How To Worry

A list of international contingencies to worry about in the coming year. Handy as a stocking stuffer!


If you’re looking for things to worry about in the coming year (and I’m sure most of you are), the Council on Foreign Relations has come up with a handy Preventive Priorities Survey for 2012 which helps you determine what to worry about and how much you should be worried. The contingencies are categorized by severity into tiers, Tier I being contingencies that are likely to trigger U. S. military involvement, Tier II being contingencies that affect countries of strategic importance to the U. S. but are less likely to trigger U. S. military action, and Tier III being contingencies that may have serious humanitarian consequences but do not have strategic importance. Here are the Tier I contingencies:

  • a mass casualty attack on the U.S. homeland or on a treaty ally
  • a severe North Korean crisis (e.g., armed provocations, internal political instability, advances in nuclear weapons/ICBM capability)
  • a major military incident with China involving U.S. or allied forces
  • an Iranian nuclear crisis (e.g., surprise advances in nuclear weapons/delivery capability, Israeli response)
  • a highly disruptive cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure (e.g., telecommunications, electrical power, gas and oil, water supply, banking and finance, transportation, and emergency services)
  • a significant increase in drug trafficking violence in Mexico that spills over into the United States
  • severe internal instability in Pakistan, triggered by a civil-military crisis or terror attacks
  • political instability in Saudi Arabia that endangers global oil supplies
  • a U.S.-Pakistan military confrontation, triggered by a terror attack or U.S. counterterror operations
  • intensification of the European sovereign debt crisis that leads to the collapse of the euro, triggering a double-dip U.S. recession and further limiting budgetary resources

The first-listed Tier II contingency is political instability in Egypt.

Tier III contingencies include conflict between the Sudans, political instability in Nigeria, and a host of others.

Have a nice day!

FILED UNDER: General,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    Yes!

    My biggest fear, a deadly pandemic, didn’t make the list.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    @ponce: Indeed, and there is a very real possibility it could be a man made creation.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Aren’t we already damn close to Tier II:

    an outbreak of widespread civil violence in Syria, with potential outside intervention

  4. Thanks for cheering us all up!

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Perhaps we should start a pool on likely candidates for “outside intervention” in Syria.

    My list, more or less in order, would be:

    Iran
    Russia
    France
    Israel
    U. S./NATO

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I find that no matter how bleak things seem you can depend on foreign relations to make things look even worse.

  7. Jeremy says:

    Am I going to be the one person to say that this is all highly exaggerated?

  8. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not worried about Syria, nor do I think Syria is of “strategic importance to the U. S.” What I do worry about is Syria seeking to address domestic discontent by fomenting a regional conflict with Israel that would implicate U.S. strategic interests.

    Otherwise, many of the Tier II concerns appear to be occurring in some form today. Bad news in the Middle East predicted.

    Many of the Tier I appear to be very low probability events like a major foreign military conflict involving China.

  9. ponce says:

    Am I going to be the one person to say that this is all highly exaggerated?

    People enjoy worrying about things that don’t really matter.

    Look at sports.

    Think of foreign affairs as sports for the clumsy.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    If I were putting money on any of the above it would be a cyber-attack, Euro-driven double dip and unrest in Pakistan.

  11. john personna says:

    Well, I’ve taken my readings of Nasim Taleb pretty seriously. Therefore I’d consider a current risk anything that is actually a current event. On extrapolations to the future, no one knows. These lists are pure BS.

    Sorry, but when a problem as simple as “number of major hurricanes in coming season” has an answer no better than random guesses, the rest is off the table. The problems you list are all harder, and have the insolvable meta-level of human volition. The future is not physics.

    We know history rhymes, but beyond that, it’s a sucker’s bet.

    (Geez Louise, weren’t there articles at OTB not so long ago about the Euro replacing the Dollar as a reserve currency? And now we talk about the end of the Euro! Black swans.)

  12. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Ah, and meta-level you might be aware that all such projections are your specialty. You at least know you are writing fiction.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    As a person who appreciates unexpected developments I’m pulling for Costa Rica to just finally go apeshit and attack a passing American navy vessel.

