“Helping an organization visualize opportunities and threats that could materialize based on present trends, in order to improve its chances of future success.”

That would not be a particularly sexy slogan for scenario planning, but it would be a fair description of the objectives of the technique.

The phrase “future success” can encompass many things, of course. If the organization in question is an entire country, then one “future success” its leaders should definitely want to achieve is ensuring the safety of its citizens. An important facet of that safety is preventing terrorist violence.

Especially following the attacks of September 11, 2001, security experts the world over would have been well advised to make use of scenario thinking in order to map out the potential “threat landscapes” in which their countries might find themselves. Such a process could help them identify the vulnerabilities—physical, legal, and even psychological—that would emerge as various geopolitical currents were taking shape during the decade past, as public attitudes toward security were coming into focus, as national policies were being implemented that might put a country in terrorists’ crosshairs, and as actual acts of terror were taking place across the globe that could be studied and analyzed.

Then in the summer of 2011 came a massacre in Norway. Immediately ...

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