "Red Team"

"Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like The Enemy" by Micah Zenko is an excellent book on the history and art of competitive analysis or red teaming a concept or scenario. 


Millennium Challenge: The Real Story of a Corrupted Military Exercise and Its Legacy

Millennium Challenge 2002, a U.S. military red teaming exercise, was doomed to fail from the start. In an excerpt from his book, Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, Micah Zenko tells a more comprehensive version of the story than has ever been told, featuring interviews with numerous leaders of the military exercise. 


US opens up international market for armed drones: Consequences unknown

In a 2014 Foreign Affairs article, Sarah Kreps and Micah Zenko suggested that while drones do not possess the transformative power of nuclear weaWelcome to the Red Cell: The CIA unit that asks the awkward questionspons, the moral hazard around their use meant they could still be highly destabilising to international order. Specifically, the authors wrote, armed drones could increase the possibility of 'military conflicts in disputed areas where the slightest provocation could lead to strife'.


Welcome to the Red Cell: The CIA unit that asks the awkward questions

These are some of the awkward questions the intelligence agency’s shadowy Red Cell was designed to answer. In a gripping report for Foreign Policy, author Micah Zenko has revealed how the experimental unit transformed the intelligence community since it was set up after 9/11 with the express aim to “p*** off” senior officials.

Radio Interview

Playing the Devil’s Advocate In International Relations

Micah Zenko is a Council on Foreign Relations fellow who has written what is arguably the first and definitely the most comprehensive examination of Red Teaming, its history and modern applications. His new book is called “Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking like the Enemy” and is a supremely interesting investigation into a little studied aspect of national security and foreign policy making.



The dangers of Obama’s incrementalism

In a smart piece for Foreign Policy, Micah Zenko provides a timeline of this escalation. He notes that “what began Aug. 8, 2014, with 25 airstrikes in the first week and food and water airdropped to save threatened Yazidis, has morphed and expanded into 600 bombs being dropped per week and more than 100 bundles of ammunition supplied to an unnamed faction of 5,000 Syrian rebels.” And this was before the Special Operations forces were sent to Syria.


Why Your Secure Building Isn’t: Better Security Through Physical Penetration Tests

Though employees may think their company’s office building is secure, the outward appearance of security is rarely correlated with the actual protection of that building, or the people and contents within. In an excerpt from his book, Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, Micah Zenko details how penetration tests are used to identify vulnerabilities in a building’s physical security. 


How the NYPD Stops Terrorist Attacks

The New York Police Department runs simulated exercises, called tabletop exercises, to test the responses and decision-making of senior commanders in advance of prominent events (the Thanksgiving Dayparade), in response to complex threats (missing radioactive material), or for new potential perpetrators (lone wolf attackers). Micah Zenko explores the use of NYPD tabletop exercises in his new book, Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, including his firsthand experience attending one. 


After Obama changes tack on Syria, what would the presidential candidates do?

Any campaign would probably need snipers, radar and recon teams, artillery and special operations teams – if not full infantry battalions, Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, has noted in Foreign Policy. “The types of interventions that proponents have endorsed for Syria are often based on deep misunderstandings of how US force was used on behalf of humanitarian missions in the past,” Zenko wrote. “Proposals that consciously ignore or downplay the amount and type of force needed to protect civilians are just wishful thinking.”


Inside the CIA Red Cell

Micah Zenko gives the first, ever look inside the CIA’s Red Cell—a unit tasked with conducting alternative analyses to anticipate threats and challenge conventional thinking. This is an excerpt of his book, Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy.


WikiLeaks Releases CIA Director’s Emails

Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Micah Zenko noted that this Iran-related document had already been published in The Annals back in 2008.


One Way to Re-engineer "All-Male" Panels

In Washington DC, for example, male cronyism in panel organizing (e.g. as previously described by Micah Zenko) is a particularly resistant sub-culture. Panel slots serve as currency for trading favors, and individual organizers' own status is tied to this currency.


G.O.P. Candidates Leading Charge in Call for Syrian No-Fly Zone

“If you want to be a politician and give the appearance of doing something, and, quote, demonstrating resolve, nothing looks more impressive and is more responsive than U.S. military power,” said Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations....Mr. Zenko said that calling for a no-fly zone “allows you to appear tough, and to appear different” from Mr. Obama, but that the idea as a policy matter was “unserious on so many levels.”


Qaeda Cell Leader Killed in Airstrike in Syria, Pentagon Says

Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, said experts inside and outside the government were divided over the long-term efficacy of a so-called decapitation strategy, in which a terrorist group’s leaders are killed. “There’s a pretty vigorous debate within the security community about whether this works,” Mr. Zenko said. Some officials believe that the fear of strikes makes it harder for extremists to meet and communicate and that killing leaders means advancing less competent operatives. But Mr. Zenko said he was among the skeptics. The decapitation approach, he said, really becomes a “recapitation” strategy because the targeted groups learn to anticipate the deaths of leaders and prepare deputies to succeed them. Any disruption tends to be temporary, he said.


