Since the earliest conceptions of Kriegsspiel, militaries have employed wargames as an educational tool for leaders. In The Strategy Bridge #Wargaming Series, our authors laid out their own theories to improve wargames to answer the challenges of informing policymakers and producing better decision-makers on the battlefield.
Tom McDermott, an Australian Army officer and Director of The Cove, seeks to use adversarial operational psychology and wargaming to reinvigorate the spirit of the duel in the professional of arms with his article “In the Mind of the Enemy: Psychology, #Wargames, and the Duel.” His view of war is of “an intimate, near spiritual connection with an adversary,” reminding us that war is not about destroying materiel but the enemy’s will. To this end, McDermott argues wargaming should play a greater part in the planning process. Part of this dueling spirit is to instill the “capacity to outwit a thinking, cunning and unpredictable enemy.”
In “#Wargaming Unpredictable Adversaries (and Unreliable Allies),” Rex Bryren, Ph.D., a Professor of Political Science at McGill University and senior editor of the PAXsims, describes the challenges of creating wargames to simulate complex and sometimes dysfunctional processes of rational and irrational actors on the world stage. This comes as nations seek to wargame the United States amidst the growing perception of an unpredictable Trump administration as both a military and diplomatic ally on issues as far flung as trade and climate change. Bryren lays out a number of challenges to designing such wargames including how true randomness and caricatures of enemies alike can undermine professional wargames.
In “#Wargaming For Strategic Planning,” Krisjand Rothweiler, assigned to the U.S. Army War College, seeks to introduce analysts and policymakers to the concept of strategic decision making exercises. Rothweiler highlights seminar and matrix wargames. Seminar games hold the power to challenge planners’ assumptions and build upon analysts’ expertise through interaction with diverse subject matter experts. Matrix games harken to real world planning, building better teamwork between players and an understanding of allies and adversaries. He stresses that wargaming is not “not just a planning process step” but offers larger lessons to strategy and contingency planning.
In “#Wargaming: Communicating Uncertainty in Wargame Outcomes,” Mark Jones, a former U.S. Air Force test pilot, author, and civilian test pilot, explores how policymakers might benefit from a shared language of uncertainty. Jones begins with the chasm between pre-war casualty estimates and the realities the First Gulf War. Jones wants to distance himself the language of confidence and towards “communicating uncertainty” in an effort to open a dialogue between planners and policymakers over the certainty of outcomes.
In “Next War: #Wargaming the Changing Character of Competition and Conflict,” Benjamin M. Jensen, Ph.D., an Associate Professor at Marine Corps University and author of Forging the Sword: Doctrinal Change in the U.S. Army, lays out a case for map exercises in the tradition of Moltke the Elder and the German General Staff. Over the next year, Jensen will release a seminar-style tactical decision games that theorists and practitioners can use to think about the strategy behind possible multinational campaigns and operations. These will be published on the third week of each month for the next year.
We thank all of our contributors for their insights into this vital topic. Again, we welcome you to join the conversation through submitting to Strategy Bridge and engaging us on Twitter @strategy_bridge. There are any number of topics left unexplored to include simulations, virtual gaming, and commercial table-top gaming’s impact on strategic thinking. However wargames are planned and executed, it is incumbent on us to get it right for the cost of learning comes much higher on the battlefield.
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