BIG BES AND BLACK SWANS: A Presidential Brieing Book iii
As President Obama prepares his 2014 State o the Union address, the United States aces a number o critical challenges—the ongoing war in Syria, the Iran nuclear negotiations, an enigmatic North Korea and other signiﬁcant crises in world aﬀairs. His advisors are busy devising policy recommendations aimed at grappling with these thorny issues. President Obama then must decide which priorities to pur-sue and how best to exercise U.S. power and inﬂuence to manage and shape the global order. Again this year, the Foreign Policy scholars at Brookings are oﬀering President Obama and his Cabinet a set o policy analyses and recommendations rom an outside perspective. aking advantage o the di- versity and depth o our scholars’ expertise, the Brookings Foreign Policy Program seeks to provide the White House with innovative and actionable policy initiatives. “Big Bets & Black Swans: A Presidential Brieﬁng Book” is a series o memos designed to present Pres-ident Obama with a suggested “to do” list, addressing the most signiﬁcant oreign policy challenges in the year to come. It builds on our widely read Brookings Foreign Policy brieﬁng book released in Janu-ary 2013. Tis year, the memos are divided into ﬁve categories: Big Bets, Double Downs, Black Swans, Nightmares and Holds. Te Big Bets are issues where Foreign Policy scholars believe the president should consider invest ing his power, time and prestige in major eﬀorts that can have a transormational impact on America and the world. Double Downs are derived rom the Big Bets o 2013, recommenda-tions that the president redouble his eﬀorts on last year’s suggested policy initiatives. Te Black Swans are those low-probability but high-impact events that can divert the president and his administration rom higher purposes, events so dramatically negative that he will want to take steps in advance to avoid them or to mitigate their consequences. Nightmares are events that look more likely than a Black Swan and could prove particularly troublesome or U.S. interests and the global order, and or which the ad-ministration should prepare. Finally, Holds are updated recommendations to stay the course on policy approaches put orward in 2013.President Obama has just three years lef in oﬃce to deﬁne his legacy in world aﬀairs. Now is the time or him to ocus on some Big Bets and avoid or mitigate Black Swans to shape the uture o U.S. and global security and prosperity.
Te Foreign Policy Program is very grateul to David Rubenstein and Ben Jacobs or their continued generous support o this project. Brookings scholars maintain the highest standards o quality and in-dependence in their research, analysis and prescriptions. Tis publication is solely a reﬂection o their individual views.