David F. Gordon, Mark L. Schneider, and Paul B. Stares discuss their respective organization's assessments of the risks and the most worrisome sources of instability and conflict in 2012.
JAMES LINDSAY: Good morning, everyone. On behalf of Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, I want to welcome you to this Center for Preventive Action meeting on what to worry about in 2012.
Paul Stares, the director of the Center for Preventive Action -- or, in CFT lingo, CPA -- has urged me to remind everybody that when we talk about what to worry about in 2012, we're not talking about your ability to stick to your New Year's resolutions, or who's going to win the Super Bowl, or whether the Wizards will actually win double digits this year, but in fact to focus on issues of conflict and instability around the world.
We certainly have seen signs of it in the first few weeks of 2012. Whether we're looking at the emerging civil war in Syria, escalating tensions with Iran, leadership transition in North Korea, terrorist violence in Nigeria, there's no shortage of issues and potential flashpoints.
Now, this morning's meeting is on the record. That means that anything my fellow panelists say can be used against them. So I want them to be forewarned.
And before I introduce our distinguished panelists, one other piece of housekeeping: I would ask that if you have an electronic device, that if you could turn it off because some of them interfere with our sound system and it makes it howl and scream and otherwise disrupts the meeting. So, if you could please do that, we would greatly appreciate it.
Again, it's my pleasure to introduce our panelists. You have their complete bios on the roster for today's meeting so I am not going to go through it line by line. I'll just hit some of the highlights.
To my immediate left is David Gordon, who has held numerous positions in academia and in government. He has served on the National Intelligence Council. He was director of policy planning. And he is now at the Eurasia Group, which has produced its own handout or publication on top risks of 2012, which you have here. And for those people watching on video, you can obtain it on the Internet.
One thing that is not in David's bio that is nonetheless significant is that he claims the distinction of having directed my senior thesis when I was an undergraduate. And I'm glad to see that he survived the experience and went on --
MS. : How did you pass?
DAVID GORDON: Jim, you survived the experience.
MR. LINDSAY: That's true. I was going to put it that way but I was trying to be polite.
Our second speaker today is Mark Schneider, who is the senior vice president at the International Crisis Group. And, again, we have a couple of publications here from the International Crisis Group. Mark also has held numerous positions in government, directing the Peace Corps and he's been now at the International Crisis Group I guess for 10 years.
Finally, we have Paul Stares, the director of the CFR Center for Preventive Action. And Paul has written, I think, more than 10 books. He has previously been a senior fellow at Brookings. Again, he directs our Center for Preventive Action here.
What we're going to do this morning is ask each of our panelists to speak for about 10 minutes, outlining sort of the issues, the threats, potential flashpoints, instabilities they see in the world, and then we're going to open it up and have a free-for-all discussion. And we're going to go from right to left this time so, David, it's yours.
DAVID GORDON: Well, thank you very much, Jim. And it's a great pleasure to be here. It's a particular pleasure to share the podium with Mark and Paul. I'm a longtime great admirer of ICG and of the work that Paul's done for the council. When I was in government, both in policy planning and in the intelligence community, these gentlemen were extremely helpful to me and I want to thank them for that.
So, we in Eurasia Group produce a top risks document every year. Eurasia Group basically is a political risk advisory firm. Our clients are mainly financial firms and corporations, so these risks are primarily geared to help our clients think about the world that's coming up in the next year.
So, what I want to do today is really focus my initial remarks on four themes. And that's not to say that that covers the universe of risk, and we can get into the other stuff later. It's not even going to cover the entire list of risks that we have. But I want to start by a point on something that's less risky before going into where I think the risks are. And as we look at the world economy and the three main, big drivers of the world economy -- Europe, the United States and China -- we actually think that there is less risk in each of those three than is sometimes thought.
On Europe, Europe is not going to get its debt crisis resolved, but neither do we see a collapse of the eurozone or a major credit event involving an important European country this year. That's not to say that Greece isn't going to have a very, very, very messy turn. It will. And it's not to say that there aren't problems coming out of Europe. There are. There are many. In fact, what we tell our clients is, muddling through in Europe is the risk.
We're going to have very low growth, a lot of tension between the core countries and the peripheries. Europe is not going to be a good partner for the United States in a broader security sense as we've depended upon them in the past, but it's not going to have the kind of major crisis that brings down the world economy.
As long as Europe's in the tank, the United States isn't going to have a major economic crisis either because, despite the fact of our very, very, very large, long-term fiscal challenges, as long as the United States is perceived as safe haven -- and it will be with Europe in the tank -- as long as the United States is perceived as safe haven, our policymakers have the ability, mainly through a very, very loose monetary policy -- loose interest rates, another round of quantitative easing if need be -- I don't think it's going to be needed -- to keep the U.S. going.
China is not going to have a hard landing. There's not going to be a banking crisis in China. China is still fundamentally a closed economy. In a closed economy -- in a closed financial system -- not a closed economy; I'm sorry, closed financial system. In a closed financial system, maintaining financial stability becomes an issue of fiscal capability and will, and China has more than enough of both.
So, in terms of the three main drivers of what could really go aggressively wrong in the world economy, we're actually relatively optimistic, as we also are about the major political transitions: elections in the United States, the transition in China, elections in France, elections in Russia.
Neither of those four -- and they're pretty big countries and powerful countries -- are going to be surrounded with a lot of actual risk. There's going to be a lot of noise around all of them. But, again, we can get into this if you folks have more questions.
So, at the macro political and economic levels, some of the big issues that are talked about as major risks for this year we don't see as so risky. So, where are the risks? I want to focus on three big geographic focal points for risk here.
The first is in the Middle East where there's an important shift occurring; that is, from the risks from last year and the tensions from last year, which were about the overthrow of ancien regimes in North Africa, to this year, where the main risk is this brewing very, very sharp conflict between Sunni and Shia in Syria, in Iraq, in the region with Saudi Arabia and Turkey the main Sunni powers facing off against Iran.
And this also bleeds over into the issue of Iranian nuclear policy and the possibility for Israeli strikes. I still don't believe that Israeli strikes are likely. The Israelis are actually much, much more optimistic about sanctions than they've ever been. They will give them time. But the fact that the Iranians are planning to take their nuclear program into underground facilities is a crisis-provoking event in Israel, and the risk of nuclear -- of a nuclear attack absolutely goes up.
Much more likely -- much more likely, and we see it happening already -- is the disintegration of Syria into a proxy civil war very, very much along sectarian lines, particularly with outside powers. And this is already bleeding over even into Palestinians politics where relations between Iran and Hamas have become attenuated in recent days.
So, what we have happening in the Levant, in the greater Levant, is a real resurgence of this historic tension between Sunni and Shia. It's bleeding over dramatically into Iraq. And it's the reason why I believe that the exit of U.S. troops has been accompanied by so much increased instability. It was bad timing, in some sense.
