Abstract

Considering alternate scenarios can be of value to policymakers confronting rapid change, uncertainty, and high risk. Alternate scenarios present plausible and distinctive futures that challenge embedded mindsets, suggest different paths by which events may unfold, and improve early recognition of emerging trends. This essay argues for a continuous process of scenario construction and deconstruction and embedding such a process in policy formulation in order to improve the quality of foreign policy decisions taken in uncertainty. Considering alternate scenarios can be of value to policymakers confronting rapid change, uncertainty, and high risk. Alternate scenarios present plausible and distinctive futures that challenge embedded mindsets, suggest different paths by which events may unfold, and improve early recognition of emerging trends. By engaging the future, they avoid the equally hazardous extremes of infinite uncertainty (which can produce paralysis or willful disregard for what we do know) and excessive certainty (with the attendant risks of ill-conceived actions and unintended consequences). Promoting a continuous process of scenario construction and deconstruction and embedding such a process in policy formulation would improve the quality of foreign policy decisions taken, inevitably, in uncertainty.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 19-31
Launched on MUSE
2012-05-10
Open Access
No
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