Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Re- #hashing Brynania

McGill annual Brynania civil war simulation is underway! While 99% of the simulation isn’t accessible from the outside, we are running occasional bits of news on Twitter with a #Brynania tag. The Twitter feed is sporadic, uneven, and not always accurate…. just like the real thing.

Stimulation simulation?

Perusing a number of papers on military simulation at Riverview AI, I came across one by David Ezra Sidran and Ralph E. Sharp, III on “MOG93: A Case Study of a New Approach to a Web-based MOUT Simulation.” MOG93, which is playable online here, “is a simulation of the events that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3, 1993. On that date Task Force Ranger was assigned the mission of capturing leaders of Mohamed Farrah Aididís Habr Gidr clan, which controlled the city.”

MOG93 is not a war game. There is no way to win the game any more than there is a way to win a spreadsheet analysis of a supply and demand curve. Simulations employ various models in an attempt to accurately recreate historic or future events and allow the user to manipulate the variables and observe the outcome.

The simple Java- and HTML-based simulation was developed for the website just before the release of the movie Black Hawk Down.

In MOG 93, movement or other actions by US military forces generate “provocation points”, which in turn cause  the “hostility level” of Mogadishu to rise—thereby increasing the risk of friendly casualties.

Simple enough? Well, there’s a twist…

The hostility level of the city is also affected by the amphetamine-like effects associated with the use of qat leaves by local militias. These, moreover, vary with time, reflecting consumption patterns and their associated psychological and physical effects: “At approximately 1500 hours they were in a frenzied state; however their efficiency dropped off sharply after this time as they began to crash from their daytime high. Operations taking place in Mogadishu before 1500 hours incur greater casualties.”

Chew on that!

ISA round-up and other stuff

The annual International Studies Association conference finished yesterday here in Montreal—just it time, it seems, to miss the snowfall predicted for Monday. There were huge numbers of panels (over a thousand—too many, if you ask me), including several that examined the use of simulations to explore international relations.

One of the problems with an academic conference in your own city is you can’t so easily escape other obligations, so I didn’t get chance to attend all of these. I did, however, get a chance to drop by several:

  • Naomi Malone and Houman Sadri (University of Central Florida) had a poster session on their development of a virtual United Nations Security Council simulation using Second Life. I’ll admit that I’m a bit allergic to Second Life, but they’re doing interesting work and it will be interesting to see how the project develops.
  • Skip Cole (USIP) was there talking about the Open Simulation Platform. I should also mention that USIP is at risk of having its budget axed in the current round of financial tug-of-war in Washington, despite the Institute’s remarkable contributions to policy-relevant knowledge on issues of peace, security, and development in fragile and war-torn countries. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
  • There was a (potentially)  fascinating panel scheduled on Performing (Representations of) World Politics: The Everyday Practice of International Relations in Video Games. However, this fell victim to the conference version of dreaded Yellow Light of Death: when the appointed hour came, there was a big audience, but no panelists. After 20 minutes I finally left.
  • Yours truly won ISA’s Deborah Gerner Innovative Teaching in International Studies Award. Both my classroom simulations and this blog were a very large part of that, so I certainly owe a big thank you to all of the POLI 450/650 students who make living in the basement and reading 10,000 emails during SIM week worth while, as well as those of you who spend time to visit, comment, and contribute here at PaxSims.
  • The folks from Statecraft had a booth showcasing their recently-launched online international relations simulation. It’s rather Civilization in inspiration, combining resource management and grand strategy:

Statecraft is an immersive simulation that allows students to experience the challenges, opportunities, and complexities of international relations in a very vivid, intense, and personal way. Through ten years of in-class testing and refinement, it has been fine-tuned to take key theories, concepts, and cases that are crucial for understanding global politics (but are often difficult for students to grasp) and make them tangible—often painfully so. Building on the most addictive properties of gaming and social networking, Statecraft creates a universe in which students are masters of their own destinies but find it more difficult than they ever imagined to achieve goals such as world peace, equality, the rule of law, and cooperation among nations. Although the countries, domestic factions, and global issues in Statecraft are fictional, they have been carefully designed to provide maximum insight into parallel real-world dilemmas: as students grapple with the Orion slavery issue, the threat posed by the melting Ice Mountain, and the temptation to seize Sapphire Island’s vast resources they come to understand the security dilemma, the tragedy of the commons, two-level games, the challenges of cooperation under anarchy, and many other constructs not as theoretical concepts but as visceral truths that permeate their conversations with classmates, friends, and parents, and may even keep them up at night.

