Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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Updates to 2012 Preventive Priorities Survey

by Micah Zenko
December 14, 2011

2012 Preventive Priorities Map.

2012 Preventive Priorities Map.

Last Thursday, the Center for Preventive Action team published our fifth annual Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS): a list of thirty contingencies ranked by their relative importance to U.S. national interests and likelihood of them occurring in 2012. The goal of the PPS is to help inform the U.S. policy community about the relative urgency and importance of competing conflict prevention demands.

The PPS was released as a one-page document and as a map, color-coded according to tiers. Accompanying the PPS, I wrote a piece for TheAtlantic.com explaining the methodology, and participated in a corresponding interview with CFR.org.

In addition, the PPS results were featured on CNN.com, Peacefare.net, and Outsidethebeltway, among other places. The primary splash of the survey, however, was its inclusion in multiple English-language news outlets in South Asia (i.e., Hindustan Times, Times of India, The Express Tribune), which all focused on the upgrade of U.S.-Pakistan military confrontation to Tier I and the downgrade of a severe Indo-Pak crisis to Tier II.

On Facebook, we conducted an interactive poll, where participants were asked to vote on which contingency should be the U.S. government’s top priority in 2012, or to list their own contingencies. Of approximately 110 people who participated in the poll, the top five responses were:

  1. Intensification of the European sovereign debt crisis (23)
  2. Resumption of conflict in Sri Lanka due to continued oppression of the Tamil People (23)
  3. The government of U.S.A must ensure economic stability/job production (16)
  4. A U.S.-Pakistan military confrontation (16)
  5. Conflict among India, Pakistan, or China over water resources (4)

We’ve also received a number of e-mailed comments and feedback in various Internet forums. Several people dismissed entirely the premise of “foreign policy experts” trying to predict future hotspots, while others argued that the predictions would result in a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby the contingencies would occur. Excluding methodology, we received several thoughtful additions or subtractions to the list of contingencies:

  • A Cuban civil war triggered by the deaths of Fidel and Raul Castro, and fueled by money from Cuban exiles living in Florida.
  • Possible ethnic violence between Serbs and Kosovars in Kosovo, where the United States still has over 700 troops more than a dozen years after the NATO air war ended.
  • “Washington is hardly going to be involved in Balkan affairs beyond providing purely logistic and/or advisory support to its EU partners.”

With the broad range of countries and issues present, we’ve assuredly missed or miscategorized some contingencies. What do you think should be included on the list?

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