Preventive Action Update

January 11, 2011

Director's Note

Happy New Year to you all! With 2011 likely to see new challenges to peace and stability around the world, the Center consulted a wide array of government officials, academics, and foreign policy experts to determine the most important preventive action priorities for the United States.  The results of this Preventive Priorities Survey, which you can access through this newsletter, include twenty-nine scenarios grouped into three categories according to the severity of their potential consequences for U.S. interests. Two particular contingencies identified in this survey, a deadly U.S.-PRC military incident and state collapse in Yemen, will be the subjects of two projects CPA is undertaking this winter. Other recently completed CPA materials that you may be interested in viewing include my First Take on the U.S. government's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and Micah Zenko's articles on tactical nuclear weapons, New START, Afghanistan, and Sudan.

Best Wishes,


Paul B. Stares

General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director, Center for Preventive Action

U.S. Preventive Priorities in 2011

To offer guidance for how the Obama administration should rank its conflict prevention goals for 2011, the Center for Preventive Action asked a wide selection of government officials, academics, and experts to comment confidentially on a list of plausible contingencies that might occur in the New Year. The responses led to a number of additions, subtractions, and refinements to the contingencies.

The scenarios judged most threatening to U.S. interests are:

— Mass casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland
— Major military/political reversal in Afghanistan
— Iranian nuclear crisis (surprise advance in nuclear weapons capability/possible Israeli strike)
— North Korean crisis (surprise advance in nuclear weapons/ICBM capability, continuing deadly provocations, succession-related political instability)
— Serious escalation of drug-related violence in Mexico (political instability/border spillover effects)
— Deadly U.S.-PRC military incident
— Indo-Pakistani military escalation (triggered by major terrorist attack, or unrest in Kashmir)
— Severe internal instability in Pakistan (triggered by civil-military crisis, or major terror attack)
— Highly disruptive cyber attack on U.S. infrastructure or financial institutions

Click here to read the full list and here to see past years' lists.

Recent Commentary from CPA

Tackling Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Micah Zenko

Foreign Policy

December 22, 2010

Weighing an Ambitious QDDR

Paul B. Stares

December 16, 2010

Obstacles to Leaving Afghanistan: Shifting to a Slow-Motion Departure

Micah Zenko

New York Times

December 16, 2010

Help for Sudan: Bombing Africa to Save It?

Micah Zenko and Rebecca R. Friedman

Christian Science Monitor

November 23, 2010

CPA Leadership and Staff

Paul B. Stares, General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action

Micah Zenko, Fellow for Conflict Prevention

Elise Vaughan, Assistant Director

Rebecca R. Friedman, Research Associate

Stephen Wittels, Research Associate