  14. anjin-san says:

    The threat from Costa Rica is real. In spite of this, Obama is gutting defense as we speak…

  15. @PD Shaw:

    Many of the Tier I appear to be very low probability events like a major foreign military conflict involving China.

    When it comes to risk management, low probability-high cost risks are the hardest ones to deal with.

  16. Hey Norm says:

    I put my money on a Euro-driven double-dip…and not even listed…a Republican victory in the Presidential race.

  17. garretc says:

    If Tier I events are “likely to trigger U. S. military involvement”, how is

    intensification of the European sovereign debt crisis that leads to the collapse of the euro, triggering a double-dip U.S. recession and further limiting budgetary resources

    going to trigger a U.S. military involvement? Bomb the invisible hand back into submission?

  18. PD Shaw says:

    @garretc: If Teddy Roosevelt were President and some pip-squeak country without a real military force was threatening not to honor debts to American banks, your damn right the gunboats would be crowding the harbors.

  19. EMRVentures says:

    Pheew. No Yellowstone Caldera supervolcano, massive New Madrid Fault earthquake, or a piece of the Canary Islands falling into the sea and wiping out the East Coast with a supertsunami.

    It’s gonna be a good year.

  20. john personna says:
  21. Ben Wolf says:

    Why wasn’t the possibility of invasion from Mordor included, since CFR staffers seem to like sitting around dreaming up Bad Stuff That Could Happen?

  22. James in LA says:

    They left out, “the election of Newt Gingrich as POTUS.”

  23. William Teach says:

    Hey, why does Tier 1 not include Obama getting re-elected? Just sayin’.

  24. @michael reynolds:

    Both you and the CFR are missing out on the real threat.

    It’s the Cylons, I tell you, the Cylons

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    Thanks. I bought it. On Kindle — it’ll make it easier for me to put it up on the torrents. 😉

    Evidentiary justification for new laws? Evidence before action? Why, that’s crazy talk.

  26. What was on their list last year?

  27. John Ortgega says:

    Zombie Apocalypse?

  28. LizardLips says:

    It’s hard to get all worked up over things I can’t change as I’m too busy dealing with things that really matter at the moment. Just a few facts to brighten everyone’s day:

    Something bad will happen somewhere in the world sometimes.
    Some will always be hungry.
    There will always be the have nots.
    Weather and other violent geological events will occur.
    Nobody gets out of this life alive.

    In spite of all this it’s still possible to find happiness, go figure.

  29. Ilpalazzo says:

    So is there an ‘All of the Above’ scenario for Tier I?

  30. anjin-san says:

    Hey, why does Tier 1 not include Obama getting re-elected?

    Just think, if he loses, we can go back to the good old days of shedding 500k jobs a month. Conservative manna…

  31. Noma says:

    ” Tier III being contingencies that may have serious humanitarian consequences but do not have strategic importance.”. I think Tier IIII carries a bit more weight than stated. What do you think happens when humanitarian crisis hits outside the US? Remember the earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan? Remember the tsunami in Japan and Indonesia? Our military was THERE in significant force providing lift, recovery and medical aid. You need to learn more about US Transportation Command…the mission is MUCH GREATER than defense.

  32. Noma says:

    ….and, when our military provides humanitarian aid the mission in theater feels it!

  33. john personna says:
  34. Karl Magnus says:

    Will any of the MSM demand that President SmartPower address these issues and what he plans to do about them? This “all options are on the table” talk is pure rubbish without walking the talk.
    Meanwhile, President SmartPower throws our allies under the Islamic bus that was probably built by the ChiComs for that very reason.
    America needs a Leader, not a man-child in mom jeans who thinks that his “Chamberlain Charm” and flowery rhetoric is all that’s necessary for the world to pay attention. Yeah, it’s time for a “reset” alright.
    ~(Ä)~

  35. john personna says:

    @Karl Magnus:

    Yeah, a “leader” can magic away anything. A “leader”‘ changes minds and transforms the global dynamic.

    Except that’s never what happens. What really happens is that times change, and sometimes a politician rides the wave. Was say Boris Yeltsin a leader? Or flotsam in a tide?

    (Name a real wave, happening now, and you might be able to pick a “leader” to ride it.)