'All We Could Find Were Body Parts': America's Role in Yemen's Civilian Carnage

"Without US in-air refueling, combat search-and-rescue, a steady and expedited flow of weapons and ammunition, and contractor logistical support, the air campaign couldn't happen," said Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has been closely studying the intervention.

Video Interview

Drone Papers: Firing Bling

According to Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has closely studied the drone war, resource constraints in Africa “mean less time for the persistent stare that counterterrorism analysts and commanders want, and got used to in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.”


Russian Military Uses Syria as Proving Ground, and West Takes Notice

“We’re learning more than we have in the last 10 years,” said Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noting the use of the new strike fighters and the new cruise missile, known as the Kalibr. “As it was described to me, we are going to school on what the Russian military is capable of today.”


The Yemen crisis is partly our fault. We can no longer facilitate this war

Even the US military can’t explain why they’re supporting this war so closely. There is no military or national security objective (besides keeping the Saudi Arabian government happy and the coffers of US weapons makers flush). As the Council on Foreign Relations’s Micah Zenko writes in his excellent and depressing analysis of the unfolding tragedy:


Five Questions About the Bombing of a Hospital in Kunduz

As Micah Zenko points out, on the Council on Foreign Relations blog, there have been an increasing number of such incidents recently, in circumstances that attract less attention than a hospital engulfed in flames.


Question Certainty

The Zenko book is a good complement to Superforecasting, because it shows how organizations, not just individuals, can overcome their biases toward false certainty and make good predictions, in geopolitics and business, in public and private sectors. With simulations, vulnerability probes, and alternative analyses that offer fresh eyes on a complex situation or intentionally oppose a certain position, red teams can greatly improve the accuracy of forecasts in the same way that Tetlock’s experts do.


Was Syrian Train-and-Equip Effort Always a 'Mission Impossible'?

Micah Zenko, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, has likened the enterprise to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, President John F. Kennedy’s abortive paramilitary invasion of Cuba in 1961. “If it were a top priority of the White House, and that was signaled down the chain of command, issues about screening and restrictions could be overcome quickly,” Zenko said.


Only 'Four or Five' US-trained Syrian Rebels Are Fighting in Syria, Pentagon Says

Micah Zenko, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the strategy was never suited to the administration's stated goal of destroying the group. "They should never have used to word 'destroy,'" he told VICE News, adding that the airstrikes and training program could not be expected to eliminate "a diffuse militant army." "No one in the Pentagon I've spoken with thought this would work," he said.


Drone strikes by UK and Pakistan point to Obama's counter-terror legacy

“The drone strike announcements were made before any public policy debate or discussion, and officials from both [Pakistani and British] governments have refrained from answering questions directly or providing clarifying information to know if their practice is aligned with their policy justifications,” said Micah Zenko, an expert on drones at the Council on Foreign Relations.


Is Turkey More Interested in Fighting Kurds Than ISIS?

Between July 30 and August 11, 293 airstrikes were carried out by U.S.-led coalition forces, according to official tallies. Between August 12 and August 24 that number rose to 304. This table from Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations summarizes the data...


Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted

“It’s both expected and helpful if there are dissenting viewpoints about conflicts in foreign countries,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a forthcoming book, “Red Team,” that includes an examination of alternative analysis within American intelligence agencies. What is problematic, he said, “is when a dissenting opinion is not given to policy makers.”


Reassessing the Threat From Terrorism–Abroad and at Home

Put another way, we are by no means safe in the long war against terrorism–but perhaps we are safer from large-scale, 9/11-type attacks....As Micah Zenko, my colleague at Foreign Policy, has written, terrorism is on the rise globally. 


Obama's Syria policy is a mess

"I blame everybody for this," says Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "I don't know anybody above [the rank of colonel] who didn't think this was a terrible idea."


US to step up defense of beleaguered Syrian allies

A 54-strong unit inserted into the rebels' Division 30 has come under withering attack from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate the Al-Nusra Front, with several members reportedly killed or captured. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations said the "truly significant decision" could potentially extend well beyond that small force.


Combating Counterterrorism Center Sentinel: An Interview with Dennis Gleeson

The challenge for our country is to consider, really consider, the threat—in terms of motive, means, and opportunity—they and other groups pose to US national interests. In that, I tend to agree with folks like Micah Zenko, who has highlighted the tendency to use hyperbole as a political tool.


It ain't over til it's over: America's wars drag on no matter what officials say

As the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko remarked: “First it was al Qaeda, then the Taliban, now ISIS will be reason US military remains in Afghanistan.” There’s always going to be someone. What unnamed group will be holding our attention in 2020 when we still have troops fighting and dying there for nebulous reasons?


