PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulations miscellany, 15 October 2012

PAXsims is pleased to present its occasional summary of recent (and sometimes not-so-recent) simulation-related news from around the world:

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Don’t have rubber dice in your pocket when you address a military audience? Perhaps you should! Graham Longley-Brown explains why.

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The CBC’s Brian Stewart sees something significant in the growing number of Iran wargames and crisis simulations conducted by US think-tanks:

In the headlines, the possibility of war over Iran’s nuclear program flares up and then fades, hot one week, cool the next. But behind the scenes the war-gaming by global crisis experts has taken on new urgency.

These strategy-and-tactics simulations, which can be found over much of the think-tank universe these days, are much about war, but certainly no game.

Their objective, using all available data and intelligence, is to analyze in advance what’s likely to happen should Iran cross Israel’s so-called red line, the point where it is felt to be only a few months away from being able to build a nuclear weapon.

This means often exhausting debates over questions such as: What happens if Israel attacks Iran on its own? Or acts with U.S. air support?

What would be Iran’s reaction in either case, and would such an attack end the Iranian program, or merely steel its resolve and delay it a few years?

Then there are the questions like: How badly would the world’s economy be shaken? And what are the broader strategic implications for global politics?

You may think these are just navel-gazing exercises. But I always view these flurries of Washington war-gaming seriously because every modern U.S. war has been preceded by just such a mobilization by think tanks and foreign policy magazines setting out the prognoses of former diplomats, conflict resolution advisers and retired military commanders on any looming conflict….

Pointing to the dangers highlighted by many of these wargames, Stewart concludes by warning “we may just never game war enough, before we make it”.

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In the meantime, those interested in conducting their own US-Iran simulation in the classroom can find some helpful ideas in an article by Charity Butler on “Teaching Foreign Policy Decision-Making Processes Using Role-Playing Simulations: The Case of US–Iranian Relations” in the May 2012 issue of International Studies Perspectives:

Most undergraduate courses on foreign policy discuss important models and explanations of foreign policy decision making, such as the rational actor, organizational process and governmental politics models, and groupthink. It is often difficult for students to fully understand how to apply and use these concepts to analyze foreign policy decision-making processes. One way to encourage such analytical thinking is to have students utilize various models to explain a specific event. While this is a useful task, students often gain a greater level of comprehension when they are evaluating a decision-making process in which they have personally taken part in. As such, role-playing simulation can be a very effective tool in helping students learn to understand and, more importantly, apply these various decision-making models and explanations. This paper presents an example of how simulations can help teach these concepts by presenting specific information regarding a simulation of US–Iranian relations.

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Another article from the forthcoming special peacebuilding issue of Simulation & Gaming is now available ahead-of-print from the SAGE website (subscription required). This time it is by Roger Mason and Eric Patterson, on “Wargaming Peace Operations.”

Today’s military personnel fight against and work with a diverse variety of nonstate actors, from al-Qaeda terrorists to major nongovernmental organizations who provide vital humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, the nontraditional battle spaces where America and its allies have recently deployed (Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq) include a wide range of activities quite different from classic military campaign. How can the United States and its allies train its military personnel to think through the intersection of issues regarding working alongside and against nonstate actors, particularly in culturally sensitive environments? This article describes one such approach, the development of a war game for peace, designed for U.S. military officers and now utilized in the classrooms of several military colleges. More specifically, the article describes how reconstruction and stabilization operation decisions are modeled and worked through in the highly religious environment of contemporary Afghanistan through the use of an innovative board game, suggesting that this model can be applied to many other scenarios and classroom environments.

The Afghan provincial reconstruction game described in the article was previously reviewed at PAXsims here. Given the way things seem to be headed in Afghanistan, the designers may have to develop a Taliban-themed game a few years from now…

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The Guardian (8 October 2012) reports on a recent UNICEF UK emergency response simulation.

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At the blog HiLoBrow, Joshua Glenn ponders H.G. Wells and “War and Peace Games.”

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