But this is going to be a real, real big challenge with, again, potentials to get very, very, very threatened to larger global security because of the tensions between Iran and Israel as the Iranian regime really begins to shake. Unfortunately, my own view is that the loss of Syria as an ally is likely to lead Iran to even more double down in defense of its nuclear ambitions.
The second big area for conflict also has large geopolitical roots, and that is the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India subregion where I think President Obama -- we've been saying for months, this is the end of the 9/11 era. President Obama officially put an imprimatur on that last week with his speech at the Pentagon on defense strategy. For most of the world that's a good thing. We're safer. Europe is safer. Al-Qaida is not the same kind of a threat that it has been in the past.
It hasn't gone away. We're never going to be able to declare full victory here. But for the region, the impending U.S. withdrawal is interacting with domestically driven instability in Pakistan to create a very, very, very toxic brew here, both in Pakistan where you have this very, very sharp tension between military and civilian authorities; you have a declining economy, declining very rapidly as the U.S. military footprint in the region goes down.
There will be a very severe economic impact of that on Pakistan. And you have the spread of extremist elements from their bases in Kashmir and in the North-West Frontier territories down into the main geographic units, Sindh and the Punjab, in Pakistan. That's going to be very problematic.
The engagement -- the withdrawal of American troops brings up all sorts of question marks in Afghanistan, where we'll see a combination of negotiation and confrontation this year, drawing in outside powers. I think the role of India is going to be very, very, very significant here -- unlikely to be seen in any kind of a constructive way by Islamabad -- and tensions between India and Pakistan are likely to increase and overwhelm any progress that's been made in recent months on the trade and commercial front.
Finally, I think there remains a very, very big risk to India here, for while the al-Qaida-related groups in the Af-Pak region no longer have the same capability to strike against the United States, they view India as sort of a Western outpost in that part of the world. To the extent that they're focused on the far enemy, that's going to be their focal point. So, terrorism risks in India I think are quite large.
Finally, I think the third region of real uncertainty is the Pacific, and with two quite different issues, one in the north and one in the south.
The issue in the north is the transition in North Korea. Everything looks as if it's going OK now, but really rule number one about North Korea is nobody really knows. And so we have no idea. What we do know is that Kim Il Sung prepared his son, Kim Jong Il, for over 15 years to be the successor. He was a mature, seasoned politician when he came in. I mean, you just look at these videos of Kim Jong Un and I find it very, very hard to see how he really takes control of the place.
The other point here is I think that in authoritarian, familial oligarchies, that over the generations, legitimacy really erodes. We saw that in North Korea in the generational change from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il -- likely to happen now. Again, we have no idea what the tensions are going to be and we can't size the risk here, and that's why it's so risky.
When an insurance company can't size a risk, it won't give a policy, but the world can't ignore North Korea. It's a nuclear state. And I think the biggest challenge here is if you do have any kind of rapid deterioration here, U.S. and South Korean forces will move north to secure the nuclear facilities. Chinese forces will cross the Yalu to re-impose order, avoid millions of people going into China.
They will also be interested in the nuclear facilities. And there's been no contingency planning between the U.S. and China. The United States has proposed contingency planning for years on the Chinese. They've never accepted.
One of the things that bothered me when I was policy planning director in my discussions with China is the Chinese really pooh-poohed the idea that they couldn't maintain control through traditional mechanisms of food and military aid in North Korea. I hope they're right. They may very well be wrong.
In the South China Sea, I think the issue is somewhat different. And I think here I see the risk as a potential miscalculation, particularly by one of the new American partners, looking at Secretary Clinton's statements about U.S. foreign policy, looking at the president's statement, looking at China in a leadership transition -- China, that's talked tough in the last year but hasn't done very much, having in 2010 both talked tough and acted tough in ways that were very detrimental to their foreign policy.
The danger here is that a Vietnam or a Philippines does some kind of a provocative act in the South China Sea and the Chinese just say, no, this is going too far, whatever reason: It's a transition year; maybe they want to show their -- flex their muscles. That will create a potential crisis and a real policy dilemma for the United States, testing the degree of exactly what does this new twist to Asia really imply in terms of security engagement?
So, I just wanted to put those four big themes on the table. We have a lot of other things that I can talk about that I have views on -- Africa, Mexico, you name it -- but I just wanted to get the big ideas from our report out.
And, Jim, thank you very much. Jim is my -- he was my first student but he's still my all-time star. (Chuckles.)
MR. LINDSAY: Thank you. That's very nice. You were a very good professor.
MR. : The check's in the mail. (Laughter.)
MR. LINDSAY: You took me back several decades there.
Over to you, Mark.
MARK SCHNEIDER: Thank you very much. And I want to thank both Jim and Paul for the opportunity to be here. And I want to also thank David. As you've just heard, for being someone who I've relied on for about 20 years in terms of his knowledge of strategic thinking about the issues that confront the United States and the world in terms of conflict.
As you know, the International Crisis Group is now more than 15 years old. And if you've seen Louise Arbour, our president's, op-ed in Foreign Policy that should be on your desks, there are a range of countries -- and I think that David has helped the discussion by taking four of the big ones that we've talked about in Louise's piece and laid out many of the issues that we certainly agree with in terms of the implications.
I will say that I'm not sure that I like the phrasing of "Europe in the tank," but we'll go along with that for the moment. (Laughter.)
I think as you look at many of these issues, there are some where you could see policy lines fairly clearly as to how you hope that the major powers respond and international organizations respond. When you look at some others -- and Syria and others, for example -- the roadmap in terms of policy is much less clear.
And I think that it's also evident that -- what is unquestioned is that if we ignore some of these issues, they pose a great risk of a spread to threaten international peace and security. They will not stay within their boundaries.
And, finally, what's also clear: Ignoring them is certain to result in more death and suffering for vast numbers of human beings around the world.
Last week -- I don't know if any of you did, but I saw the movie "Land of Blood and Honey" at the Holocaust Museum. And it reminded me again of why the crisis group came into being: Because the founders believed that too many times major powers and international organizations essentially ignore what may be somewhat incomplete, but information and cables from countries like Srebrenica, like Rwanda, the Congo, and don't act.
And while the major -- the major issues that David just laid out on the table are some where I think there's no question that policy planners in the State Department, the NSC, and in their counterparts around the world are planning how to act and what might be done. We still see the situation in many countries, including the Congo, including Bosnia, including Rwanda, where we don't see evident attention being placed. So I'm going to talk about a few of those.
At one point it was argued that the reason that there's a lack of action is insufficient early warning or not having the right tools. I think we would continue to argue that a lack of political will frequently is at the core as to why those actions aren't taken. So let me just talk about a few trends over the past decade and fit in some of the issues that we see as producing strategic concerns in the coming year.
