May 21, 2014

The Crisis-Prevention Directorate

By Dafna Rand, and Michael Horowitz

Three years after the Tunisian street toppled President Ben Ali, Maidan protestors in Ukraine, with dizzying speed, triggered a major great-power confrontation between the United States and Russia. The twenty-first century is prone, it seems, to a particular type of geopolitical crisis: domestic grievances that may have once been parochial affairs—teenagers arrested for graffiti doodles mocking the Syrian president, for instance—can quickly escalate into major international-security challenges. The unpredictable consequences of local conflicts are blurring the firewalls between states’ domestic politics and U.S. national-security interests.

As a result, U.S. policy makers cannot afford to underestimate or overlook domestic sources of instability. Whether in Egypt, Mali or Ukraine over the past few years, or in Turkey, Brazil or Venezuela over the next few years, domestic political conflicts around the world have the potential to dramatically reshape America’s strategic landscape. Given the continuing pattern of relatively minor domestic triggers spiraling into major geopolitical unrest, the president deserves some dedicated staff, armed with expert knowledge and cutting edge methods, helping him to predict future crises.

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