If you ask ten forecasters to predict the next conflict, you’ll likely get ten very different answers. But, they will agree on one thing: it is impossible to know for sure where and when the next conflict will emerge. Even the U.S. military acknowledges this certainty of uncertainty. Recently, Major General H.R. McMaster quipped: “We have a perfect record in predicting future wars…And that record is 0 percent.” Although experts have called for improved statistical models and “assigning more explicit, testable, and accurate probabilities” to improve existing U.S. government methodologies, prediction will always be an imperfect science.
How should U.S. policymakers plan for and prevent future conflicts? Every year, we at the Center for Preventive Action conduct the Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS) to help U.S. policymakers prioritize their planning efforts by ranking the importance of contingencies to U.S. national security interests. Previous surveys were sent only to a targeted group of experts, but this year, we are bringing the public into the process.
What contingencies are you are worried about erupting or escalating in 2013? Please put your suggestions in the comments section below. Keep them short and to the point: for example, “an outbreak of widespread civil violence in Yemen.” Compelling suggestions will be included in this year’s survey, which will be published in December.