While 9/11, and what David described as the consequences, may be substantially different now, they have not -- they have not disappeared. And what I do think we're going to see in the next year is that some of the elements that come through -- the suicide bombings, the IEDs, essentially the use of terror methods promoting widely disparate religions, ethnic and political ideologies -- is going to be apparent not merely -- it's not going to stay in the Middle East or in South Asia and we're going to have to find ways to deal with it.
Second is that well-armed, technologically sophisticated criminal organizations, which also are quite willing to use brutal violence, are going to continue to pursue their illicit objectives in Mexico and Central America and in West Africa, and other places. And in so doing, they're going to threaten local and state institutions in ways that require actions during the coming year.
And, third -- and here I think it's important to think about we've seen now in the broader Middle East, if you will, a kind of tectonic shift over the course of the past year in terms of political dynamics. And while each individual country there is significant differences, the fact is that elements that are common in each country get communicated instantly, and so the region itself is affected. We see it now in the broader Middle East.
And what we would argue is that we're about to see it in Central Asia, that the unraveling in Tajikistan -- which is very close -- where, again, we have quite different situations individually but there are certain common elements, and those common elements include dictatorial and corrupt family-run structures, deteriorating economic infrastructure, declining public services across the range of the country.
And abusive and corrupt security forces in nearly every country involve a sort of clear fragility within those countries that could well lead to the kind of explosions that we've seen elsewhere. And it's unlikely that it's going to stop in Tajikistan.
And while we see now in Kyrgyzstan that there's a slightly less dictatorial regime, they still have taken almost no action to deal with the problems in the south in Osh, where ethnic cleaning occurred two years ago, basically June 2010. And that consequence is still there.
And, again, the United States currently is placing an enormous amount of reliance on Uzbekistan and the northern distribution networks in terms of supplies in and out of Afghanistan. And that perhaps is a country where you have the most brutal, the most corrupt family-run dictatorship in the region.
And so, putting our reliance -- and also it's probably the country that's most resented by its neighbors because of the actions that it's taken. So, putting reliance on that government raises questions that need to be asked.
Now, a fourth trend, if you will, is that conflicts are no longer ending in nice, neat packages. You don't have peace agreements -- everybody at the table, all of the actors signing -- and then a common commitment to try and move forward.
The Central American peace agreements from 15 to 20 years ago ended with agreements signed in Mexico City, signed in Guatemala City, all of the internal insurgents, if you will, at the table with the governments and something to move forward -- not beautifully and not quietly and not perfectly, but a general sense of this is ended; this now is moving forward.
That's not happening in Afghanistan, and it's definitely not happening in Iraq either and we have to deal with the consequences of that right now in Iraq, as David noted. But also, in terms of Afghanistan, the time between now and 2014 definitely does not look like the internal competitors for control of Afghanistan are going to be sitting at a table and reaching an agreement about a common purpose moving forward.
First, those at the table on the Afghanistan side are only one part of the Afghanistan governmental structure. The opponents to Karzai are not at the table and they're very leery about where things are going. The civil society, which has had an enormous hope for the future, they're not at the table.
So the question about how you get, even on the Afghan governmental side -- our presumed allies -- to broaden in order to ensure that you have some degree of common view about moving forward from the Afghan side for a peace agreement, has yet to occur.
And then, David didn't quite mention it, but here you have a situation where probably for this to work, the neighbors need to be cooperating, as opposed to being a major source of opposition, or at the very least the largest single spoiler in Pakistan right now, for any effort to have a secure transition and peace process in Afghanistan.
And, finally, let's be clear: We're entering a -- we're now in a presidential year, no longer entering. The Obama administration is going to be focused on implications for foreign policy as they relate to the re-election campaign.
The Republicans are going to be looking at ways to win in November, not ways to ensure a common policy aimed at dealing with some of these problems in the most effective way. And, clearly, just as an example, President Obama is likely to announce at the end of this month what may be a very significant institutional shift in how you deal with coming atrocities.
The announcement -- this is the end game of the PSD-10 that was issued last August -- and the establishment, probably by the end of this month, of an interagency atrocity prevention board forcing all the information within the U.S. government to -- essentially to come together on a regular basis where decision-makers have to take account of potential atrocities -- that may well get undercut by partisan attack almost immediately, which would be a tragedy because it is a step forward.
Now, I'm not sure about the time but let me just quickly say -- two minutes? All right. I think the most immediate concern has to be Syria, and for reasons not only of the 5,000 and more people who have been killed this year but, as David said, again, this is not a conflict that is internal to Syria. It involves Hezbollah and Hamas and Iran and Israel. Potentially this could unsettle the entire effort to at least manage conflict in the Middle East and between Israel and Palestine over the next year.
And Iran and Israel, they're rolling towards a confrontation. David may be right that Israel may step back and not take the actual military step. One hopes that's the case, particularly because the consequence of that, contrary to several years go, will not be silence in the international community. Israel will replace Iran, if you will, as a pariah regime almost immediately. And the consequences for the United States of that are quite serious, particularly this year.
And one should recognize, I think, that the threats against the U.S. to close the Straits of Hormuz to U.S. naval vessels, that that also may have been an effort by Ahmadinejad to, in a sense, divert attention from the obvious impact that the international actions with respect to its -- the report of the IAEA has had. And, as you may have noticed, Iran quietly has invited IAEA to come for discussions, whatever that may mean.
But without firm -- I think without full monitoring -- full monitoring -- IAEA is not going to accept a simple, well, you have to trust us. Nor, I think, is the United States or the P-5 going to accept that. In that regard, that includes Russia and China.
Africa I would just highlight: Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan, both -- you're going to see famine in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile within three weeks -- or four weeks let's say; the early warning system has already pointed that out -- because the government in Sudan has refused to allow humanitarian access because they see it as allowing the SPLM-North to acquire food and resources. And that's going to put 500,000 people at grave risk.
In Southern Sudan, clearly what you saw in Jonglei -- which has been on the horizon for the last two years -- there has to be a greater effort to support Southern Sudan in terms of governance if it's going to avoid a blowup.
And then, finally -- and just let me say that right now I would say that in Africa the worst failure of policy has been the Congo in the lead-up to these elections and dealing with the elections right now, because the aftermath you have a -- you saw all of the reports of observers: lack of credibility in the results. You're about to get the same for parliamentary results.
And, going forward -- let me just ask a question: How is it possible for the United States to continue to strengthen and support security sector reform for a government that a large portion of its people see as not legitimate? That's going to be a major issue down the road in the second-largest country in Africa, fourth-largest in terms of population in a country that's been -- that's gone through a civil war in which nearly 5 million people have died.
Why don't I stop there?
MR. LINDSAY: OK.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, I do want to mention, we should not end this without talking about Venezuela because next year Chavez is going to be running for re-election. He's got militias that are armed. Venezuela currently has the highest homicide-per-population rate in the world -- three times Mexico. And you're going into a president race where, for the first time, the opposition may actually get its act together.