Has the government lost sight over direction of conduct for military operations?

Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations offered another bold suggestion: A National Commission on the War on Terrorism similar to the 9/11 Commission and made up of "10 former officials, diplomats, and experts — with no personal or financial interest in the outcome — empowered to speak with anyone and review any documents" to "do what elected and appointed leaders cannot: review, evaluate, and offer new policy recommendations."


The Iran deal began with George W. Bush

As the Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko points out, the Bush administration offered to negotiate directly with Iran over its nuclear program in 2006—the first such American offer in about 25 years. That doesn't mean Bush would have necessarily taken the exact same deal as Obama, but it's a reminder that some of the political rhetoric around the deal is exactly that—political.


Who’s an existential threat to the U.S.? In Washington, it depends who’s talking.

The comments caught the attention of foreign policy analysts and military officers alike. Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that Dunford’s assessment differed with the threat assessment released in February by James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Clapper ranked cyber attacks as a top threat, although he lumped in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran as potential adversaries in that regard.


The U.S. air war against the Islamic State, in numbers

Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, crunches the numbers of the U.S. air campaign, and sets it against other recent missions. Despite the U.S. air war against the Islamic State now entering a second year, it has conducted far fewer sorties and dropped fewer bombs than during the shock-and-awe campaign in Iraq in 2003 or NATO's operations against Serbian forces in 1999.


Why Reagan would approve of Obama's foreign policy

When suicide bombers attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and killed 63 people, or when Hezbollah bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut and killed 241 Americans, Reagan decided to do what Micah Zenko in Foreign Policy refers to as "cut and run."


CIA Director John Brennan Admits U.S. Foreign Policy Could Spur Terrorism

John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, went on “Face the Nation” last Sunday and did something weird: he acknowledged that U.S. foreign policy might sometimes cause terrorism. Of course, he didn’t word it exactly like that, but close enough...(I learned about Brennan’s “Face the Nation” statement from Micah Zenko.)


America's never been safer. So why are Republicans convinced it's in mortal peril?

It's also politically savvy. "For Republicans, who have long benefited from attacking Democrats for their alleged weakness in the face of foreign threats, there is little incentive to tone down the rhetoric," Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen write in Foreign Affairs. "The notion of a dangerous world plays to perhaps their greatest political advantage."


Congress must not abdicate its duty to authorize or declare war

Meanwhile, there are many questions the media should be asking, but are barely ever uttered on national television. For example, is US foreign policy making us less safe, rather than increasing our security, as Micah Zenko pondered this week


US drone war under scrutiny after botched strike

Micah Zenko, a vocal critic of the drone campaign, said the White House had violated its own guidelines in the strike that killed the hostages, accusing it of "anthropomorphizing" a compound as an Al-Qaeda leader. Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the incident "raises questions about the alleged principle of 'near certainty' that applies to drone strikes."


Are we winning the drone war?

Most of the time, “the United States simply does not know who it is killing,” says Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Drones and the Myth of Precision

Micah Zenko, an expert in drone warfare at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times that of the eight U.S. citizens killed by American drone attacks, seven were killed unintentionally—including Warren Weinstein, one of the two hostages who died in the January strikes.


Dianne Feinstein helped keep drones with CIA

Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations who wrote the 2014 analysis, said via email Thursday that the latest development only underscores the need to consolidate the operations under the umbrella of the U.S. military. 


White House admits: we didn't know who drone strike was aiming to kill

Yet, noted Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, “the administration never said the signature strikes ended in May 2013, on or off the record … in fact, they never ended.”...Zenko said it was “strange and bizarre” that lethal US operations have received less public scrutiny than CIA torture, the subject of a 6,000-page Senate reportpartially released last year.


The shroud of secrecy around US drone strikes abroad must be lifted

The success of the Al Farek case, along with interviews from witnesses in the drone study, raises huge questions as to why the military hasn’t attempt to capture more suspects so they can justice in court before sending drones to kill them. The administration has said for years it prefers capturing to killing–but the data indicates that they practice the opposite, as Micah Zenko detailed in Foreign Policy.


Terrorism Case Renews Debate Over Drone Hits

The decision to use an allied intelligence service to arrest Mr. Farekh has bolstered a case made by some that capturing—rather than killing—militant suspects, even in some of the world’s most remote places, is more feasible than the orders for hundreds of drone strikes might indicate. “This is an example that capturing can be done,” said Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies counterterrorism strikes. 


If this is what an anti-war presidency looks like to you, you're detached from reality

But as the Council on Foreign Relations’ Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko tweeted recently, “If 30 years of US as military hegemon in the Middle East resulted in the region today, why would more suddenly stabilize things?” No one seems to be willing to face the stack fact that US involvement is as much the cause of the instability as it is the alleged solution.


