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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What New Threats and Conflicts Will Emerge in 2014?

by Micah Zenko
October 16, 2013

Child with Mortar Shell in Aleppo Issa, 10 years old, carries a mortar shell in a weapons factory of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, Syria on September 7, 2013 (Khatib/Courtesy Reuters).


In August 2009, President Obama declared in a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars: “One of the best ways to lead our troops wisely is to prevent the conflicts that cost American blood and treasure tomorrow.” As I previously noted, the U.S. military has a terrible record of predicting the locations and types of conflicts that it will face. For the past five years, in an effort to assist policymakers in anticipating and planning for thirty contingencies that threaten U.S. national interests, we at the Center for Preventive Action have conducted a Preventive Priorities Survey (PPS). Each year the PPS evaluates ongoing and potential violent conflicts based on the impact they could have on U.S. interests and their likelihood of occurring in the coming year.

Starting last year, we harnessed social media to help identify the thirty contingencies through crowdsourcing suggestions. What threats and conflicts are you worried will erupt or escalate in 2014? Please write your suggestions in the comments section below. Keep them short and to the point, but feel free to explain why the contingency is important. Compelling suggestions will be included in this year’s survey, which will be published in December. Last year, for example, an individual suggested “widespread unrest in Zimbabwe surrounding the electoral process and/or the death of Robert Mugabe,” which was included in the PPS.

Post a Comment 52 Comments

  • Posted by Phillip Bolster

    Threat to Civilians everywhere in 2014: Total Surveillance

    NSA – Total Information Awareness

    Sen. Udall

    “Is it the goal of the N.S.A. to collect the phone records of all Americans?”

    Gen. Alexander

    “Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it. Yes.”

    Is this an emerging threat? Yes it is a threat to freedom and privacy everywhere – all carried out under the never-ceasing scaremongering device of 9/11.

    What is more perilous than having all the information, the power to process it and the greedy imagination of man to manipulate it for his own interest?

    Interview with James Bamford – from 11 mins


    NSA programs etc


    NSA overreach is a misguided abuse of the ill gotten power of men. Men who would not give up their power after the cold war ended. Men who made a monster who did not know how to stop growing. Men who only know military and Intelligence community lives and forget about the real world outside and the privacies, freedoms and concerns of those they swore to serve a long time ago. Men with too much power who believe in an all encompassing ‘Trust-Us’ mantra about anything they do as if they are gods and we could never understand what they do to protect us all from the never ceasing onslaught of terrorists who supposedly threaten the very existence of the USA on the map as if more people aren’t killed by falling appliances in their homes each year then by terrorism in the US.

    The NSA is a quickly emerging threat and needs to be met by those unafraid to talk out loud about their incredible overreach such as James Risen and James Bamford and by those who write for think tanks suspiciously similar to this one : )

    January 1, 2006, President Bush

    “This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America. And I repeat, limited.”

    B S

  • Posted by Natalie Fair-Albright

    Nigeria’s problems will escalate and threaten the oil industry. Northern Africa from Western Sahara (is it a country or not) to Niger’s minerals, to Chad. South Sudan is already in trouble as is Libya. Tunisia is barely holding on. Egypt will continue to have turmoil if a military man is elected.

    Central African Republic is in trouble already. There could be a push for Cameroon to divide along English/French lines. Zimbabwe will have an inside power struggle to fill the void when Mugabe dies.

    Europe will see an increase in unrest due to unemployment rates and income inequality. Desperate people take desperate measures. This will occur primarily in Eastern Europe. The influx of illegal immigrants will also strain Europe’s resources, particularly Italy and Spain. I could see a violent backlash against these immigrants.

    Putin will continue to run a strong man government but will not want to upset the international balance yet. His dealings with his neighbors will be more subtle.

    China may try for several island that Japan claims to test US and Japan’s resolve but I think they also will take a diplomatic rather than military approach. I do see an increase in China’s Tibet and Uigher issues. I also see China increasing its presence in developing nations to extract their natural resources. While the US has been spending heavily on military, the Chinese have been solidifying there hold on natural resources around the world, partially by ingratiating themselves with local populations by building schools, medical facilities, and other infrastructure.

    Southeast Asia is erupting in violence and protest. The people are rising up against dictators and corruption. They want a voice. This is partially set off by income and opportunity inequality.

    India may once again erupt in religious violence as it did in the past. Pakistan’s ISI may encourage violence within India to destabilize their neighbor. Ethnic violence is also a threat.

    Pakistan and Afghanistan violence will increase as NATO troops draw down. Afghanistan will be divided by the drug lords of the opium and the Taliban types. Chaos will ensue. Pakistan created a monster when they created the Taliban. That monster will now come back to haunt them.

    North Korea is always a threat. Who knows what would happen if their leader suddenly died? The vacuum could bring another Korean War.

    Mexico could end up in a civil war like state between the drug cartels and others. The drug cartels could be joined by those who feel they have been marginalized; again income inequality and ethnic exclusion.

    The Middle East is terribly volatile. If the Palestinian/Israeli problem could be settled. It would go a long way toward calming SOME of the radical elements in the Middle East. This long standing issue is being used to sow rage. Israel needs to pull out the illegal settlements and abide by the UN Resolutions that are already standing. This would create a viable Palestinian State. A lot of economic aid would need to be used to create jobs. People with jobs and opportunity have hope and are not nearly as likely to turn to violence. They also need help creating a police force that can deal with those that espouse violence. Peace must be taught in schools, in the media so that a mentality of violence can be turned around.

    Iraq is devolving into civil war along ethnic and religious lines. It will continue to be a violent place until they can have a less corrupt leadership.

    The violence in Syria will spill over to their neighbors. Turkish Kurds may try to seize the opportunity to carve out their own country between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The violence is already sucking in Lebanon. Jordan has too many refugees and their own unemployment rate has skyrocketed. Jordan may also become destabilized along ethnic and refugee lines as income inequality takes its toll. They will blame the king who could be deposed.

    Fundamental Islamist; leaders who are twisting Islam and the idea of Jihad for their own purposes; wherever they are found in the world will remain a growing and pervasive threat.

  • Posted by Carlo H-Banki

    On the eve of September 11 and after hearing the President’s speech to the Nation on ISIL/ISIS, I can’t help but take stock of the world which once again is on the cusp of many little wars. Will it lead to a Nuclear war…I don’t think so! Whatever calamity befalls the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the United States it’s due to our own doings!

    Europe through NATO will face a game of chess with Russia and the Baltic states; Syria with Assad will continue to rule albeit through despair and backdoor deals. Iraq will continue to be propped up through puppet regimes with American-Iranian influence. ISIS will go underground and Afghanistan will once again be neglected. What about Iran’s nuclear plans and Israel’s concerns? Or China, Japan and North Korea they will also make the news but for now… most will sit back and see how far Putin will go and how long Assad and ISIS will last.

    It’s throwback to the Roman Empire where you had marauding armies at the far eastern gates of Rome and had the unusual bed fellows such as the Romans and the Visigoths fighting Attila the Hun. Today we have Putin and ISIS although not fair to compare Putin to the viciousness of ISIS, but bragging about Nukes makes it just as bad if not worst! U.S. / NATO and of course the strange coalition with Iran and Assad against Putin and ISIS…will it be like the Battle of Chalons?

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