Cover: Can Scenarios Help Policymakers Be Both Bold and Careful?

Can Scenarios Help Policymakers Be Both Bold and Careful?

Published in: Blindside: How to Anticipate Forcing Events and Wild Cards in Global Politics, Chapter 10, pages 109-119 (2007)

Posted on Nov 27, 2023

by Robert J. Lempert

Surprise, of both good and bad varieties, has become a ubiquitous feature of the world facing American policymakers. Leaders have come to expect adverse surprises, from terrorist attacks to global pandemics to signs that global warming is emerging faster than previously imagined. But many of the most serious, festering problems facing the United States—from encouraging a free, just, and stable global order to ensuring that the American middle class can thrive in a globalized world—also require leaders who can transform some of what seem like today’s inexorable trends. The need to nurture beneficial yet seemingly unlikely change, while avoiding a Pandora's box of unintended consequences, poses a difficult challenge. American policymakers must, paradoxically, be both bold and careful.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.