Drones: The face of the war on terror

Most have been drone strikes, the Obama administration's weapon of choice. It has authorized at least 450 attacks by unmanned aircraft, according to Micah Zenko, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations..."None of this would have been imaginable 14 years ago," Zenko said. "Now these are not a big deal."


Arms makers cautiously welcome new U.S. export policy on drones

Micah Zenko, a drone expert at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said U.S. allies were looking for training and maintenance in addition to the actual aircraft, which could spell further opportunities for companies in coming years.


Obama administration to allow sales of armed drones to allies

Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the new guidelines fill a gap in U.S. policy, given the growing global reliance on drones for military, surveillance and law enforcement purposes. “The important thing to know with armed drones is that based on America’s record, they lower the threshold for when countries use armed force,” Zenko said. “And when you have that lower threshold, it can change the calculus of countries.”


Be Not Afraid

“Today,” write Micah Zenko and Michael A. Cohen in Foreign Affairs, “wars tend to be low-intensity conflicts that, on average, kill about 90 percent fewer people than did violent struggles in the 1950s.” 


Isis war to extend far beyond Iraq and Syria under Obama's proposed plan

Authorization for the second global war “contrasts with the restraint that Obama likes to emphasize”, said Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Politicians often describe their war aims with restraint, but the people who have to operationally conduct war like no restraints,” Zenko said. “Obama has given everyone who will service in his administration the ability to prosecute this war in as expansive a manner as they choose.”


Should U.S. Arm Ukraine? We List the Pros and Cons

Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations questions whether the delivery of arms is sufficient to force the Kremlin into negotiating a settlement. He says it isn’t certain to achieve the desired result and at the same time poses serious risks. It could induce Mr. Putin to double-down or lay bare the insignificance of Ukraine to the trans-atlantic alliance, he says.

Video Interview

The Drone War

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Micah Zenko discusses drone strikes in the wake of the Senate Torture Report, "In U.S. public opinion there is greater support for killing people than torturing them."



American Ended Torture But Continues Drone Strikes

But the end of one dark chapter roughly coincided with the beginning of a new one—one that remains very much open. As far back as 2004, notes Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, the CIA began moving away from capturing and detaining suspected terrorists in favor of killing them via drone strikes. (Both the CIA and the Pentagon have drone programs, but the CIA conducts the majority of strikes.)


CIA torture report: America did terrible things, but the truly shocking thing is that it's still doing them

Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggests that the CIA-operated drones have killed 3,500 people since 2002.  Add in drone attacks conducted by the Pentagon, and the US has dispatched 3,674 people, among them 473 civilians. These are non-battlefield killings carried out in secret. Does the US even know who is being obliterated half the time?


200,000 dead? Why Syria's death toll is so divisive

"There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of examples why [SOHR] is a terrible source," Miller explained in a follow-up email to The Post, before citing a list of his own criticism, including that moderate rebels were listed as civilians in the data – an apparent change to the methodology that was also noted by Micah Zenko at the Council of Foreign Relations


The Unblinking Stare

In a research paper published this summer, Micah Zenko and Sarah Kreps, two scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that the very precision of drone technology raises the prospect for “moral hazard.” The reduction in risks may tempt governments to order drones into action more frequently than they would conventional bombers or missiles. In other words, drones may spare more innocents but they may also create more war.


America's great terrorist mystery: When our allies and enemies engage in the same "evil"

Then there are the distinctions we make domestically. As the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko notes, often domestic attacks with the same impact as terrorist acts are not treated as such.  For example, when Federal Aviation Administration contractor Brian Howard set fire to a Chicago FAA control center, it disrupted flights throughout the Midwest for a day, the kind of havoc terrorists would love to cause. But he has not been labeled a terrorist (on Wednesday, the government asked for an extension before they have to indict him, so that may still happen).


America's counter-terrorism lie: Waging war with secret rules, hypocrisy and worse

A belief that the promises made in 2013 have not been fulfilled is not a sentiment exclusive to human rights activists and attorneys, either. “There were a series of announced policy revisions after an extensive inter-agency review in May 2013,” Council on Foreign Relations’ expert Micah Zenko told Salon, “but most of those were never implemented. If you go through the list of things they said they were going to do,” he continued, “they just never did them.” And the items of the list weren’t minor or secondary: “Transferring [the drone program] from CIA to DOD, uniform standards for all [strikes], transparency, capture over kill … the repeal of AUMF … everything they said they were going to do they didn’t do.”


Asian Forum on Global Governance

Micah Zenko presented at the Asian Forum on Global Governance hosted by Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India.


Scholars' Convocation, "Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation"

Scholars’ Convocation, “Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation,” by Micah Zenko, the Douglas Dillon Fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations and vice chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Terrorism.


