Early warning will not ensure successful preventive action unless there is a fundamental change of attitude by governments and international organizations. Third parties should not simply wait for unambiguous disasters and mass slaughter before they take preventive action. Rather, a systematic and practical early warning system should be combined with consistently updated contingency plans for preventive action that provide leaders with a repertoire of responses. This would be a radical departure from the present system, where when a trigger event sets off an explosion of violence, it is usually too difficult, too costly, and too late for a rapid and effective response. This early warning system would be a crucial component of the international preventive framework envisioned by the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.
The end of the Cold War has diminished neither the importance nor the challenge of obtaining early warning. Indeed the intelligence community today monitors and analyzes an increasing number of factors, in addition to traditional indicators of potential conflict, such as environmental degradation, economic conditions, and population trends. The increased complexity of gathering, sorting, and analyzing data for early warning results from the pressing need to respond quickly, efficiently, and effectively to rapidly changing global events. In an era of increasing demands on limited resources, the task is all more difficult.