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Managing Strategic Surprise
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Book description

The scope and applicability of risk management have expanded greatly over the past decade. Banks, corporations, and public agencies employ its new technologies both in their daily operations and long-term investments. It would be unimaginable today for a global bank to operate without such systems in place. Similarly, many areas of public management, from NASA to the Centers for Disease Control, have recast their programs using risk management strategies. It is particularly striking, therefore, that such thinking has failed to penetrate the field of national security policy. Venturing into uncharted waters, Managing Strategic Surprise brings together risk management experts and practitioners from different fields with internationally-recognized national security scholars to produce the first systematic inquiry into risk and its applications in national security. The contributors examine whether advance risk assessment and management techniques can be successfully applied to address contemporary national security challenges.


'Politicians tell us it is a dangerous world but promise absolute security. Responsible policymakers, however, have to move beyond platitudes and learn to cope with risk and uncertainty. This volume forces the reader to think - and ought to be required reading for the next administration.'

Nikolas K. Gvosdev - editor of The National Interest

'An innovative and refreshing book. By applying concepts of risk management to the study of international relations, Managing Strategic Surprise not only makes an important intellectual contribution, but also advances new ways of thinking about mainstream foreign policy challenges.'

Charles A. Kupchan - Georgetown University and Council on Foreign Relations, author of The End of the American Era

'A superb collection of our best thought leaders and a welcome return of academia to the critical discussion of how to think about strategic surprise in the 21st Century. The authors thoughtfully capture the opportunities of risk management and its associated analytical paradigm as the next generation process to contend with strategic surprise. Of considerable note for further review is the suggestion that the United States has a competitive advantage in information technology and agile military response which could potentially serve as the framework for a successful interactive process to prevent strategic surprise. A must read for all those who seek to integrate risk management and risk assessment into an effective process to prevent strategic surprise for generations to come.'

Kenneth A. Minihan - Lieutenant General, United States Air Force (Ret) and Former Director, National Security Agency

'Not still an art, not yet a science we have much to learn about understanding and responding to strategic surprise. From finance to government, strategic surprise has been our most challenging and often our most opportune phenomenon. This book has more enlightenment per page on the subject; it should be read by all of you whose lives, jobs and fortunes depend on fathoming surprise - almost all of us!'

Thomas R. Pickering - Former Under Secretary of State and Career Ambassador of the United States

'The authors stare such horrors as nuclear proliferation and mass terrorism in the face and, rather than shuddering, analyze, parse, balance, and judge. Conclusion: don't try to predict the future - it's about insight, not numbers. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo.'

R. James Woolsey - Venture Partner, VantagePoint, and former Director of Central Intelligence

'Managing Strategic Surprise is a masterpiece. Cutting across a wide swath of academic disciplines, the book shows how risk management approaches used everywhere from Fortune 500 companies to environmental agencies can improve US national security policy. Whether you're a senior policymaker, a graduate student, or a concerned citizen, this book will change the way you think about post-9/11 threats and how to combat them.'

Amy B. Zegart - Associate Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11

'In a volatile, globalized world, we worry about surprises. We fret over how to predict low probability - high risk events. Since no one has a crystal ball, engineers have worked on methods for managing unpredictable risks. But the use of ‘risk screens’, now so widely accepted in the private sector has been largely ignored in the far more consequential realm of international politics. To offer help, Bracken, Bremmer, and Gordon have assembled a world-class team of contributors to outline the methods and show how to apply them in international policymaking. This is a huge service in an area where the need is so great yet the methods and professional training are so weak. Aided by these excellent essays, readers will find that these ideas are practical too'

Philip Zelikow - Former Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission

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