Counterfactual Reasoning: A Basic Guide for Analysts, Strategists, and Decision Makers (The Proteus Monograph Series, Volume 2, Issue 5, October 2008)
ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP
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Counterfactual reasoning is the process of evaluating conditional claims about alternate possibilities and their consequences i.e., What If statements. These alternatives can be either past possibilities e.g., If the United States had not abolished the Iraqi army in 2003, then the Iraqi insurgency would have been significantly smaller in 2005 or future possibilities e.g., If Iran had nuclear weapons, then it would provide this technology to Hezbollah. Counterfactuals are essential to intelligence analysis because they are implicit in all strategic assessments. For, any proposal about the appropriate response to a particular situation past or future assumes that certain things would or might occur if that response were made. However, at present, there is no comprehensive system of counterfactual reasoning to establish if these underlying assumptions are plausible. Such a system would have immense potential for analytic transformation as it could unite or replace a series of extant techniques of assessing alternate possibilities, such as What If Analysis, High ImpactLow Probability Analysis, and Alternate FuturesScenario Analysis. And, ultimately, counterfactual reasoning represents the most ideal way to analyze possibilities, for it considers what would or might happen if the possibility were to occur, rather than attempting to determine if the possibility itself is probable.
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