Engaging with Uncertainty in Anticipatory Intelligence: Narrative Complexity and Conflict Dynamics



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The globalization of the security environment has tasked researchers and policymakers alike with addressing the heightened uncertainty of future events, which stems from the nonlinear effects of this highly dynamic, networked landscape. Anticipatory intelligence emerged as one response to this challenge, and while some experts within this domain have drawn on complexity science to navigate the dynamics of national security conflicts, there is a visible gap in methods that attend to the social dimension—the role of meaning—in conflict systems. This research proposes an innovative framework (CITE) as an analytic tool for tracing the dynamics of meaning making in conflict, and pilots the utility of this framework in a case study of the ongoing conflict between the US government and al-Shabaab. Narratives have anticipatory value in revealing the meaning that parties assign to conflict, which indicates the future trajectory of action that parties may take. This research bridges a critical intersection between the intelligence and conflict resolution fields by advancing a tool for analyzing narrative conflict dynamics in order to anticipate and disrupt patterns of interaction that sustain and escalate violence.