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Sunday, 19 October 2008
Near Future Crises
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

As the Presidential election comes to a close all eyes and minds are focused on the outcome. It is at times like these that my mind wanders into what happens next? Regardless of who wins there is an inevitable chaos that occurs after an 8 year Presidency. Most of the senior government officials who have shaped and implemented our national security policy move on and a new set of actors takes the stage. Although most of these new leaders will have impressive resumes that make them confirmable, the overall system will suffer from entropy that will require leadership and time to set right.


It is at this time that we are most vulnerable to foreign powers or groups trying and gain leverage in forwarding their agendas. Not all of these maneuvers are threatening to the US, but even those performed by our Allies can diminish our ability to forward our policies. What I will focus on are those situations that are designed to take advantage of the chaos and gain some long term advantage to our detriment.


A good historical model to examine is the Kennedy presidency. In the foreign policy arena Kennedy inherited a long term policy and a short term operation from the Eisenhower administration that tested his foreign policy acumen. The Bay of Pigs was an operation that was on the 'books' that moved toward implementation, regardless of who was in the White House. America's policy in Asia, specifically Vietnam was too low on the administrations agenda to get the level of attention and senior talent to alter its trajectory. Depending on which historical analysis you read the outcome of the Bay of Pigs  had to a lesser or greater degree an impact on Soviet leadership thinking on how to advance their Cold War agenda. This led to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the high point of Kennedy foreign policy achievements.


I believe that the same factors that faced Kennedy are likely to face the next President. There are several wild cards out there that may have a major impact on the trajectory of the next four years. Trying to think through and anticipate some of these possibilities and sorting through reasonable responses is just prudent. Things that I think are possible, hence worth thinking through are:

 1. A major Middle Eastern or SW Asian government falls. Prime candidates are Pakistan and Egypt.

2. Iran tests a nuclear weapon.  Given that Iran is a 'observer nation' in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (PRC and Russia are the founding members) it is likely that this will happen at some point given Russian 'technical' assistance and cooperative efforts by this two powers to block UN counter proliferation initiatives. The question on the table will be, what can the next President do about a nuclear capable Iran? In the non-proliferation category we should not forget the DPRK (North Korea) who misbehave to wring out additional concessions, while never having yet kept any of their agreements.

3. Even if the US is able to implement the recently agreed to security agreement with Iraq, which posits most US forces withdrawing by 2011, there is always Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. How these two  situations evolve is a situation that will have a major impact on the next Presidency.

Thinking about the future, especially when it already knocking at our door, is part and parcel to how the next four years goes. 

Posted by markherman at 10:05 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 19 October 2008 10:57 AM EDT
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