MR. LINDSAY: Thank you very much, Mark.
Now we will hear from my colleague, Paul Stares, who I think is going to talk about CPA's Preventive Priorities Survey 2012, which I believe everybody in the room has a copy of.
PAUL STARES: I am, indeed. Thanks, Jim. And thank you all for coming out today. And I want to add my appreciation not just to my fellow panelists but to many of you who provide immeasurable support to CPA in what we do.
I'm going to try to be as brief as possible because I know that you are going to want to ask us all questions about our assessments, so let me just try to briefly run through, as Jim said, our Preventive Priorities Survey for 2012, which is in front of you.
We did something -- I should say at the outset we did something a little different from the usual lists that are produced at the end of the year. Our exercise was less a sort of predictive exercise. We weren't trying to forecast what was likely to happen in the coming year, but rather to identify plausible scenarios and plausible sources of conflict and instability in 2012. And I'll get into what I mean by that in a minute.
Our second goal, which I think does distinguish it from a lot of these kinds of things, is to try to determine which of these contingencies actually warrant most of our attention. So, our basic premise here is that not every potential contingency is of equal importance to the United States, even though we tend to -- or at least the policy community tends to treat them as if they are all equally important.
So, our goal was to try to identify those that were of particular importance to the U.S. so we could sort of prioritize attention and resources, which we all know is something that we have to do more of, given fiscal austerity and so on. So let me just say a little bit about the methodology we use and then I'll get into the actual findings.
So, the first thing we did was generate a list of 30 plausible scenarios, contingencies. This is not, in our opinion, rocket science. There is a lot of work being done on the potential drivers and triggers of conflict, which many of you in the room have actually been pioneers in developing. We used that information. We combined it with our assessment of current trends as well as upcoming events on the political agenda. And the basis of all that sort of alchemy, we came up with our list of 30 flashpoints.
Now, the harder task, interestingly enough, was actually to rank these potential contingencies in terms of their relative importance to U.S. national interests. Now, you would think that there would be established criteria for doing this, given the amount of time -- the frequency with which we all invoke the national interest, but there is no, as far as I know, established criteria for ranking U.S. national interests.
If you Google, you know, "rank U.S. interests" or "criteria for judging U.S. national interests," you get zip. Unbelievable. And I've tried all kinds of permutations and there is nothing out there. I think the closest that anyone has come to it was an exercise that Graham Allison did at the Belfer Center.
But actually making judgments about why a certain contingency is more important to the U.S. than others is actually not a trivial thing to do. Anyway, we tried and we came up with our own set of criteria, which I welcome your thoughts on, and if you've got a better way of doing it, then we're all ears.
But we listed them into three tiers. The first we defined as contingencies that have a direct threat to the U.S. homeland or to allies where we have formal treaty commitments to, as well as threats to strategic resources to the United States.
The second tier we defined as threats to countries of strategic importance to the U.S. but which are not treaty allies, therefore do not have this automaticity in terms of U.S. commitments.
And, thirdly, Tier 3 are those essentially humanitarian contingencies in countries of lesser importance to the United States.
Now, on the basis of the initial selection of contingencies and their ranking, we polled 300 experts in the foreign policy community. Many of you in the room were part of this. I think a good proportion responded, certainly a meaningful response rate, and we came up with the findings that are in front of you. And let me just sort of run through each of the tiers.
I think many of those contingencies listed will not be of surprise to some of you. In Tier 1 there is obviously still concern about direct threats to the U.S. either in the form of mass-casualty terrorism or a major cyber attack.
There are the usual rogue threats there, listed there, from North Korea. As David mentioned, we're going through a difficult time in terms -- or an uncertain time, rather, in terms of the transition in North Korea, Iran too with the nuclear issue, as well as the potential for miscalculation in the Persian Gulf. Pakistan has risen, I think, in people's concern, less because of the usual concerns about loose nukes but more the possibility of a direct rupture in U.S.-Pakistan relations, and the implications of that.
I think other contingencies there that have sort of risen, I think, in people's sense of concern:
A dangerous incident involving China as a result of our greater concentration on the Asia-Pacific region and our pivot, if you will, to that region.
A spillover from a euro crisis, or crisis in the eurozone, I think is still of concern to many people, although I tend to share David's estimation of that.
Spillover from Mexico -- some people might think that that doesn't rank as high as other contingencies, say, in Tier 2. We felt it warranted inclusion in Tier 1, primarily because of the political significance of that spillover less than necessarily the actual manifestations of that spillover, or the human consequences.
And, finally, a potential for instability in Saudi Arabia as a result of the succession process and the Arab awakening.
Two, again, relatively predictable contingencies were identified. These can sort of be grouped into those related to the Arab awakening: Unrest in Egypt as a result of the transition; the current turbulence in Syria is of great concern, or growing concern; Yemen is hardly out of the woods yet; Bahrain is, I think, a sleeper in many respects and could become a problematic place in 2012; and of course the situation in Iraq I think is of concern after the U.S. withdrawal.
In South Asia, again, the usual suspects here. I don't think the possibility of an Indo-Pak contingency has gone away. And, as David mentioned, the concern is more of that being triggered by a terrorist group attacking India and the retaliation that might follow. Afghanistan is obviously the other one. South China Sea.
And I think the one that I think snuck in here, to our surprise, was a potential contingency involving Israel and Turkey. There has been friction over Palestine, but quite a few worried about how this might play out in the coming months.
Finally, Tier 3. These are, essentially, humanitarian contingencies. Africa dominates, unfortunately:
Somalia is always everybody's hardy perennial here.
Kenya, the elections coming up later this year -- a lot of concern about that it may see the kind of ethnic violence that blighted the 2008, 2009 election.
Nigeria, the sectarian violence taking place in the Middle Belt is of concern to many people.
DRC, another hardy perennial that just goes on and on, unfortunately.
And of course Sudan is the other major concern. And we identified more of a North-South friction, but I think what we've been seeing in recent reports is the problem of internal violence within Southern Sudan is of great concern.
The other major area, if you will, of these kinds of contingencies are in the former Soviet space. Georgia-Russia is hardly being resolved. It's sort of bubbling under the surface. Turkistan, another one that could erupt, as it has in the past.
One that we think is another sleeper that could erupt is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. There's been extraordinary re-armament by Azerbaijan in recent years and, I think, frustration about the fact that that issue has not been resolved, and that could erupt.
We also had Venezuela in there, and I think -- I was heartened that the others also mentioned it. I think it's one that we don't give enough attention to.
Finally, let me just wrap up with some of the wild cards, because in the process of doing the survey, we asked for people's sort of, you know, out of the blue, black swan type contingencies that should also be considered.
