The recent conflict involving Israel and Hamas has garnered global attention. Due to the unexpected nature of the attack, questions have arisen regarding the effectiveness of intelligence agencies, both in Israel and in the United States. A case can be made that with the application of Foresight Analysis, it might have been possible to anticipate and potentially avoid such an attack.
I was struck by how the Hamas attack shared similarities with the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai. For example, in a Foresight workshop that focused on the Mumbai attack, one of the scenarios predicted an unanticipated attack launched from the sea which had not been previously considered, the taking of hostages, and detailed planning to attack multiple targets—all of which occurred with the Hamas invasion.
When reflecting on the situation, three Foresight techniques come to mind that could have potentially provided strategic warning of a Hamas attack: Multiple Scenarios Generation, Quadrant Crunching™, and the Cone of Plausibility. In this month’s Analytic Insider, I will describe these techniques, explain how they have been used successfully, and suggest how they could be used to assist decisionmakers in Israel.
THE TECHNIQUES DESCRIBED
MULTIPLE SCENARIOS GENERATION
In counterterrorism analysis, this technique is used to identify new vulnerabilities and assess, anticipate, and prioritize possible attacks and attack methods. It provides a useful framework for developing indicators and formulating field collection requirements.
- Produce a set of 4-5 key drivers that will determine how a situation will evolve over several years.
- Array the key drivers in 2×2 matrices to generate two dozen or more candidate scenarios.
- Select scenarios that illustrate the greatest downside risks, opportunities for enhancing national security, emerging unnoticed trends, and/or a main line scenario.
In Israel, employing Multiple Scenarios Generation could serve as a valuable approach for exploring innovative attack strategies and reconsidering the revitalization of a Middle East peace plan or the invigoration of other regional diplomatic efforts.
In a workshop facilitated by Pherson in London, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) developed the Quadrant Crunching™ technique to anticipate how to protect UK water systems from terrorist attack. Quadrant Crunching™ generates scores of potential attack scenarios—many of which are unanticipated or counterintuitive.
- Begin with a lead attack scenario.
- Brainstorm alternatives to the key elements of that scenario.
- Assess which permutations pose the greatest threats to national security.
In Israel, the technique could be deployed to answer the question: What are other potential attack modes Hamas or other groups might employ that are not anticipated now?
CONE OF PLAUSIBILITY
Used widely by Canadian and UK analysts, this technique allows analysts to generate a range of plausible scenarios or “futures” that describe the plausible ways a situation may evolve looking out over a given timeframe.
- Identify key drivers (or forces) that shape current events and will remain relevant over the timeframe under examination.
- Make assumptions about how each driver will behave.
- Define a baseline scenario that is usually an extrapolation of the present-day situation.
- Generate alternative scenarios by altering one or more of the assumptions and working through the impact of the changes in the baseline.
In Israel, the technique can be used to optimize the effectiveness of future operational courses of action.
THE TECHNIQUES IN ACTION
MULTIPLE SCENARIOS GENERATION and QUADRANT CRUNCHING™
- When the US Marine Corps was preparing to depart Iraq in 2011, it sponsored a Foresight workshop applying Multiple Scenarios Generation and Quadrant Crunching™. The objective was to anticipate how Anbar Province would evolve after the Marines departed and what proactive mechanisms could be implemented to minimize instability. Several distinctive scenarios were developed with accompanying Indicators. The indicators were operationalized to provide the foundation needed to capitalize on the US investment in the province.
CONE OF PLAUSIBILITY
- The Canadian Forest Service (CFS) and the US Forest Service (USFS) have developed strategic Foresight programs using the Cone of Plausibility to help plan and operate in an environment of growing complexity, uncertainty, and rapid change. The USFS has engaged in Foresight Analysis since 2010, and the CFS’s foresight team is using Foresight techniques to provide advice to policymakers to build capacity for forward thinking within their organization. The two organizations have partnered to share their findings and approaches. In the study “2035: Canada’s Forests in the Future,” the technique helped forest decisionmakers identify strategic surprises, especially those arising in domains outside of forestry. They learned that anticipating potential wild card scenarios facilitates the development of proactive management strategies and minimizes the risks of being blindsided by unforeseen change. The ultimate gain is to strengthen resilience within forestry communities.
The effective use of these Foresight techniques in addressing the Israeli conflict should involve a group of 20 to 50 participants from various sectors, including policy, intelligence, academia, and industry communities. Historically, such workshops have typically required a duration of three days of intensive interaction or a more extended process spanning over three months.
Our team at Pherson possesses extensive experience in conducting
Foresight Analysis workshops for a diverse range of government and commercial clients worldwide.
For more information about our capabilities, please refer to our website.
Read more about
Multiple Scenarios Generation and Quadrant Crunching™
Explore the concept of the Cone of Plausibility in Structured Analytic Techniques in Intelligence Analysis, 3rd edition (2021).