A dozen national security “Green Swans” for 2022!
“If only…”is a mind game that often ruminates on the past, but “What if…?” allows us to speculate on the future, to hope, to look not for make-believe unicorns but instead to keep watch for national security “Green Swans.”
We’ve all seen green swans and experienced them but may not even have realized it. The term “green swan” is a metaphor for an event that is unexpected but has a positive effect. In a 2018 post, Lawfire first applied the term “green swan” in the national security context.
That previous post highlighted several possible “green swans.” In this post, we will identify some new possibilities as well as revive (or revise) some examples previously suggested. Remember: these haven’t happened – yet, but let’s be hopeful!
Consider these potential “Green Swans” for 2022 and imagine “what if?”:
1.) The Omicron COVID wave subsides more rapidly than expected (as was the case in South Africa). The Army’s new vaccine is verified as “effective against COVID-19 and all its variants” without serious side effects, and is able to be rapidly manufactured at scale.
2.) President Putin decides that the economic and political costs of aggression in the Ukraine outweigh any possible gains and has troops return to their barracks. He realizes the Russian people don’t’ want war, and finds a face-saving way to end the crisis.
3.) The US uses its enormous airdrop capability to bring relief directly to starving Afghans without working through the Taliban. As discussed here, this use of American strategic (airlift) airpower would not only bring relief to millions, but also demonstrate the reach of American military power. In addition, it would help restore America’s reputation for global leadership, and prove to Afghans that America’s true intention was always to help them.
4.) Younger Iranians become fed up with their country’s isolation and decline, and successfully wage a social revolution which disposes the ruling mullah class, and replaces it with a more pluralistic leadership cadre interested in peaceful relations (and contact) with the U.S. and the West.
5.) China realizes North Korean nukes present an existential threat, and convinces (coerces?) Kim Jong-Un to peacefully hand over control of his nuclear arsenal. The West then helps the North Korean people through direct aid and the lessening of sanctions. The stage is set for working with China on other matters to reduce tensions.
6.) Congress turns the tragedy of the recent tornado disaster into an opportunity to set a new bipartisan tone by ensuring that relief flows to those who need it. Doing so could help restore public confidence in it as an institution, now at a low point. A respected legislature that can act in a bipartisan way inevitably strengthens national defense.
7.) Young people begin to see military service as a way to give back, live a meaningful life, and see the larger world. This signals a potential shift from the previous trend where out of 33 million young Americans, only 136,000 are qualified and interested in serving in the Army.
8.) Given that the “US needs roughly 10 million people, including low-wage and high-skilled workers, to fill job openings nationwide — and only 8.4 million Americans are actively seeking work,” the government is convinced to expand legal immigration, particularly where it aids national security and can produce a “pipeline of essential scientific and technical experts to bolster innovation for national security,” while at the same time protecting American job seekers and U.S. security.
9.) The government recovers the $100 billion in fraudulent COVID unemployment and relief payments, and uses it for active duty, Reserve and Guard troops and their families who have been repeatedly asked to sacrifice during the COVID pandemic (yet another 1,000 troops are now in the process of deploying to aid in COVID relief.). Some of it could be used to reinstate the cost of living allowances being cut for thousands of troops as U.S. inflation rises to its highest level since 1982.
10.) Experts find a way to bring the military suicide rate down from its current all-time high.
11.) 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 States, helping to preclude any need to buy foreign arms. Continued reshoring of key industries can help assure national security.
12.) Americans realize that hyper-polarization is harming our national security by distracting us from the things we need to do to counter the truly existential threats posed by foreign actors. Citizens temper their rhetoric, see the light in each other, find common ground, and work together to build a stronger, more virtuous nation.
Sure, a feature of the “swan” concept is to accept that their occurrence is unlikely, and maybe extremely unlikely – but let’s start 2022 with optimism!!!