The stubborn optimism of Obama's foreign policy worldview

The world, as scary and dangerous as it can be, is safer than ever for Americans and for the United States. As Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen argued in an excellent 2012 piece for Foreign Affairs, the threats of the 21st century simply come nowhere close to the threats of the 20th.


Isis: Armed and dangerous

"There is a long history of [joint operations directors] giving briefings which make White House civilians very nervous," says Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Is the World a Mess?

Micah Zenko says the world has experienced other periods of chaos or unrest. The issue, he says, is that positive, or good, news does not get reported. He notes the drop in the number of child deaths and progress in fighting diseases like polio. He says people are living longer than their parents did and generally have better health. He also notes the spread of democracy around the world.


Hamas' Drone Program Will Not Worry Israel, Experts Say

"There are hundreds of versions of crude, tactical drones that are freely available to purchase, and it would be more surprising if Hamas did not possess and deploy them," said Micah Zenko of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "Though I would bet, like its rockets and mortars, they provide little demonstrable military utility."


The drone warfare drawbacks

In an almost-invisible campaign that started modestly under Bush and expanded dramatically under Obama, the U.S. has launched more than 1,600 drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and even, in one case, in the Philippines, according to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Russia's Coming Combat Drones

In a report released this month, the Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko and Sarah Kreps argue: "Russia, China, Iran, South Korea, and Taiwan, for example, have begun to develop increasingly sophisticated indigenous drone capabilities. Other countries, including Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have publicized their intent to purchase them."


US Must Regulate Sale And Use Of Armed Drones, Says Report

In a new report called "Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation," published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Micah Zenko and Sarah Kreps argue that the time has arrived for the U.S. to set regulatory limits on the use of drones. Because drones do not have pilots, they write, the threshold for launching war is lower -- and the planes cannot avoid sudden danger as easily.


Droning On

No wonder other countries are eager to develop their own drone programs. According to a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), four other countries already possess military drones: Britain, Israel, China, and Iran. Others are moving forward with programs, including India and Pakistan. And a stealth drone called Neuron is being jointly developed by Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Sweden.

Iraq crisis: Turkey's Erdogan warns on air strikes against Isis

"Turkey has to decide what conditions and limitations it will place on how the US uses force in Iraq, which they did in great granular detail for the northern Iraq no-fly zone in 1991-2003," said Micah Zenko, an expert in counterterrorism at the Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the decade-long effort to police Iraqi airspace.

Three Troubling Lessons from the Latest U.S. Drone Strikes

The two strikes in Pakistan were the first of 2014, breaking a nearly six-month pause in the CIA's drone campaign there. As Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations noted in a recent blog post, June 17th, 2014 marks 10 years of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. "Never before in U.S. history has such a lengthy and lethal military campaign been so inadequately described or justified by the government, which retains the fiction that these strikes are 'covert' and unworthy of public examination," wrote Zenko.

The Siren Song of Missile Diplomacy

Over at Foreign Policy, Micah Zenko is wondering why discussion in the United States over how to respond to foreign policy crises always seems to center on a familiar choice: whether to bomb another country or else do nothing. Not only are other military options (including "boots on the ground") routinely taken off the table by politicians and their advisers, but nonmilitary alternatives for dealing with crises are too often given painfully short shrift. "The debate shrinks immediately around whether and how to use the tactic of force," Zenko laments.

Al-Qaeda's getting weaker - but terrorism is getting worse

Very few American citizens were killed by terrorist attacks in 2013, but that could change if these groups currently have, or eventually develop, a desire and an ability to attack American targets. "This is a huge debate within the [intelligence community] and the Pentagon," Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies threats to the US homeland, told me.

How should we count the war dead in Syria?

Micah Zenko and Amelia Wolf of the Council on Foreign Relations recently blogged that the actual number of people killed in Syria is vastly different from what is portrayed in the media. They suggest the level of civilian fatalities is in fact lower than what is being reported, and that pro-regime forces are dying in greater numbers than civilians. Their claims are not merely speculative, but based on data released by the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights (SOHR).

Policymaking by Remote Control

In and article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs – "The Next Drone Wars: Preparing for Proliferation" – Sarah Kreps and Micah Zenko argue that armed drones are here to stay and urge the U.S. to lead the establishment of international standards governing their use. Short of that, the authors fear both steady growth in the number of armed drone operations and a lowering of the threshold for drone strikes. More countries will employ more armed drones for more reasons, to the detriment of global stability.

Report: China, EMP threaten to wipe out U.S. satellites

A worrisome new memo from the Council on Foreign Relationsindicates that China, without warning, is poised to knock out U.S. satellites, especially those used by the Pentago "The threats to U.S. space assets are significant and growing," said the "contingency planning memo" titled "Dangerous Space Incidents." It also cited Iran, North Korea, space junk and electromagnetic pulse as threats.

