A Contextual Approach to Scenario Construction

by Harvey A. DeWeerd

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A discussion of the utility and desirability of basing game and research scenarios on solid contextual foundations. Using future problems of NATO-Warsaw Pact relations as a point of orientation, the author defines a context as the overall background or environment in which political-military problems are considered, whereas a scenario describes events leading up to a specific crisis. Earlier methods of scenario construction are discussed, together with factors contributing to the shortcomings of past scenarios. In defense research, the main deficiency was that scenarios were usually written for a specific crisis or war designated by the user. The author recommends that the process of scenario construction commonly in use be reversed: the scenario should emerge from the context, not the context from the scenario. By constructing alternative future contexts, a well-qualified person can write not one scenario — which the reader must accept or reject — but a range of scenarios appropriate to the context.

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