Big Bets and Black Swans 2014
A Presidential Briefing Book
Publication Year: 2014
President Obama has just three years left in office to define his legacy in world affairs. He's facing a number of critical challenges—the ongoing war in Syria, the Iran nuclear negotiations, an enigmatic North Korea and other significant crises in world affairs. The president's advisors are busy devising policy recommendations aimed at grappling with these thorny issues. From these, the president must decide which priorities to pursue and how to best exercise U.S. power and influence to manage and shape the global order.
This book presents a set of policy analysis and recommendations from The Foreign Policy scholars at the Brookings Institution. Designed to provide the White House with innovative and actionable policy initiatives, the book is constructed as a series of memos to President Obama. This year, the memos are divided into five categories:
Big Bets are issues where the president should consider investing his power, time and prestige in major efforts that can have a transformational impact on America and the world. Double Downs are derived from the Big Bets from last year's recommendations that the president should redouble his efforts on.
Black Swans are those low-probability but high-impact events that can divert the president and his administration's higher purposes, such as dramatic negative events that he will want to take steps in advance to avoid or to mitigate their consequences.
Nightmares are events that look more likely than a Black Swan and could prove particularly troublesome for U.S. interests and the global order, and for which the administration should prepare.
Holds are updated policy recommendations to stay the course on approaches suggested last year.
Contents: Big Bets
Reassert U.S. Leadership of a Liberal Global Order by Robert Kagan and Ted Piccone
Secure the Future of the Internet by Peter W. Singer and Ian Wallace
Solidify the U.S.-Afghanistan Alliance by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Gen. John Allen (USMC, Ret.)
Lift the Ban on U.S. Oil Exports by Tim Boersma and Charles K. Ebinger
Strengthen Stability in Africa by Michael E. O'Hanlon
Broaden the Approach to Iran by Suzanne Maloney
Pursue Regime Change in Syria by Michael Doran
Return to the Asia Rebalance by Jonathan D. Pollack and Jeffrey A. Bader
Reach Out to Cuba by Ted Piccone
Avert Conflict in the South and East China Seas by Richard C. Bush III, Bruce Jones and Jonathan D. Pollack
Israeli-Palestinian Violence Erupts by Natan B. Sachs
Putin's Russia Goes rogue by Fiona Hill and Steven Pifer
Venezuela Breaks Down in Violence by Harold Trinkunas
Korean Crisis Prompts Confrontation with China by Jonathan D. Pollack and Richard C. Bush III
Iran Nuclear Talks Fail by Robert Einhorn and Kenneth Pollack
Afghanistan's Presidential Election Goes Awry by Vanda Felbab-Brown
Muslim Brotherhood Radicalizes by Daniel L. Byman and Tamara Cofman Wittes
Avoid a U.S.-Saudi Divorce by Bruce Riedel
Close the Deal on Free Trade by Mireya Solis
Manage the Impact of Climate Change by Elizabeth Ferris
Deepen Economic Ties to Turkey by Kemal Kirisci
Beyond New START by Steven Pifer
Published by: Brookings Institution Press
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As President Obama prepares his 2014 State of the Union address, the United States faces a number of critical challenges—the ongoing war in Syria, the Iran nuclear negotiations, an enigmatic North Korea and other significant crises in world affairs. His advisors are busy devising policy recommendations aimed at...
Reassert U.S. Leadershipof a Liberal Global Order
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In the year since Brookings published its first Big Bets and Black Swans report, the global situation has become more unstable and America’s role more uncertain. The concerns we expressed then about the fraying of the liberal order, and the need for strong and effective American leadership to reverse...
Secure the Future of the Internet
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The next year will be a crucial one for the future of the Internet, a technology that has driven the most change and progress in our lifetimes. Between Edward Snowden’s revelations and the resulting blowback, and upcoming international talks on global “Internet governance,” this already complex...
Solidify the U.S.-Afghanistan Alliance
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The United States should remain steady in its Afghanistan policy—despite all the challenges associated with doing so. In the crucial years ahead, a time of great transitions, we need to sustain an adequate American Enduring Force, as well as support for a robust Afghan army and police. President Hamid Karzai’s continual...
Lift the Ban on U.S. Oil Exports
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Under current U.S. law, crude oil produced in the United States cannot be exported without a license. Recent and expected developments in the U.S. oil market will lead to a continued increase in U.S. crude oil production: the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects U.S. domestic crude...
Strengthen Stability in Africa
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The United States should, with a focused effort and in partnership with other states, make a significant push to improve security in Africa. No massive deployments of U.S. troops would be needed, and in fact no role for American main combat units is required. But we should step up our game from the current very...