Space isn't just the final frontier-it's a dangerous venue for geopolitical brinksmanship

American national security analyst Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations outlines these concerns in a new report on the growing threat of dangerous space incidents. He compares the problem to cybersecurity, another relatively new concern that has attracted attention from the world's security leaders. In comparison, he says that senior officials are not paying enough attention to potential problems in space, where there is much less room for error.

Space terrorism, floating debris pose threats to US

"Threats to U.S. satellites would reduce the country's ability to attack suspected terrorists with precision-guided munitions and conduct imagery analysis of nuclear weapons programs, and could interrupt non-cash economic activity depending on the severity of the attack and number of satellites disrupted," wrote Micah Zenko, the Douglas Dillon Fellow at the CFR's Center for Preventive Action and the report's author.

How space trash could start a nuclear war

The report makes a not-crazy case that efforts by China and other powers to limit America's total military dominance of space could accidentally destroy an American satellite, inadvertently convincing the US that war was coming and prompting retaliation on Earth. Its author, Micah Zenko, has made a name for himself in report-after-report downplaying the threat to the United States from China, terrorists, and, really, most things. So that fact that Zenko is this concerned about spaceshould tell you something.

US facing increased threats to its space interests, report says

"The United States has strategic interests in preventing and mitigating dangerous space incidents, given its high reliance on satellites for a variety of national security missions and unparalleled global security commitments and responsibilities," writes Micah Zenko, the report's author. "The longer the United States delays preventive and mitigating efforts, the less dominant its position will be in shaping 'rules of the road' for space."

How the U.S. Is Vulnerable to Terrorism in Space

For example, if one of these hostile countries acquires advanced space capabilities, they could feasibly attack a U.S. satellite to gain an upper hand in negotiations, hold off potential hostile acts, or as an act of defense, says Micah Zenko, the Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the CFR and the report's author. But, according to Zenko's report, terrorists take a back seat to another space threat: accidents.

What Briefing Chinese Officials On Cyber Really Accomplishes

Chinese defense planners, like their counterparts in the Pentagon, will be looking at capabilities more than stated intentions. Moreover, as my colleague Micah Zenko pointed out to me, there is often a disconnect between what policy makers and warfighters say.

Drone Proliferation Tests Arms Control

"It's a pretty contentious fight" between the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration, said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a March 17 interview. The State Department says that "if you pull at the thread of MTCR, you will weaken the nonproliferation regime as a whole. The other side says the international market is going to supply these UAVs anyway," Zenko said.

Risk and Geopolitics

Experts discuss current geopolitical trends and the risk of conflicts taking place around the world.

US foreign policy's gender gap

The dearth of women in US foreign policy is a subject of continual interest, mostly because it never changes. According to a 2011 survey by policy analyst Micah Zenko, women make up less than 30 percent of senior positions in the government, military, academy, and think tanks.


Syrian Rebels Will Face ISIS, But The U.S. May Not Have Their Backs

Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, thinks the administration is unresolved on what they want to do. "I mean, how committed [do] they really want to be for this?" Zenko says. He says the U.S. could find it hard to recruit Syrian fighters in the future if the first to be trained can't rely on America to watch their backs.

Drones and the Kill List Now

On NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook, Micah Zenko discusses the White House's debate on targeting a U.S. citizen with a drone strike, "kill lists," and U.S. drone strike policies.

Why a Pakistani reporter is suing the CIA for murder

This lower-court ruling hasn't halted the US drone program. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations says the White House's argument is that Pakistan's military "cannot or will not address the threat to US persons." By this logic, "it does not matter if the Pakistani Parliament or courts weigh in," he says.

Congress Resists Pentagon Drone Oversight as U.S. and Partners Continue Targeted Killings

Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, who has argued that lead authority for drone strikes should be consolidated under the Defense Department, explains that placing the program under Pentagon control "would allow the program to be defended publicly," which is not the case for the covert drone program controlled by the CIA. He adds that the move would not necessarily have operational implications for how the program is carried out.

U.S. Use of Military Force

At the New America Foundation, Micah Zenko served as a panelist to discuss the use of force by the United States after 9/11, particularly the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

The Drone Problem

On October 8, 2013, the Straddler met with Micah Zenko to discuss U.S. drone strike policies.

War by Remote

Micah Zenko spoke on a panel titled "Strategy & Law" at a conference, "War by Remote: The Battlefields of the Future," at the University of Copenhagen.

A Translation Guide to Foreign Policy Gibberish

Micah Zenko was interviewed live on Press Pool on Sirius XM Radio to expand on his article "A Translation Guide to Foreign Policy Gibberish," which was published on (September 4, 2013).

Drones in Yemen

As the United States attempts to battle terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), many have raised questions about the efficacy of drones strikes as part of a larger counter-terrorism strategy. Micah Zenko, the Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, evaluates how effective the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy is.