I think unrest in China is one that several respondents mentioned -- similarly in Russia, and we've already seen a bit of that. Several mentioned the assassination of a senior U.S. official somewhere in the world that prompted U.S. response.
And, of course, finally there is the Mayan prophecy that the world will end in 2012. (Laughter.) And I should add, actually, people joke about that but the U.S. government actually has a website to answer your questions about the coming Mayan catastrophe, which is more than you can say about other contingencies on the list, which I think is the basic point of our presentation. (Laughter.)
Anyway, with that I will end there. Thank you.
MR. LINDSAY: Thank you very much, Paul.
And, by the way, if you ever want to check back on the Preventive Priorities Survey 2012, it's available on the Council on Foreign Relations' website, cfr.org.
We're now going to, I think, open it up to discussion. We will follow standard CRF protocol. If you have a question, I ask you to take your placard or tent card and put it on end. And we ask that -- be brief so we can get as many questions and as much discussion as possible.
Kori (sp), you get to kick it off.
Q: My question is for David Gordon about your North Korea scenario, because that seems to me a lot more difficult to get that U.S.-Chinese war going than perhaps -- than perhaps I understood from your comments.
MR. GORDON: That's the worst case in it. That's -- yeah.
Q: But it does seem to me --
MR. GORDON: Yeah, it's not going to be easy to get from here to there.
Q: -- in the happy instance of the North Korean government going under, the channels of communication to the Chinese, the ability to signal limited intent, I'm not sure we need that much prior planning with them, or that in those circumstances that we would march north to the Yalu in a way that would precipitate their reaction.
MR. GORDON: We wouldn't go to the Yalu.
Q: But talk me through it a little bit more.
MR. GORDON: No, I think -- I mean, my view here is that this has to do with -- this will be a very unstructured environment. We have -- we come close with China all the time in terms of reconnaissance flights, et cetera, but it's in structured environments where both sides have an understanding of expectations and red lines.
I think the danger in North Korea is it could happen very fast. And I think you have to put into play here the growing hostility around U.S. intent that is dominating thinking, particularly in the PLA, and that -- I mean, even if we establish something, you know, at the diplomatic level, it wouldn't necessarily play out onto the PLA.
Again, this is -- this risk has, I think, a more likely threat here in a -- in a scenario of descent into anarchy, is that you get military -- that you could get numerous missiles shot off at South Korean cities, right? You have a huge artillery barrage -- nonnuclear artillery barrage aimed at all the main population centers. You know, who knows what's going to happen?
I think the argument around this risk is that you just can't size it very well and can't think about it, but also it's bad things could happen. I don't want to suggest that we're heading towards a U.S.-China military confrontation, but that is the worst-case scenario, and I think it's less -- it maybe less manageable than people think.
If you assume it's going to be manageable -- and that's probably the problem with how China's thinking about this. They assume all this is going to be manageable. That can become a self-denying prophecy.
MR. LINDSAY: Mark or Paul, do you want to jump in here?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, I was in Beijing at the beginning of November and I think that the concern about the U.S. shift to Asia and the political reaction inside China was very clear. Everybody had their talking points.
And I think the danger is if you do have an unexpected event, whether it's in North Korea or -- and here I would say -- David mentioned earlier the South China Sea is where I see more likelihood right now and next year of something occurring. And then you have to figure out how you're going to manage military action between our, quote, "new allies" and China.
MR. STARES: I would just add quickly that I think the more immediate concern is another series of provocations by North Korea designed to sort of burnish the image of the leader to show that he's, you know, a strong leader. And South Korea is, as a result of those recent provocations, primed to retaliate.
And I think the expectation is that -- and this is sort of the fallacy of the last move -- the South will retaliate and then that's it; there will be a fire break. But I think there is a not-insignificant risk that things could actually escalate from there and we get into sort of unknown territory, or where that goes. And that to me is the great risk at the moment.
MR. LINDSAY: Travis?
Q: Thank you. My name is Travis Adkins. I'm with Carnegie-Mellon University, also former international affairs fellow here with the council.
Two quick questions: With the understanding that consistency is not always desirable in foreign policy, I was just wondering if the panelists could talk about the implications in the region for U.S. actions and motives in Libya versus the relative stand-offishness with the case Syria, and if you could talk about, maybe briefly, U.S. engagement with Sudan and South Sudan since the partition, and maybe a grading of that if there has been enough time to see what we're doing there.
MR. GORDON: I mean, I think -- I think Libya -- when historians look back at Libya, it's going to be the end of an era, not the beginning of a new era. I think there was an extraordinary set of circumstances around that having to do with geographic contiguity to the main European powers who were interested in this, a severe perception of direct threat by those European powers combined with consensus in the Arab League.
I mean, Moammar Gadhafi achieved an extraordinary thing. He brought the Arab League together to call for military action by the United Nations against an Arab country. I mean, oh, my god, that's absolutely extraordinary and it's not going to happen again.
So, I don't think it's the case that the United States and the West is disengaged from Syria. We're very engaged. But the pathway forward there is just much, much, much more challenging, and the kinds of policy options that you had in Libya are simply not on the table.
MR. LINDSAY: Mark?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, I'll start with Libya.
I think that what you're seeing now is that part of the argument for dealing with Libya was that there was a significant threat to civilian security as a result of the threats from Gadhafi, and so the responsibility to protect doctrine was used to justify action by the Security Council, and it was permitted because the Arab League had a consensus to accept that as a basis for action. At the time there were perhaps 500 people had been killed, but the threat was of massive ethnic cleansing. And so it was in that sense.
The African countries were totally opposed at that time, and since then they have made it clear that they have great suspicions about the West's use of R2P as a mechanism for regime change or other objectives.
And so, it's going to be harder now to say -- even though in Syria you've got more than 5,000 people who have been killed in the last 10 months, it's going to be harder to get the international community -- as you can see from Russia and China already objecting to a resolution -- Russia's resolution that's in draft at the Security Council is, let's say, not adequate. But it's going to be very hard to put together that consensus again.
However, if it continues the way that it has in Syria, and the Arab League finds -- remember, several of the Arab League members have called for military action. But if it continues and there are certain events that take place -- if there's several of the monitors killed, you could see change.
And, remember, there is a resolution the General Assembly adopted expressing its condemnation for the government and use of force -- excessive use of force. So there's a potential there for something happening. And, again, I agree with David; the U.S. is clearly engaged diplomatically in a range of areas.
On Sudan, both -- there are two things. In the aftermath -- remember, it was in the lead-up to the referendum that the U.S. named Princeton Lyman as a special envoy, and he has been there all the time.
I think that what's critical is do we have an adequate strategy for helping Southern Sudan in a sense create itself, establish itself as a government, extend services not just in and around Juba but into the states like Jonglei and others and provide some degree of security forces that are there that do, in fact, operate effectively and independently.
