Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2010

Enhancing U.S. Preventive Action

Paul B. Stares, Micah Zenko

October 2009

Council on Foreign Relations


Few would dispute that preventing conflict, instability, and humanitarian disaster is preferable to confronting these problems after they arise. Preventive measures are generally less expensive than remedial ones. They also allow policymakers to address potential crises before they threaten international stability, U.S. interests, and human lives. Building an effective U.S. government capacity to take preventive action, however, has proved an elusive goal. And the challenges to achieving it have perhaps never been greater. The urgent problems faced by the United States, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear development in Iran and North Korea, and the aftermath of a deep economic crisis, make it difficult for policymakers to focus.