Micah Zenko

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Mike Pompeo, then CIA director and now US secretary of state, shakes hands with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. Photo: The White House.

Early in US president Bill Clinton’s first term, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung reportedly asked visiting American scholars: 'If Bill Clinton can meet with the president of South Korea, why couldn’t he meet with me?'

Toward the end of Clinton’s second term, Marshal Jo Myong Rok of the Korean People’s Army met with the president in the White House, where he pleaded with Clinton to meet with Kim Il Sung’s son Kim Jong Il: 'I need to secure your agreement to come to Pyongyang. I really need to take back a positive answer.'

Clinton would come close but ultimately never agree to meet with a North Korean leader; neither would George W Bush or Barack Obama.…  Seguir leyendo »

US Air Force General Mike Holmes. Photo: Getty Images

'Great-power politics is back' is a mantra civilian and military officials have repeated with increasing frequency over the past half-decade. The diagnosis has now been formally enshrined in the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy, a summary window) of which was published by the Pentagon in mid-January. That strategy document proclaimed that 'Interstate strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security'. This means that China and Russia are now the top priority for defence planners, not ISIS, Al-Qaeda or self-directed terrorists living in the United States.

The emergence of Pentagon-sanctioned great-power politics has been accompanied by a rise in confused talk by senior civilian and military officials about geopolitical competition.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rescue workers searching through debris for bodies in Mosul, Iraq, in March. Credit Felipe Dana/Associated Press

Two weeks ago, the American military finally acknowledged what nongovernmental monitoring groups had claimed for months: The United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State since August 2014 has been killing Iraqi and Syrian civilians at astounding rates in the four months since President Trump assumed office. The result has been a “staggering loss of civilian life,” as the head of the United Nations’ independent Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian civil war said last week.

“At least 484 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes,” the United States Central Command, or Centcom, the military command responsible for the Middle East, said in a June 2 statement.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recently, during an off-the-record briefing for reporters, a sen- ior Obama administration official declared: "If there are Predator operations in Pakistan, I would argue that the collateral damage is negligible at most, and that reports of intensified damage are a myth."

After a half-decade and some 125 unmanned U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, it is remarkable that the Obama administration maintains the false notion that such operations remain secret and are therefore beyond public debate. It is past time for the White House to provide some transparency over what CIA Director Leon E. Panetta (without acknowledging their existence) describes as "the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership."…  Seguir leyendo »

An underreported attack on a South African nuclear facility last month demonstrates the high risk of theft of nuclear materials by terrorists or criminals. Such a crime could have grave national security implications for the United States or any of the dozens of countries where nuclear materials are held in various states of security.

Shortly after midnight on Nov. 8, four armed men broke into the Pelindaba nuclear facility 18 miles west of Pretoria, a site where hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade uranium are stored. According to the South African Nuclear Energy Corp., the state-owned entity that runs the Pelindaba facility, these four "technically sophisticated criminals" deactivated several layers of security, including a 10,000-volt electrical fence, suggesting insider knowledge of the system.…  Seguir leyendo »