Accession Number:



Alternate History: An Additional Source for Anticipating and Managing Future Strategic and Operational Problems

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Monograph]

Corporate Author:

US Army School for Advanced Military Studies

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



In the US military, history provides the foundation for understanding war. History, however, presents several problems, including the inability to fully separate fact from the historians perspective and the inability to test historical hypotheses. To overcome these problems, planners can use counterfactuals to examine alternative, unrealized futures. However, the US militarys use of counterfactuals has stagnated over time and have not adopted more rigorous frameworks to develop and analyze counterfactuals. This monograph examines the alternate history form of counterfactuals and proposes five criteria on which to evaluate them. Alternate history looks longer and deeper into unrealized futures, thus expanding planners cognitive models. The case study includes the three novels in Harry Turtledoves alternate history, The Hot War Trilogy. In this trilogy, the departure from the original timeline begins with a failure of the withdrawal of US forces at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. This failure results in President Harry S. Trumans counterfactual decision to use the atomic bomb against the Chinese, and the subsequent atomic war with the USSR. The trilogy examines the political, military, and societal repercussions of the US atomic attack. This monograph proposes that military planners leverage alternate history as a supplement to normal history for expanding their experience to better understand war, analyze various strategic contexts, and explore decision-making.


Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Humanities and History
  • Government and Political Science

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]