Challenges to peace and security in times of drones, robots and digital warfare

At the Heinrich Böll Foundation's14th Annual Foreign Policy Conference, Micah Zenko served on a panel titled, "Summary and outlook: on the issue of containing high-tech weapons in international political frameworks." Panelists discussed the challenges that new weapons and technologies pose to peace, security, and international law.

Drones, Kill-lists, and Accountability

Micah Zenko spoke at the 2013 Alexander Hamilton Society Student Leader Conference on a panel discussion, "Drones, Kill-lists, and Accountability," in which he gave a response to a presentation by Gregory McNeal of Pepperdine University.

Add Morality to List of Drone Victims

Yet while Obama described drone strikes in the same breath as "a necessary evil," defining unmanned aerial violence as indispensable to U.S. national security is wrongheaded. As Micah Zenko's special report for the Council on Foreign Relations on reforming drone policy notes, the drawbacks actually outweigh the benefits.

Drone Strikes and Diplomacy, from Yemen to Pakistan

On The Takeaway with John Hockenberry, Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a recent comprehensive report on drone strike policies, describes the diplomatic problems that arise from targeted killing.

Discussion about President Obama's speech

On the Charlie Rose show, a panel of experts discussed President Obama's May 23, 2013 speech on drone strike and counterterrorism policies, including Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations; David Kilcullen, former advisor to Gen. Petraeus; David Ignatius of the Washington Post; Karen Greenberg of Fordham Law School;and Philip Mudd, former Deputy Director of the CIA and the FBI.

Debate Aside, Number of Drone Strikes Drops Sharply

"Globally these operations are hated," said Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations who wrote a major study of targeted killing this year. "It's the face of American foreign policy, and it's an ugly face."

Do Our Drone Policies Make Any Sense?

President Obama says he is free to use drones to attack senior members of al Qaeda who are planning to attack the United States. So far drones may have killed as many as 4,700 people, including American citizens. What, if any, limitations should be placed on the president in using drones to target and kill suspected terrorists? Council on Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko tells Jim Zirin that definitive standards are necessary to prevent drone attacks from spinning out of control.

As New Drone Policy Is Weighed, Few Practical Effects Are Seen

But Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, who studies counterterrorism strikes, said that in the long run, a move away from the covert side of the C.I.A. might make sense, allowing Congress to discuss the strikes and their consequences far more fully in public. "If it's a priority of the president and the secretary of defense, the military can be far more open than the C.I.A.," Mr. Zenko said.

When the Whole World Has Drones

"The drones—the responsiveness, the persistence, and without putting your personnel at risk—is what makes it a different technology," Zenko said. "When other states have this technology, if they follow U.S. practice, it will lower the threshold for their uses of lethal force outside their borders. So they will be more likely to conduct targeted killings than they have in the past."

Rand Paul Talks His Way Into The Political Big Time

"The filibuster theater was representative of this administration's unwillingness to engage with Congress on targeted killings," says Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has followed the drone issue closely and wrote a blog post about Paul's filibuster.

How to Behave in Space

Micah Zenko argues that the world needs a code of conduct for behavior in space—and that the United States should take the lead in negotiating one.

Debating Drones, in the Open

"Some 3,500 people have died in 420 strikes, and Congress has yet to hold a single public hearing on this issue," said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It has happened in the dark because we have allowed it to, and the press has far and away been the lead actor in surfacing this issue."

Drone Strikes Under Scrutiny

The United States has conducted more than 400 total strikes in at least three countries — Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia — killing more than 3,000 people in its war on Al Qaeda, according to a report by Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Open-source Data Contradicts Feinstein on 'Single-Digit' Civilian Drone Deaths

In her introductory comments to John Brennan's confirmation hearing to becoming director of central intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein asserted that civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes now number in the single digits annually. Those numbers are difficult to know with any certainty, and official U.S. estimates are secret. But some organizations do follow open-source reports on the strikes and attempt to track individual civilian casualties. At least some of their numbers, gathered by the scholar Micah Zenko for a Council on Foreign Relations report, appear to contradict Feinstein's assessment.

Brennan Faces Drone Attack from Senators

Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations believes that political pressure is now going to mount over drones, just as it once did for Mr. Bush over torture and wiretapping, leaving the Obama administration a choice between "drone policy reforms by design or drone policy reforms by default".

Brennan's Confirmation and Where CIA Drones Go From Here

Micah Zenko, a Council on Foreign Relations Douglas Dillon Fellow who wrote a 2013 special report on drones, notes drones did not come up in hearings for previous CIA directors Michael Hayden or Leon Panetta.

Senators, John Brennan Brace for National Security Showdown in CIA Hearing

But Zenko cautioned against those who would head into the Brennan hearing with high hopes for new information. Having read transcripts of the past 10 CIA director confirmation hearings, he said, "It would be unprecedented if there were an in-depth discussion about ongoing covert activities." The Senate Intelligence Committee "simply doesn't work that way, especially under chairman Sen. (Dianne) Feinstein" of California, he said.

