National Security “Green Swans” for 2018?

You’ve heard of “black swans”?  If not, they are events “that come as a surprise, [have] a major effect, and [are] often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.”  Generally, they have negative effects, so I’m introducing a new term for national security parlance: Green Swans.  They have most of the features of black swans except that the effect is an unexpectedly positive one.  Here’s a “baker’s dozen” of potential “Green Swans” for 2018:

  1. The Iranian people’s protests become a full-blown social revolution which disposes the ruling mullah class, and replaces it with a younger, more pluralistic leadership cadre more interested in peaceful relations (and contact) with the U.S. and the West.
  1. China takes control of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, ending the crisis.
  1. Congress passes a much-needed infrastructure revitalization act and does so in such a truly bipartisan way that the public’s estimation of Congress rises and national security improves.
  1. Millennials begin to see military service as a way to give back, live a meaningful life, and see the larger world, reversing a trend where out of 33 million young Americans, only 136,000 are qualified and interested in serving in the Army.
  1. The historically low unemployment rate convinces government to expand the HB-1 visa program to permit more highly-skilled foreign workers to be employed in the U.S., while protecting American job seekers and U.S. security.
  1. A combination of developments in 3D-printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence allows American manufacturers to construct a number of highly-automated plants to economically build essential components for U.S. weaponry in the United States, helping to preclude any need to buy foreign arms.
  1. Those same technological developments – along with closer and easier access to resources and markets – result in a boom in the domestic manufacturing of consumer items, thus lessening the U.S.’s trade deficit, and its threat to national security.
  1. Even if the travel ban and/or stricter security vetting remains in place, the upturn in international travel generally continues.
  1. With illegal border crossings at a 45-year low, the administration postpones border wall construction in favor of funding higher national security needs.
  1. Sanctions threaten Putin’s power base to the point where he agrees to the United States’ and its allies’ demands to reduce aggressive activities in exchange for the loosening of economic restrictions, underlining the effectiveness of non-forceful tools of persuasion.
  1. Saudi Arabia accelerates the expansion of rights for women in exchange for continued U.S. defense cooperation.
  1. Political polarization subsides to the point where a majority of Americans feel free to express their opinions. (According to the Cato Institute, “58% of Americans believe the political climate today prevents them from saying things they believe. Democrats are unique, however, in that a slim majority (53%) do not feel the need to self-censor. Conversely, strong majorities of Republicans (73%) and independents (58%) say they keep some political beliefs to themselves.”)  The free exchange of ideas advances our national security.
  1. A continued rise in the stock market aids university investment portfolios to enable greater investment in national security courses (and professors!).

A feature of the “swan” concept is to accept that their occurrence is unlikely, and maybe extremely unlikely – but let’s start 2018 with optimism!!!

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