Broaden the Approach to Iran
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Your strategy on Iran has helped to create a historic opening with one of America’s most persistent and formidable adversaries. The strength of the sanctions regime and the breadth of international cooperation on Iran have generated an unprecedented opportunity to contain and curtail the Islamic...
Pursue Regime Change in Syria
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The decision to call off military strikes against President Bashir Assad’s forces and instead to work with Russia to destroy his chemical weapons deeply disappointed the Syrian opposition and its major external backers. Pro-regime propagandists have depicted this policy as a quid pro quo: as a reward to Assad...
Return to the Asia Rebalance
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Your administration’s policy of rebalancing to Asia has generated widespread support among nearly all of the countries in the region, though China views it warily and North Korea opposes it. A redirection of U.S. resources, energy, capabilities and attention away from the military conflicts of the past decade...
Reach Out to Cuba
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Your decision in 2009 to free up the flow of people, remittances and exchanges from the United States to Cuba was the right call at the right time. These steps have coincided with, and facilitated, Cuba’s own process of reform, which continues, in fits and starts, to create new opportunities for the Cuban people...
Avert Conflict in the Southand East China Seas
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In January 2013, we recommended that you launch a concerted diplomatic effort to mitigate the risks of conflict between Asian powers in the South China Sea and East China Sea. We suggested this be pursued both regionally, through diplomacy with directly affected parties, and internationally, by lever...
Israeli-Palestinian Violence Erupts
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The current peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians offer a glimmer of hope for resolving the longstanding conflict between the parties. But even as the United States works diligently to ensure the success of the talks, we should start the difficult and discreet task of preparing for their...
Putin’s Russia Goes Rogue
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Vladimir Putin seeks to secure Russia’s primacy in its neighborhood and now views the European Union as a threat to that objective. In November, EU leaders held a summit in Vilnius with the Eastern Partnership countries— Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EU initialed...
Venezuela Breaks Down in Violence
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Economic mismanagement in Venezuela has reached such a level that it risks inciting a violent popular reaction. Venezuela is experiencing declining export revenues, accelerating inflation and widespread shortages of basic consumer goods. At the same time, the Maduro administration has foreclosed peaceful...
Korean Crisis PromptsConfrontation with China
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The latent possibilities of internal instability in North Korea or of an armed conflict between the two Korea and the attendant risks of a Sino-American confrontation persist. Quite apart from these very worrisome scenarios, the United States and China face the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea that...
Iran Nuclear Talks Fail
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While our negotiators are working hard to get a final nuclear agreement with Iran that meets our requirements, we must be prepared for the possibility that negotiations will fail and the Iranians will then direct their efforts toward eroding sanctions and advancing their nuclear program. The opening created...
Afghanistan’s PresidentialElection Goes Awry
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As the 2014 departure deadline for U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan approaches, structural weaknesses and deep worries about the country’s post-2014 future persist, imperiling a successful transition to a stable Afghanistan. As I described in last year’s memo, these deep-seated challenges include a...
The Muslim Brotherhood Radicalizes
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Egypt has long been a U.S. ally, and its stability an important U.S. interest. The military’s forcible removal of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhoodled government in July 2013 and the brutal crackdown that ensued are likely to further destabilize Egypt. The Brotherhood’s exclusion from politics could lead...
Avoid a U.S.-Saudi Divorce
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As I wrote a year ago, revolutionary change in Saudi Arabia remains possible but unlikely. The Saudi-American bilateral relationship has been seriously strained in the last year by the tensions underlying the Arab Awakening and by differences over Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia’s resources are also...
Close the Deal on Free Trade
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Last year, Justin Vaisse and I recommended that you pursue a proactive trade policy by negotiating trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. Sealing these deals (the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade agreements) would enable the United States...
Manage the Impact of Climate Change
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In my memorandum to you one year ago, I noted that global warming is occurring faster than predicted with potentially catastrophic long-term results and that urgent action was needed or the advance effects of climate change on life on the planet and the United States would increase. Over the course of the...
Deepen Economic Ties to Turkey
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In January 2013, I recommended that your administration pursue a more ambitious agenda for U.S.-Turkish relations, given the importance for U.S. interests that Turkey be permanently anchored to the West. Turkey straddles an often turbulent region where the trans-Atlantic model based upon democratic...
Beyond New START
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In January 2013, I recommended that you build on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) by engaging President Putin on a new round of bilateral nuclear arms cuts, to include non-strategic nuclear weapons; seeking a cooperative NATO-Russia missile defense deal; and testing the...
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Page Count: 87
Publication Year: 2014