Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

B-GL-323-004/FP-003 on wargaming COIN

Perusing the Canadian military’s elegantly-named guide to counter-insurgency on the train this morning (don’t we all do that?), I came across the following reference the value of wargaming in planning COIN operations:


1. Operational plans and their tactical activities must be war gamed in the same fashion as those for campaigns against conventional adversaries. However, the factors that must be considered in such COIN war gaming are more extensive and complicated.

2. Planning and subsequent war gaming must consider the political, military, economic, social (including religious and cultural), information and infrastructure related systems [PMESII] in the environment along with the influence that each system will have on the outcome of the operation and campaign. Power structures and influential individual leaders must be identified and considered in the war gaming. Additionally, other agencies and their reactions to operational plans and activities must be considered.

3. To this end, war gaming will be fairly complicated, with staff and, ideally, experts and advisors considering the planned activities from the viewpoint of these various environmental systems and gauging their respective reactions. Such reactions must be informed by the cultural perspective of the environment or group under consideration. For this purpose, cultural and political advisors may be included in the war gaming process.

4. ln this way, proposed courses of action at the operational and tactical levels may be considered in detail and in perspective of the local environment in order to help ensure that desired effects, both physical and psychological, are obtained and undesired effects are avoided.

Canada, Chief of the Land Staff, Counter-Insurgency Operations (English) B-GL-323-004/FP-003, (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 13 December 2008)—the online pdf, ironically, is courtesy of a US military website.

While there is obviously a great deal of post-9/11 interest in simulating insurgency for operational planning reasons, and a growing literature on how this might be done at a technical level, I haven’t seen much overarching literature on design principles, or best and worst practices. If anyone does have anything on the subject that they think is a must-read, perhaps they could drop me an email, or post the details or link(s) in the comments section below?

UPDATE: For one interesting (if rather simple) discussion of efforts to simulate COIN from the Vietnam War era—with a focus on intimidation effects, rather than the broader ideological, political, socioeconomic, and material dimensions of insurgency—have a look at Counter-Insurgency Game Design: Feasibility and Evaluation Study (Washington DC: study prepared by ABT Associates for the Advanced Research Projects Agency, January 1968).

MORE UPDATE: Tim Wilkie at A Horse of Peas (and NDU) emailed to remind me of a useful paper on Wargaming Fourth Generation Warfare written by Peter Perla, Albert Nofi and Michael Markowitz and published by the Center for Naval Analyses in 2006. You’ll find the paper here, and Tim’s discussion of it here. Of course, this only raises the even more important question of when Tim will start blogging properly again…

STILL MORE UPDATE: I would also be remiss in not mentioning a short piece by Michael Peck on “Future Imperfect: US Army Struggles to Model Irregular Warfare Scenarios,” Training and Simulation Journal, August/September 2009.

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