At the same time, obviously in Northern Sudan you have threats from the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan that are serious in terms of stability and unity in Northern Sudan, and right now we don't see any real negotiation between North and South on the remaining issues of the CPA -- Abyei, borders, et cetera, and the distribution of the oil.
And the economic situation in Northern Sudan is becoming quite serious. And so that may be -- there may be leverage there. And here again China can play a very significant role.
MR. GORDON: -- an envoy now.
MR. SCHNEIDER: They got very upset when the oil was -- the North cut off some of the oil. And so, their interests are at stake there and hopefully they can be encouraged to play a -- really a useful role in trying to bring about some diplomatic movement towards stability.
MR. LINDSAY: Paul?
MR. STARES: Just onto Libya and Syria, as the others have said, you know, a lot of people look at Libya as the -- sort of the model for future R2P operations, and I think for the reasons David said, that it's unlikely that the stars will align so propitiously again in terms of, you know, the support in the region for the mission, the proximity to NATO.
The other factor, of course, was the terrain that made military operations easier to conduct, and Syria is obviously just a much tougher, harder nut to crack. It's just very different and we shouldn't sort of try to compare them apples-to-apples in that respect because they're just very different, and therefore presents a harder policy case.
I actually have a piece that I hope to publish soon through the council on what should we do in these kinds of hard cases, because the choice usually comes to being a bystander and essentially watching this unfold, to our horror, and then wringing our hands about what we didn't -- weren't able to do at the time, or sending in the Marines, full-scale intervention. It's always sort of cast in that dichotomy.
I actually think that there are some other options that now present themselves, which have evolved over the last 10 years as a result of the development of various coercive instruments that we've developed since 9/11. And here I'm talking about the use of drones, the use of offensive cyber, information warfare, discrete financial coercion.
This is a whole suite of instruments that we've developed primarily for counterterrorism, counterproliferation, counterdrugs. I actually think some of this could be adapted for these kinds of humanitarian interventions, which I don't mean to say they lower the bar for us to taking action, but they provide some intermediate options to trying to disrupt -- protect vulnerable populations and so on, which I think we should take a serious look at.
MR. LINDSAY: I believe Mark has a coda.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Very quickly.
Unfortunately, there has been an assumption that responsibility to protect jumps from a decision that you have to do something to military action. That is not correct. There are a range of other tools, and I think that Paul has mentioned some of them, but we would focus first on the diplomatic and economic tools that are available in trying to produce action prior to getting to the issue, of course, of military force.
And we would -- we actually argued in the case of Libya that there were still a window for diplomatic action before NATO acted, and we would argue again that right now in Syria that there needs to be an assurance that we've used all of those economic levers before we jump to military action.
MR. LINDSAY: Fair point.
Q: Thank you. Fred Tipson. I'm at the USIP.
I'm struck by answering the question, what to worry about in 2012, by basically talking about national boxes, maybe regional theaters, but the crisis assumptions seem to be focused geographically. I'm working on natural disasters -- political impact of natural disasters -- and what's striking to me is not the typical measure of death, destruction, dislocation; it's the cascading impacts of some of these events.
So I wonder how you think systemically about things that could affect the oil market, the food prices, the strategic supply chain things. There might be an earthquake in some place that doesn't seem otherwise to be strategic, but globally it could have a huge cascading impact on U.S. national interest.
MR. GORDON: I'll take a shot at that.
I think that we've come at this -- at Eurasia Group we've come at this by doing a lot of thinking and research into the evolving of -- evolving world system. And our main theme here is that we are entering into a period where there's less global governance, partially because of less willingness and capability by the United States to provide leadership, less of a willingness by others to follow the United States, and the lack of anybody else coming in to step up to the plate.
The Europeans are totally preoccupied with their internal situation. The rising emerging states -- China, India and others -- want to be at the table but they're really loath to provide leadership and actually don't want more governance in many ways. So, part of what I think that Mark is talking about, about conflicts not ending neatly is a result of this -- of this lack of leadership.
You also get responses to these things that tend to be national in focus rather than multilateral in focus. We see that in the challenges with moving forward on the climate change negotiations, on the trade negotiations, this impasse that the world is at in terms of economic rebalancing. So I think it creates a context where exactly the kinds of things that you're talking about can take place.
So I think that, again, areas that are particularly challenging here this year are cyber and space-related issues, again because they're arenas where lots of countries have interesting capabilities but we don't have rules and norms.
But I think that on the fuel side -- on the fuel side, I mean, we're fairly optimistic at the technical level on capability. Now, if we have an escalating scenario in Syria, Iran, Israel, you are absolutely going to get upward pressure on energy prices for sure, but there's still a fair amount of resilience in the hydrocarbon system and, more importantly, there is lots and lots and lots of new supply in lots and lots and lots of different places.
So, in fact, I think we're moving towards a supply situation that is actually, in its own terms, less prone to the kind of escalation that you're talking about. I think the food-water interface is a really interesting one, and that might be a significant focal point for increasing thinking about that.
MR. LINDSAY: Mark, can you take a stab at it?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yeah, I think I would respond this way, Fred, that there's a -- if you look at the traditional view -- Paul Collier -- in looking at the questions, two major issues relating to greed -- sort of economic decline, grievance, the ethnic, et cetera -- that if you identify in those countries the structural issues that sort of underpin the likelihood of conflict, and then you have triggers -- that's when a natural disaster produces the kind of explosion that results in change of regime, that results in openings for a insurgent group.
Just as an example, I mentioned the situation in Kyrgyzstan. If there is a continued repression of the Uzbeks in Southern Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan decides to cut off energy -- they're very close to relying on one damn for 97 percent of their electricity in Kyrgyzstan. What happens if that goes down? Then the possibilities for violent action inside Kyrgyzstan is extremely great.
The same thing in Tajikistan. And there you've got IMU, you've got other extremist Islamic groups, because the government is cracking down on all of Islam inside the country. And the potential then for a natural disaster in a sense sparking those structural issues and producing widespread conflict is clear.
Or, god forbid, in the Straits of Hormuz. You have any kind of explosion there by one captain in the Iranian Republican Guard and that closes down the straits. Now, it may not be forever, but that could create an enormous impact on oil prices.
MR. STARES: I think you're certainly right to worry about systemic threats and this sort of cascading ripple effect of certain events. Of the contingencies that we list, I think there's only relatively few that I think would have that kind of impact. Most tend to be geographically contained in some form or another.
That's not to say that they don't spill over national borders but, you know, a euro crisis, Saudi instability, interruption of oil in the Straits of Hormuz, cyber -- a major cyber attack that, again, had a sort of cascading effect through different global networks, I think they're the ones that would have that kind of systemic impact.
I think what we should also think about, it's not just a single event having a systemic effect, but who is it that wrote the book "Normal Accidents," Perrow? He said it's usually not a single failure that causes a major event; it's actually several of them occurring simultaneously. And I think we have to worry about any one of those major systemic issues, or even the combination of a systemic threat with a localized threat combining to create this true global crisis. And that's, I think, something that we tend to devalue as a real risk.
