Jan 23

Past Event

Big Bets and Black Swans: Foreign Policy Recommendations for the President in 2014



  • U.S. Can Remain Leader of Liberal Global Order

    Ted Piccone: The global situation has deteriorated, America's role looks tentative and uncertain, and Americans are disillusioned. Yet President Obama should restore U.S. leadership by reinvesting in global order.

    Ted Piccone

  • Struggle Inside Egypt Reduces American Leverage

    Tamara Wittes: The problem of reduced American leverage is not about Washington’s choices, but about what’s happening in Egypt, where the generals and the Muslim Brotherhood are engaged in an existential struggle. There is very little any outside actor, even the United States, can do to affect things.

    Tamara Cofman Wittes

  • U.S. Leverage: On Russia, Not a Lot. Over Ukraine, Maybe

    Steven Pifer: The U.S. doesn’t have a lot of leverage over Russia if Putin takes punitive action against Moldova, Georgia and even Ukraine over their moves toward European integration. Washington may have leverage over Ukraine if we work with the Europeans.

    Steven Pifer

  • No One Has Been Able to Get North Korea Right

    Jonathan Pollack: No one, including the Chinese, has been able to get North Korea right or understand whether there are levers that can be turned in any meaningful way. The failures with respect to intelligence on North Korea are collective failures.

    Jonathan D. Pollack

  • Mutual U.S.-Saudi Need Means Not Much Leverage

    Bruce Riedel: The Saudis are deeply disappointed with President Obama, but the U.S.-Saudi relationship is not broken. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia need each other.

    Bruce Riedel

  • Iran Strategy Built on Powerful American Leverage

    Suzanne Maloney: The success of the Iran strategy was built on the assemblage of real and powerful American leverage, including a worldwide consensus for isolating Iran. The Obama administration’s efforts paid off once Rouhani won Iran’s presidential election.

    Suzanne Maloney

  • Collapse of U.S. Leverage in Afghanistan

    Vanda Felbab-Brown: The tragedy of U.S. policy in Afghanistan is that we had a significant amount of leverage and often chose not to exercise it. This collapse is seen especially in the bilateral security agreement negotiations.

    Vanda Felbab-Brown

Full Event


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Big BetsThe world has become a more difficult and dangerous place since President Barack Obama first took office. In the remainder of his second term, President Obama's overarching foreign policy goal should be to reassert American leadership in a rules-based international system in which norms are not only articulated but also, wherever possible, enforced. The president also needs to lead at home, reminding Americans why continued vigorous engagement in the world is in their best interests. As he prepares his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama then must decide which foreign policy priorities to pursue and how best to exercise U.S. power and influence to manage and shape the global order. The president has the opportunity to bet big in world affairs, while facing a number of potential black swans – low probability, high impact events – that could derail his intended 2014 foreign policy agenda.

Black SwansOn January 23, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted the launch of the 2014 "Big Bets and Black Swans: A Presidential Briefing Book", which contains memos to the president, analyzing the key foreign policy issues for the coming year. The memos provide clear and actionable policy recommendations for the president and are divided into five categories – Big Bets, Double Downs, Black Swans, Nightmares and Holds. Acting Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Ted Piccone provided opening remarks, followed by a panel discussion moderated by David Sanger, national security correspondent for The New York Times. Panelists included Brookings Senior Fellows Tamara Wittes, Steven Pifer, Jonathan Pollack, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Suzanne Maloney and Bruce Riedel.

View an interactive overview of all the memos and watch the infographic video »

 Join the conversation on Twitter using #FPBigBets


January 23, 2014

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST

Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.


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