Thursday, November 01, 2012

Can it Help With the A55 With Two Hands Problem?

Do you know who John Arquilla is?

Many of you may, since 1993 he has been teaching in the special operations program at the United States Naval Postgraduate School since 1993.

He has a little noodle-food for you over at FP titled, Game Theory that touches on one of my favorite things; wargaming ... but this time on a micro level. 
In the final candidates' debate last week, President Obama delivered a telling, somewhat snarky zinger in response to Governor Romney's call for naval expansion: "This isn't ‘Battleship.'" He then went on to school Romney about how having some aircraft carriers and submarines means we don't need more ships. The governor had no adequate reply.
But the fact of the matter is that the old "Battleship" board game -- not the more recent movie flop that was somehow based on it -- offers exactly the right metaphor to describe strategic affairs in the information age. "Battleship" does so by capturing the distilled essence of naval operations today: the hider/finder dynamic.
No longer do fleets move against each other en masse, engaging in well-defined, line-against-line slugfests, such as dominated naval affairs from Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars to Jutland a century later. Instead, sea wars have become far more cat-and-mouse matters, whose outcomes have become critically dependent on the need to see the enemy first, so as to be able to strike before being struck. Just like in "Battleship."
I'm not fully endorsing his concept ... but it is good conceptually for a lot of what perhaps ails us when we think about the "what do we do with it" when we look at the Fleet.
In its own abstract way, "Battleship" forces players to concentrate deeply on the business of "finding." Given his great confidence in aircraft carriers and submarines, President Obama should take careful note that the board game includes them, too, with the carrier being the game's largest and most vulnerable ship -- just as it is in the real world today, as the array of smart, high-speed weapons that have emerged in recent years pose mortal threats to these behemoths. The most valuable vessel in "Battleship" -- that is, the one that is hardest to find and hit -- is also the smallest combatant.
Waiting for the LCS trolls in 3, 2, 1 ..... but they should be careful, LCS is not the small ships he seeks;
Indeed, if Romney had remembered ever playing the game with any of his five sons, he might have been able to rebut the president on the spot. He could have said: "Of course this is ‘Battleship.' That's why I want a lot of smaller, but still well-armed vessels for the U.S. Navy, not just a handful of extremely expensive, highly vulnerable aircraft carriers and a few dozen submarines. China has hundreds of lethal missile and torpedo boats. We need more small, swift ships of our own that pack a real punch."
... but as we wait for the LCS trolls - let's look at the other good stuff later.
In addition to its value in thinking through the problems posed by irregular wars, the lessons of "Stratego" can be used to illuminate more conventional conflicts as well. In China, for example, soldiers of the People's Liberation Army train their minds using a hider/finder wargame, Lu Zhan Jun Qi ("Army Chess"), which bears a strong resemblance to "Stratego.
However, "Army Chess" includes transport systems and missile weapons, adding layers of complexity that "Stratego" lacks. Still, it is a clear sign of the Chinese military's appreciation of the importance of "finding" the enemy. On the theme of chess variants, I have created an offshoot of the old German game, kriegsspiel, a double-blind contest in which each side -- seated out of sight of the other and with a referee in between -- can see only its own chess pieces.
The object is to learn how, over time, to infer the locations of the opposing forces -- in effect, "how to find" (and also how to keep hidden). Many graduates of the military school at which I teach have, over the years, confessed that the details of my lectures may have dimmed in their minds; but the lessons of kriegsspiel remain clear and have often helped to inform and guide their actions against our all-too-elusive enemies.
Kriegsspiel? Awwwwwwwwww yes. Git nakid and roll around in it on your best feldgrau colored carpet. 

There is nothing more important than wargaming, especially for real-world OPLANs ... and once you wargame it once, you need to do it again ... and again ... One of the things that made wargaming so difficult was how few had done them or respected what you were trying to do. 

How about this; instead of "don't stick your finger in an electrical socket" required annual training ... why don't we expend a little money to get this concept exposed to more of our officers.I am sure John will take the per diem and nice hotel room to help you set it up. Just make sure it is Hawaii in winter and New London in summer.

Crazy talk!

1 comment:

Curtis said...

I'd be fascinated to see the war game end game/surrender following our next war with China. I forget, do we currently have an armistice with them or did they surrender last time?