MR. GORDON: So we're going to have an interesting test of this, I think, likely in March, because I don't think the package for the Greece bailout is going to come together and Greece is going to have some kind of a messy default.
My bet is that the Europeans and the IMF have succeeded in putting a fence around Greece, but we're going to see because I think that the chance of that happening is much greater than 50/50. And that will be a test of exactly the kind of thing that you're talking about.
MR. LINDSAY: But, David, on that point, doesn't the rule about the fallacy of manageability come into play?
MR. GORDON: Well, no, no --
MR. LINDSAY: Everyone thinks it's manageable --
MR. GORDON: No.
MR. LINDSAY: -- and because it's manageable you get decisions that lead to manageability?
MR. GORDON: I think that what happened here was everybody assumed it wasn't manageable. And what you've seen -- all of the actions that you've seen are actually much less about saving Greece and much more about putting a fence around Greece. So I think it was exactly the case that it was concern with Greece setting off this Europe-wide financial escalation of crisis that motivated it.
MR. LINDSAY: Yeah, I take that point. I just think that there's a sense now that they've built the fence that perhaps the fence --
MR. GORDON: It will be interesting. I mean, this will be a good test because I think it is likely to happen.
MR. LINDSAY: John (sp)?
Q: Similar to Fred's point and building on what David had said about sort of the diminished ability of the United States to lead, the diminished willingness of people to follow the United States.
As you think forward to the next year, what do you think is the most likely cause of U.S. inadequacy and capability; that is, something where the U.S. says, this is really important that we have a successful response, and the U.S. isn't able to summon either its internal capacity or rally others.
You know, in many ways, Libya -- we decided Libya is the Europeans'.
MR. GORDON: Right.
Q: Libya is not us. We limited our exposure. But as you think forward to the next year, what's the chance that we're going to say, this really is important and we're doing what we can. And so, having a negative consequence, it's perceived that we tried and we failed.
MR. GORDON: So my number one on that is Israeli strikes on Israel.
MR. GORDON: On Iran. I think there's no question that the United States is absolutely putting a very, very high priority on ratcheting up financial pressures on Iran, both because of our own interests but also in an effort to demonstrate to Israel that there is a pathway forward here other than war to attain the mutual -- the goals of both Israel and the United States to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons-capable state. It may not work.
So I would say, to my mind, that would be the number-one potential example of something that was really a focal point, a very, very huge priority for the United States yet ends up in an outcome that we don't want.
MR. LINDSAY: Mark?
MR. SCHNEIDER: I think there are a couple, unfortunately. But in the case of Israel and Iran, I agree with David that that's hugely important. I don't think internal disagreements politically here affect that.
MR. GORDON: Oh, no.
MR. SCHNEIDER: It's simply the inability to demonstrate to Israel that there's an option --
MR. GORDON: Right.
MR. SCHNEIDER: -- that will ensure that Iran doesn't move more quickly towards nuclear capability. And there it may be that you still have an option to -- if you are able to convince Russia and China that Israel is going to strike unless they put all of their weight behind the IAEA to get full monitoring, you have shot. I probably shouldn't use the word "shot," but -- (laughter).
The other, it seems to me, is Pakistan, that it's not clear to me that we're going to be able to do sort of two things at the same time. One is to try and manage a situation in which Pakistan becomes, at the very least, not an obstacle to the transition; that is, to a peace process -- political settlement and a transition -- that in some way it reduces its support for the Haqqani network particularly.
And, second, to prevent the military from essentially throwing out the civilian government in Pakistan. And I think that there is a -- there is a clear danger, and I think an imminent danger, of that unless actions are taken to taken to try and demonstrate full international support for the civilian government.
Those would be the two.
MR. LINDSAY: Paul?
MR. STARES: I think they are good ones. I would actually put Syria above all the others. And that's the one I worry about because of this self-reinforcing paralysis, if you will, or constraints that are in place for effective action.
Unlike Libya where the stars aligned, as I mentioned, I think you have this combination of forces that are basically counteracting each other's ability to play a positive role, even though you have the U.S. reluctant to take the lead on this, especially in an election year. It's trying to be as hands-off as possible, or at least not appear to be playing an active role behind the scenes.
You obviously have the U.N., the Security Council, divided on what to do -- the Arab League too. The Europeans are obviously focused on internal issues and reluctant to also be active in this. So everybody essentially hoping for the best in Syria when things could actually turn out very differently, as you well know, John.
And so, that's the one that I worry could really flare up. Now, it's possible it will peter out as the Green Movement in Iran petered out in a combination of repression, exhaustion and so on, but I don't think we can assume that this year. That's what I worry most about.
MR. GORDON: I think -- just to comment for a second, to have a bit of a dialogue among us -- I think that's a likely outcome, but I'm not sure in that outcome the U.S. would particularly be blamed, whereas I think in both the Iran-Israel outcome and in the Pakistan outcome, that would be -- that would be the effect.
So, I think that's exactly where we're heading, Paul, but I don't think it's of the same status for the U.S. and for sort of reputation that -- the other two.
MR. LINDSAY: David?
Q: The point I was going to make has largely been made by an earlier person around the table, but let me just elaborate on it briefly.
I too was struck by the responses and the presentations of all three panelists that they're very much geographically focused. David did mention the European economic crisis, which is systemic and is much broader.
And I also understand that when you're looking at a particular year, 2012, that's -- it's just natural, I think, to look at geographical approaches to the problems and crises rather than the systemic issues. But I did want to underscore the need to look at some of these systemic issues, which a number of you subsequently mentioned; for example, climate change or global warming, this kind of thing, which I think do have this cascading effect, or can have a cascading effect.
But perhaps a more immediate one that has not yet been mentioned is the rise of, essentially, political Islam in the context of election and what that is doing. Now, we've seen it already in Egypt and Tunisia, some indications of it in Morocco, but the question then becomes, you know, if you were to have free and fair elections throughout much of the Middle East today, what would those outcomes look like?
And I would suggest to you that they might bring some really big surprises in terms of where people are coming from. And that is something that if these elections were to take place in 2012, it could have a dramatic impact upon what some of these places look like. Now, you're probably not going to have these democratic elections, and you certainly won't in places like Somalia, but if you did, we might be shocked at the outcome.
MR. SCHNEIDER: I don't disagree at all in terms of not being happy with the outcome. Nevertheless, I think that then requires us, as in Egypt, to make every effort to reach out to different parts of the political structure. They are going to decide what that outcome is.
To the degree that we can, it seems to me that we have two objectives. One is to try and ensure, to the degree possible, that it is fair and free and that it's not manipulative. That's one. And the second is that we do recognize that our preferred party and candidates may not win, but we have to have a range of contacts with the whole -- with the broad spectrum.