Propaganda Programs Hard to Justify, Panetta Says

"The Pentagon has an obligation to the American people, and the world, to provide information and tell its story — if nothing else to counter myths and misinformation," Zenko said in an e-mail. "But it should only do so in an open and transparent way. Using third-party contractors to shape public opinion is dishonest and unethical."

U.S. Drone Strategy Draws Home-grown Criticism Over Lack of Transparency

The report's author, Micah Zenko, also urged an end to controversial "signature strikes" that kill supposed militants based on what they are observed doing and whose company they keep. Instead, he wrote, attacks should be limited to identified "leaders of transnational terrorist organisations and individuals with direct involvement in past or continuing plots against the United States and its allies".

Grading Professor Hagel

Writers like George Friedman and Robert D. Kaplan don't really care about human institutions as much as geopolitics. He also assigned some interesting work by Joseph Parent & Paul McDonald, as well as Micah Zenko & Michael Cohen, on strategic restraint and threat inflation, respectively.

Targeted Killings: Obama's Endless War

"In many ways, Brennan is a paradox: a devout Catholic who apparently opposes 'enhanced interrogations,' the death penalty at home, and those inside the government who want to expand the targeted-killing program further," said Micah Zenko.

Ten Questions for Chuck Hagel

Bonus follow-up on drones: "Same question: are we setting an equally dangerous precedent here? And do you agree with critics who say that current drone strikes are often counterproductive because they create as many extremists as they take out?"

The Future International Security Environment

Micah Zenko is interviewed to discuss "The Future of International Security Environment" at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, with Mathew Burrows, Michael S. Chase, and Peter W. Singer.

Armed Drones Could Target President: Former U.S. Intelligence Chief

Blair said the Obama administration has only "partly thought through" the repercussions of its expanded drone attack campaign, including the inevitable proliferation of drone technology to other countries and organizations. He spoke Tuesday on a call organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, with senior analyst Micah Zenko.

Former Obama Official Defends Drone Program, Calls For More Transparency

That combination negatively impacts the U.S. mission in the countries it is trying to impact, Zenko argued. "Drones are the face of U.S. foreign policy" in Pakistan and Yemen, he said. "We allow the Taliban, and the Pakistani [intelligence agency], to tell the story of how our drones are being used."

Obama Overseas: Speak Loudly And Carry A Smaller Stick

"It's certainly cheaper," says Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has studied drone attacks. "The dichotomy the administration puts forward is that we can put 170,000 troops on the ground, or we can do drone strikes."

New U.S. Counterterrorism Guidelines Face Questions

In a telephone conference call Tuesday, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations voiced their concerns...ZENKO: "If the United States decides not to apply the playbook to Pakistan it is essentially meaningless because 85 percent of all the targeted killings that the U.S. has conducted in non-battlefield settings since September 11, 2001, have occurred in Pakistan. So the vast majority of targeted killings and drone strikes will not be covered under the playbook."

America is Setting a Dangerous Precedent for the Drone Age

Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations makes this argument in a new report: A major risk is that of proliferation. Over the next decade, the U.S. near-monopoly on drone strikes will erode as more countries develop and hone this capability. In this uncharted territory, U.S. policy provides a powerful precedent for other states and nonstate actors that will increasingly deploy drones with potentially dangerous ramifications.

Doubts About Drones

"The real reason for most of these strikes has been to protect a regime in Pakistan or Yemen," Zenko said.

Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy

"Unless they were about to get on a flight to New York to conduct an attack, they were not an imminent threat to the United States," said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who is a critic of the strikes. "We don't say that we're the counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but we are."

4 More Drones! Robot Attacks Are on Deck for Obama's Next Term

"There is a recognition within the administration that the current trajectory of drone strikes is unsustainable," Zenko says. "They are opposed in countries where strikes occur and globally, and that opposition could lead to losing host-nation support for current or future drone bases or over-flight rights."

Most U.S. Drones Openly Broadcast Secret Video Feeds

"If somebody could obtain reliable access to real-time Predator or Reaper video—without attribution or alerting U.S. military—that would a tremendous intel coup," says Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Obama Finally Talks Drone War, But It's Almost Impossible to Believe Him

"What I found most striking was his claim that legitimate targets are a 'threat that is serious and not speculative,' and engaged in 'some operational plot against the United States,' That is simply not true," emails the Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko, who has tracked the drone war as closely as any outside analyst. "The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 nonbattlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the U.S. defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past ten years."

Obama Neutralizes A Typical Source Of GOP Strength

"There are more mentions of Osama bin Laden than unemployment in the Democratic national platform," says Micah Zenko, a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. "You play to what your strengths are."