APR 20 2012

Herman Kahn

Nuclear weapon, Scenario Planning

Interview with , author of On Escalation.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modern scenario planning starts with Herman Kahn. Kahn’s work on MAD (mutually assured destruction due to nuclear war) in the 1950’s led to ideas/innovations such as “duck and cover” and fallout shelters (based on his future scenarios of the world after an all-out nuclear war). Although these concepts seem a bit weird and almost bizarrely quaint in 2012, they were huge ideas in their time, and many credit this scenario planning with forming a basis for the first disarmament talks. Kahn’s “futures” really helped wake people up to alternative futures. For the first time, an analyst laid out plausible (though very low expected probability) futures where things weren’t rosy. Indeed, they were extremely bleak for a very long future duration. Having the ability to more clearly imagine what these alternative realities could be impacted people at a visceral level and strongly influenced the actions of politicians. Kahn’s work was based, in part, on the much earlier work of Carl von Clausewitz. Clausewitz focused on the study of war. Clausewitz envisioned war as an amalgam of decisions, actions, and reactions in an uncertain and dangerous context, and within a socio-political-economic framework. He was one of the first Westerners to use the term “strategic.”

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