And I suspect, actually, in all of the countries that you mentioned, that the furthest extreme group, as in Tunisia, is not the ones that comes to power. And I think that in the case of Pakistan, for example, all of the fear that, well, the Islamic jihadi groups will come to power if there is a fair and free election, that's never been the case. The vast bulk of the Pakistan population has always voted for a moderate -- either moderate Islamic or a moderate -- sort of the traditional secular parties, the PPP.
And the opportunity, it seems to me, right now in many countries is for us to build relationships now with groups and parties that we tend to ignore while we have relations with an authoritarian, quote, "stable" government.
MR. STARES: I agree with that assessment. I'm not sure I agree necessarily with the premise or the presumption that those outcomes would be uniformly bad for U.S. interests.
And I'm getting out of my comfort zone here, and there are people who are better equipped to comment on political Islam in this room than I am, but I think we tend to look at it as a sort of monolithic force when in fact there's remarkable differences between different political Islamist groups, and some are more desirable in terms of their form of governments than others.
And so, I think you're right that if there were elections, the likelihood would be that they would receive a lot of support, but I'm not sure that that translates into being automatically a destabilizing, negative outcome in every situation.
Q: I'm not suggesting it's necessarily negative --
MR. STARES: Yeah.
Q: -- just we would be very surprised at the outcome. And it would not --
MR. STARES: No, I don't think we would be surprised. I think we -- I think most observers probably recognize that in terms of political organization, popular support, most of the Islamist groups actually are the ones that have the greatest legitimacy in the eyes of their own people in that they would probably succeed at the polls. And I don't think people disagree with that. Maybe I'm wrong.
MR. GORDON: I think -- I mean, I think we're entering a period where there is now an enormous challenge for political Islam to throw up leaders and concepts of actual governance. That is, that all across North Africa and through much of the rest of the region, political Islam was the natural vocabulary and focus of opposition, and it should not be surprising that in the context of opening, that that's where the mass body politic went to.
I think the question is -- I think you have this aspiration here, particularly in middle class circles, this aspiration to sort of be like Turkey, but it's abstract, but the abstraction is modern economically, democratic, yet Islamic. But the question is, what does that mean for governance and what does it mean for putting countries back together?
And I think that's where -- I'm disappointed a year after the beginning of the Arab Spring that discussion in Tunisia, in Egypt is really waiting to seriously happen. And I think that unless that happens, the effort at consolidation is going to be challenging.
So, I'm concerned less about intent and inherent anti-Americanism in political Islam -- I actually don't believe that -- but I'm really worried about governance, and is there going to be a concept of governance that comes out of this in a coherent and constructive way?
MR. LINDSAY: Very quickly.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Very quickly, that also is the challenge for the United States and the international organizations, to help those countries build those governance institutions.
And we have a certain degree of experience, not all positive, but a significant degree of experience about how you can help from the outside. And I think we need to be thinking about, in the situation of political Islam coming to power, since it's not a monolithic -- how do we encourage the more moderate aspects, and then how do we encourage them to do what they can do in terms of local governance, rule of law, et cetera.
MR. LINDSAY: Time for one last quick question. Nancy, you get it.
Q: Thank you.
We've identified a lot of these really important contingencies, but my question is whether we have a prevention strategy in the United States. That may be for a whole nother session, but the question of what is being done on prevention; where we get, Mark, the political will; who's coordinating it in the government; where do these things come together; how do we strategize?
There are lots of NGOs at this table. How is the government working with business, with NGOs? What's going on on that?
MR. GORDON: Let me just make one comment here.
So, when President Clinton, at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the U.N. Human Rights Declaration, announced a new initiative to prevent atrocities and all of this, I was the intel point person on that. And I worked on those issues off and on for a decade from an intelligence perspective, and it was -- it was really frustrating. It is very, very, very hard to do.
I hope that President Obama's initiative is a step forward here, but I think it's very, very hard to get the weight of the main diplomatic bureaucracies to take this seriously. And it's very, very hard to come in with a small enough set of contingencies that you can -- that you can prioritize to really enable action in a preventive way, because we can say that we have these 30 scenarios, but much harder to sort of rank them in likelihood.
It's easier to rank them in terms of foreign policy interests than it is in likelihood. And the executive has just a very, very hard time in doing prevention if it has to think about it in more than a couple, or a few, cases.
MR. SCHNEIDER: If I could, to some degree the answer to your question relates to the alphabet. That is, you have to know what J is, you have to know what QDDR is, and you have to now know what the IAAP is going to be.
In fact, the -- and it fell to the side, but the QDDR, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, that Secretary Clinton did, you just now have it beginning to show up with changes in the undersecretary for -- no longer global affairs but democracy, conflict and humanitarian operations. And you have a new bureau designed for conflict prevention.
The idea of conflict prevention has been raised at least rhetorically and bureaucratically in a way that it hasn't been before. Whether that is going to, in a sense, withstand changes in political administration, whether that's going to be linked together with the interagency Atrocity Prevention Board, I think there's a chance that the answer is that the call for conflict prevention as a prism though which to look at foreign policy decision-making might move forward.
Remember also, for the first time you have the World Development Report this year saying that conflict is one of the foremost obstacles to economic growth and development, and basically challenging itself to do something a lot different about how it views financing economic growth around the world.
MR. LINDSAY: Paul, you have the last word.
MR. STARES: OK.
I think the good news is that there's greater recognition, I think, of the value or imperatives of preventive action in the U.S. government in recent years. I think that's reflected not only in this creation of this Atrocities Prevention Board but the new CSO Bureau at State as a result of the QDDR and other initiatives underway in the U.S. government.
I think, though, that there are still some real issues that should be addressed. One is the disconnect between the process of strategic anticipation in which we try to use the tools of foresight to assess potential sources of concern for the U.S., and that then, in turn, triggers some kind of systematic, rigorous contingency planning across agencies in the U.S. government. As far as I can tell, that doesn't happen unless the contingency is staring you in the face.
The other, I think, big deficit that needs to be addressed is what could be called kind of the software of prevention, the kind of -- not just the where to go but kind of the what to do, and developing a kind of best-practices sort of corpus of practical knowledge about what to do in certain generic situations that can be applied to them when they arise.
And we tend to not retain what happened, what worked, in the past from administration to administration, and we need to capture that knowledge more systematically so it can be applied when situations arise. We tend to still be very reactive. We sort of fly by the seat of our pants in any given crisis because we know the next week there will be another one, and so we're seemingly always behind the curve.
But that there is good news, and I think still some progress to be made. (Clears throat.) Excuse me.
MR. LINDSAY: Thank you, Paul.
The one job I really have as a presider is to make sure we end more or less on time. We have come to that time. Please join me in thanking our panelists for an excellent set of remarks. (Applause.)