Cover: Threats Without Threateners?

Threats Without Threateners?

Exploring Intersections of Threats to the Global Commons and National Security

Published Jan 10, 2012

by Gregory F. Treverton, Erik Nemeth, Sinduja Srinivasan


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تهديداتٌ من غير مهدِّدين؟ استكشاف نقاط التقاطع بين التهديدات ضدّ المشاعات العالمية والأمن القوميّ

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Three issues with far-reaching causes and consequences, climate change, water scarcity, and pandemics, are examined with attention to their national security implications and impacts on the global commons. The authors aim to trigger new ways of thinking about the complex challenges of these issues. Because their effects are mostly the result of individuals and states acting out of self-interest rather than harmful intent, these three issues are treated as "threats without threateners." With sources and solutions that cross national and regional boundaries, multiple parties working together are more effective than unilateral action. In all three areas, risks are hard to assess, in both severity and time frame; therefore, mustering political will and coalitions for action is inherently difficult. The paper describes four overlapping clusters of policy approaches, international negotiations, coalitions of the willing, transcommunity networking, and anti-fragile approaches, and their relative successes and limitations. Considered one of the policy approaches with the greatest potential for tackling interconnected global challenges, anti-fragile systems do not just cope with change or uncertainty; they benefit from them. They search for alternatives that attract new participants, scale to accommodate those new participants, and create positive feedback loops that enable them not only to perform as well as or better than legacy systems but to continually improve over time. Using suggestive examples to illustrate each type of approach, the paper builds a case for the evolution of policy away from fixing problems and toward new possibilities and combinations of methods to address threats that are both chronic and acute.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Skoll Global Threats Fund and was conducted within the Center for Global Risk and Security under the auspices of the International Programs of the RAND Corporation.

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