Patricia Moore Nicholas: Considering Different Scenarios for Syria

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As Congress, and the world, debate how to respond to the apparent use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, one of the key questions is, “what happens next?” What impact will whatever steps the United States takes have on the Syrian conflict, and the Middle East in general?

The Scenarios Initiative at the NYU Center for Global Affairs, with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, specializes in organizing workshops that bring experts from different nations together with current and former policymakers to examine alternative scenarios for international challenges. Just last month the initiative produced Syria 2018looking at three possible ways the Syrian civil war might play out in five years’ time. The report was written before the chemical weapons attack, but the scenarios laid out are still useful and provocative as the U.S. considers its options.

Scenarios aren’t predictions of the future, but the initiative argues that considering different alternatives fosters imaginative thinking about policy options. With the United States facing crucial decisions in Syria, resources like the Scenarios Initiative can play an important role in promoting wise choices.