Policymakers are often not inclined to take early warning seriously or to act upon it in situations that pose the possibility of severe ethnic and religious conflicts, humanitarian disasters, or gross human rights violations. A number of reasons exist for this passivity. The first is the relatively low stakes perceived to be at risk. At an early stage in their development, such contingencies simply are not perceived to pose grave threats to a given state's national interests. Moreover, whether a low-level conflict or incipient crisis will escalate in ways that would eventually engage major interests of individual states or the international community often remains problematical and difficult to forecast.
Even when events that could precipitate a major humanitarian or violent crisis are perceived in a timely manner and accurately evaluated, decision makers will often still defer taking preventive action. This inaction is either because the warning is not taken seriously or because the warning is taken very seriously but decision makers are loath to confront the unpalatable choice of responses facing them. Particularly for the complex and seemingly intractable disputes that have characterized much of the violence of the post-Cold War period, it may be less the unfolding crisis that conditions how a decision maker processes warning than the implications of that crisis for action.