#NextWar: Coast Road

The #NextWar series publishes competitive decision games that help military professionals visualize and describe the changing character of war.  The games all consist of the same format:

  • An overarching situation and objective for a Blue and Red player
  • An assessment of each side in terms of their disposition and composition
  • A space to articulate how you would approach the situation in terms of a central idea, necessary capabilities, spatial and temporal dimensions (i.e., deep, close, security or shaping, decisive, etc.)
  • A course of action (COA) graphic and narrative

The games are designed to be short, thought experiments that can be fit into training schedules.  While they can be played individually, the best approach is to conduct a competitive exercise.  One person or team should play Red and the other should play Blue.  Compare the results in a seminar setting, no more than a hour.

Individuals take 1 hour to complete Red or Blue and then 1 hour to compare results.  These games can be used by military professionals in tactical units, from battalion to brigade, as well as on larger staffs to practice operational art and define new theories of victory. The wargames are experiments in which professionals can test their ideas (i.e., COAs = hypotheses) and identify candidates for further concept and capability development.  By exchanging findings with the larger military professional network, practitioners crowdsource military innovation.

None of these games is a government-endorsed prediction of a future war much less a policy recommendation.  They are imagined scenarios, which frankly the authors hope NEVER happen, designed to help military professionals think about new concepts and capabilities. 

Scenario #2 - Coast Road

In this decision game, you play either a Joint Task Force (JTF) tasked to seize a lodgment in Lebanon or a Lebanese Hezbollah unit tasked to defend the area.  The game is designed to help you think through 21st century Joint Forcible Entry (JFEO).  Get creative and experiment with Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUMT), seeing where you could either use an optionally-manned vehicle or add a new unmanned system (but think cheap and off-the-shelve vice exquisite and expensive Terminators).

Situation 20xx: Lebanese Civil War

  • After Assad’s bloody “victory” in the Syrian Civil War, the conflict spills over into neighboring Lebanon.  Lebanese Hezbollah, along with former Alawite militias and groups associated with the Assad regime, advance on multiple cities.  Sectarian violence leads to mass atrocities. The Lebanese government is in disarray with many units falling back to protect their home region. The IDF mobilizes, but does not intervene as their forces are committed to suppressing a Third Intifada and countering Hamas rockets in the south.  Syrian forces have yet to formally intervene in support of LH, but there are signs of a mechanized division and a MIG-29 squadron repositioning near the border
  • POTUS directs SecDef/JS to explore options.  SecDef and CJCS has asked CENTCOM CDR to develop an option for seizing a port in Lebanon in order to enable follow-on-forces as part of a larger peace keeping mission DOS is attempting coordinating with the international community
  • After a year of fighting, there is no Lebanese government and Beirut is a divided city
  • Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) is making advances across the country against Christian and Sunni militias 
  • There are widespread calls for an international peacekeeping force, but action in the UN is stalled by Russia and China
  • A group of European and Gulf states are putting together a multinational peacekeeping force and interagency framework but need the US to, in the words of one diplomat, “open the door”
  • IRGC operatives are advising LH to undertake a major offensive before the peacekeeping force arrives
  • LH using the Saida Tyre HWY (coastal road) as an MSR connecting forces sieging Sidon and major staging areas in Southern Lebanon along the Israeli border
  • Intelligence estimates confirm that LH is preparing for a major assault  on Sidon with intercepts indicating orders for ‘cleansing’ operations targeting Sunnis and Christians

Grab the scenario packet here.  Wargame results can be sent to benjamin.jensen@usmcu.edu.

Benjamin M. Jensen, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at Marine Corps University, where he runs the Advanced Studies Program, and a Scholar-in-Residence at the American University, School of International Service.  He is the author of Forging the Sword: Doctrinal Change in the U.S. Army (Stanford University Press, 2016). The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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