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February 2013

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Big Bets & Black Swans: A Presidential Briefing Book
By Brookings Foreign Policy Scholars
http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Papers/2013/1/big bets black swans/big bets and black swans a presidential briefing book.pdf
Reviewed by James Abrahamson, contributing editor

The second subtitle of this report from Brookings—Policy Recommendations for President Obama’s Second Term by the Foreign Policy Scholars at Brookings—runs to 94 pages of work by 26 scholars. The usual Internet Article Review of three- or four-hundred words could not possibly due justice to its substance. The only alternative is briefly to describe the book’s contents in hopes readers will download and study its contents and assess the assessments and recommendations of its distinguished authors.

Accepting that Administration officials are also at work on responses to America’s many challenges, Brookings concluded that an “outside perspective would nevertheless prove useful and even “innovative.” The documents dozen “Big Bets” represent places where the President should invest his “power, time and prestige” in pursuit of a “transformational impact on America and the world, as well as his legitimacy.” In contrast, the eight “Black Swans” are “low probability but high impact events that can” trip up and divert the President, who should make an effort to avoid them.”

Martin Indyk and Robert Kagan led off the Big Bets by arguing that the presently unsettled international order provides a “plastic moment” during which U.S., by turning outward, can both avoid a “catastrophic breakdown” and “remold the liberal world order from which Americans and so many others around the world have benefited.” That is a Big Bet that President Obama should embrace, and the following ten essays, from China to the START treaty, explore what might reasonably be done regionally and topically insure the creation of that better world.

The equally diverse Black Swans represent challenges that skillful and timely U.S. action might preclude from arising: a revolution in China or war with Japan; a confrontation over North Korea; the collapse of the Eurozone; a post-2014 meltdown in Afghanistan; revolution in Saudi Arabia; collapse of the Camp David Peace Treaty or the Palestinian Authority; and global warming.

Readers eager to learn the thoughtful observations of foreign policy experts should paste the above lengthy web address in their browser, download, and peruse this Brookings document and carefully study those of its parts they regard as of greatest interest.bluestar

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