They’ve promised us an account so that we can review it here once they do their next upgrade this summer, so stay tuned.

In other news, the annual Brynania civil war simulation starts at McGill this coming week. I’ll be busy with that until March 30, so don’t expect to see many posts. I have chaos to sow!

CFP reminder: Simulations and Gaming to Build Peace

A reminder to everyone who might be interested in contributing to the forthcoming special issue of Simulation & Gaming: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Theory, Practice and Research on “Simulations and Gaming to Build Peace” that the deadline for proposals (March 31) is fast approaching.

As for those who have already submitted something, you should be hearing from us in early April.

Simulating crisis in North Africa

Amidst political and humanitarian crisis in and around Libya, the Heritage Foundation is trumpeting the lessons of a 2009 crisis simulation that it conducted based on a fictional natural disaster in Tunisia:

Harvard University’s Niall Ferguson recently criticized the Obama Administration for lacking foresight and planning over the events in Egypt. The point of his criticisms of the Administration—and, by extension, the European Union—was illustrated over a year ago in a Heritage Foundation “war game.”

In late 2009, Heritage invited security experts and Washington-based policymakers to “game” a fictional scenario of its own whereby Tunisia was hit with a major earthquake. Significant political and civil unrest followed, accompanied by large numbers of refugees flowing from Tunisia to Italy and Malta.

The exercise was intended to test how well NATO and the EU would respond to such crises, and it proved eerily predictive of current events in North Africa….

Apparently, the “eerily predictive” findings of the crisis simulation were the following:

  1. The European Union can be indecisive, disorganized, and disunited.
  2. The Heritage Foundation believes that “American leadership is still needed around the world.”

Both of them, you’ll agree, are shocking revelations indeed…

JDMS on the The Peace Support Operations Model and stabilization strategy

The most recent (1 April 2011) issue of the Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation is a special issue devoted to the “Peace Operations Support Model,” developed in the UK to explore peace and stabilization operations:

The Peace Support Operations Model (PSOM) was developed following a 2004 Ministry of Defence (MOD) man- date to create a dedicated analytical programme to study the Peace Support Operations (PSO) ‘problem space’. Analysts within the Policy and Capability Studies (PCS) Department of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) were grouped together and what has become the Stabilisation Study was born…

…The acronym ‘PSOM’ was coined 6 years ago, and while this may infer a focus on PSO (classically peace enforcement and peace keeping), the model, along with its underpinning research effort, has developed to reflect changes in UK policy and to allow for evolving academic and military thought. The naming issue becomes even more complex when you take into account national caveats and understanding. PSOM has become a collaborative US–UK effort, with additional interest from Australia, Canada, Japan and Sweden; and US and UK terminology alone often differs even if referring to what is essentially the same thing. The addition of different nations’ terminologies and particular areas of interest adds another layer of complexity. Further complication in the name of a wargame tool comes when you consider what you want the tool to do. There are plans to use PSOM as a campaign assessment tool in a real-world theatre of opera- tions, and potentially as a training tool, as well as a purely analytical tool….

The JDMS special issue contains a number of articles on the PSOM:

Editorial: The Peace Support Operations Model

  • Noel Wilde

The Peace Support Operations Model: Origins, Development, Philosophy and Use

  • Howard Body and Colin Marston

The Peace Support Operations Model: Modeling Techniques Present and Future

  • Nathan Hanley and Helen Gaffney

The Peace Support Operations Model: Strategic Interaction Process

  • Paul Strong

Representing Strategic Communication and Influence in Stabilization Modeling

  • Gemma Warren and Patrick Rose

Modeling Information Operations in a Tactical-level Stabilization Environment

  • Helen Gaffney and Alasdair Vincent

Modeling Security Sector Reform Activities in the Context of Stabilization Operations

  • Oliver Talbot and Noel Wilde

You’ll find the table of contents here—an online subscription is required, however, to access the articles.

missing the NDU strategic gaming roundtable?

Not to worry: Brant Guillory is live blogging it at GrogNews. It’s almost like being there, except for the wine!

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