Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

War(games) are hell: Unified Quest 2012

The Unified Quest 2012 wargame(s) wrapped up recently at the Army War College, and according to the report by AOL Defense reporter Sydney Freedberg Jr.the results were rather messy—which is a good thing, from the point of view of the exercise:

In the end, it was a near-run thing. The US-led coalition broke through to the refugee camps and began delivering aid. But their supply lines were stretched thin across land and sea, with an entire Army brigade embarked on rented cruise ships at one point. Ashore, the troops took heavy losses from local Islamic militants whom they never entirely defeated. In the end, indeed, it didn’t really end: US troops were left in the middle of a conflict that threatened to escalate to a wider regional war. It’s just that the wargamers ran out of time.

This year’s wargame at the Army War College was one of the toughest in years, participants told AOL Defense, and that’s a good thing. Since they began in 1997, the annual games had gradually gotten less rigorous over time, say critics, which meant that Army leaders were pleasantly unsurprised by the results. With wars in both Afghanistan andIraq, there were enough ugly surprises in real life to force hard thinking. Now, as the Army looks beyond withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, it could postulate more comfortable scenarios. But the Army can hardly afford to go easy on itself in the face of shrinking budgets, increasing inter-service rivalry, and an administration strategy that rejects the kinds of counterinsurgency missions it spent the last decade doing. Fortunately, the wargame is getting usefully nasty again.

“I was initially skeptical,” said retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who started the annual wargame when he was commandant of the Army War College and had been displeased by its direction. “I’ve been very much a stern critic of this game over the years,” he told AOL Defense, but this time, the players portraying the enemy — the “Red Team” — were once again given freedom to wreak havoc on the good guys in innovative ways, forcing the US and its allies — “Blue” — to innovate in turn. Said Scales, “that led to a lot of legitimacy and credibility in the game, which I found frankly very refreshing.”

You can read the full report at the link above. For more on Unified Quest 2012, the earlier PAXsims post here.

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