31 March 2012

Long-Term US-Afghan Relationship?

The Afghans want to know what the US long-term basing strategy is going to be.

Afghanistan wants the United States to clearly spell out what sort of military presence it will leave behind once most of its combat troops leave by the end of 2014, a senior Afghan official said.
It is also pressing Washington in talks over future cooperation to detail to be more forthcoming on what will be on offer for Afghan forces as they ready to take over responsibility security in the country that is still at war.
"These are issues that concern us. We want to know how many bases will be there, how many soldiers and what will be their mission. And what will we get from the United States for our security forces," President Hamid Karzai's chief spokesman Aimal Faizi told Reuters, without specifying what levels he thought would be appropriate.
In negotiations for a Strategic Partnership Deal on long-term cooperation, one of the stumbling blocks is the U.S. plan for a limited military presence to ensure members of al Qaeda and other militant groups do not find a sanctuary again.
Countries such as Russia, China and Pakistan are wary of an indefinite U.S. military presence in the region. Neighboring Iran strongly opposes the plan.

Uh, why are they asking? Shouldn't they control what's going on in their own country? Oh yeah, that's right - they can't.

By: Brant

Civil War in Mali Heating Up

A major assault on the strategic Mali garrison town of Gao is putting pressure on government forces.

Tuareg rebels in Mali have attacked the strategic northern garrison town of Gao with heavy weapons, hours after another town, Kidal, fell to them.

Two army helicopters were scrambled in response, a local official told AFP news agency by phone.

Gao, with a population of 87,000, more than twice the size of Kidal, hosts one of the biggest garrisons in the north.

Separatist rebels seeking to carve out a desert homeland began a rebellion in the west African state in January.

A regional group, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), has placed on alert a peacekeeping force of 2,000 soldiers, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

After a coup by disgruntled military officers in Mali a week ago, Ecowas has threatened to close land borders, freeze assets and impose a financial blockade if the army does not stand aside before Monday.

The British government is telling Britons to leave the country.

Britons should leave Mali and those considering visiting the West African nation should stay away, Britain's foreign ministry said on Saturday.
A coup in Mali was triggered last week by anger at President Amadou Toumani Toure's handling of a rebellion in the north of the country which has continued to gain momentum since the military takeover.
"We advise against all travel to Mali," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said. "Given ongoing instability in the country, and now that the airport has re-opened, you should leave if you have no pressing need to remain."

By: Brant

View Larger Map

30 March 2012

Japan Dramatically Increasing Arms Purchases

Foreign Affairs has an excellent article about Japan's big arms purchase.

Last December, Tokyo announced that it would purchase Lockheed-Martin's F-35 Lightning II as its next-generation jet fighter. In doing so, it disappointed BAE Systems, the European maker of the Eurofighter Typhoon, which had hoped to win the $4.7 billion contract itself. For a while, it seemed as though it might. The Lockheed deal had its downsides: Initially, Japanese firms would have played no role in producing the new jets; likewise, they would not have had access to the secret technologies used in the F-35's design. It was not until Lockheed agreed to allow domestic contractors to participate in building the new jets and share some top-secret technologies that Japan decided to make the deal. In retrospect, that move should never have been in much doubt. The contract closely follows Japanese defense policy precedent: acquiring the most advanced American military hardware available under licensing agreements, producing that hardware in Japan to boost the economy, and keeping the U.S.-Japan alliance tight, positing Japan as a buffer between the United States and the region's major powers.

Japan has filled this role for decades. In 1946, during the United States' postwar occupation of Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander for the Allied Powers, insisted that the country's new constitution include a clause barring Japan from maintaining war-making capabilities. In return, Washington would protect Japan from outside attack and maintain a sizeable military presence there to do so. When the Korean War broke out, the number of U.S. troops in Japan dwindled as soldiers were moved from Japan to fight on the Korean peninsula. Realizing that the force it could afford to retain in Japan was not sufficient for maintaining order or fending off a communist infiltration, the United States pressured Japan to relax the ban on maintaining military forces. Under the guidance of the U.S.-dominated Allied General Headquarters, the country created a paramilitary force, the National Police Reserve (which gradually morphed into the Self-Defense Forces, or SDF, Japan's main military organization today). Meanwhile, military production contracts from U.S. firms poured into the country. For example, during the three years of the Korean War, 235 Japanese companies produced $500 million worth of ammunition for the U.S. military.

As Japanese factories built military hardware on license from U.S. defense firms, the country's heavy industrial companies picked up the know-how to create cutting-edge domestic civilian technologies. In the 1950s and 1960s, for instance, the highly reinforced plastics originally designed to build the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter found their way into Mitsubishi's YS-11 and MU-2 turboprop aircraft. And Japanese experience with U.S. jet engine bearing technology -- which allows mechanical parts to work at high speeds -- played an important role in the development of the country's iconic Shinkansen bullet trains. Soon, producing military hardware under license from the United States and then reaping the civilian technological and economic benefits became a cornerstone of Japanese foreign arms procurement policy: When negotiating arms deals with the United States, Tokyo often requested that specific processes -- such as quality testing, metal bending, and the development of cameras, tires, engines, and synthetic materials -- take place in Japan so that Japanese firms could build experience in those lucrative fields. Producing the F-35's fuselage and studying its stealth technology, too, will also give Japanese defense contractors a leg up. Already, Mitsubishi is producing a prototype one-third-scale stealth aircraft, the Mitsubishi ATD-X Shinshin, and the project will surely benefit from familiarity with the inner workings of the F-35.

By: Brant

29 March 2012

USMA Digital Map Archives

Wow! The History Department at West Point has a fantastic online map archive. {droooool}

By: Brant

Inaugural Meeting of North American Defence Ministers Joint Statement

Hot off the Pentagon newswire, here's the Joint Statement from the inaugural meeting of North American Defence Ministers . OK, it's not that hot. It was yesterday.

The Honorable Peter MacKay, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, the Honorable Leon E. Panetta, U.S. Secretary of Defense, General Guillermo Galván Galván, Mexican Secretary of National Defence, and Admiral Mariano Francisco Saynez Mendoza, Mexican Secretary of the Navy, met today in Ottawa for the inaugural trilateral meeting of North American Defence Ministers. The Ministers issued the following statement on their meeting:

“By virtue of our geography, our peoples, and our trading relationship, our three nations share many defense interests. Threats to North America and the hemisphere are increasingly complex and require non-traditional responses. Building upon the trilateral collaboration under the North American Leaders Summit process, we share a determination to enhance our common understanding of those threats and of the approaches needed to address them.

“Our countries are committed to working together to address challenges in the region. We know that transnational threats require transnational responses. With this in mind, we have agreed to enhance our cooperation to support efforts to counter transnational criminal organizations and to respond to natural disasters in the hemisphere.

“Our meeting today has established the framework necessary to build North America’s resilience by pursuing a practical agenda built on sustained trilateral cooperation on issues related to defense. As part of our initial work plan, we intend to:

Develop a joint trilateral defense threat assessment for North America to deepen our common understanding of the threats and challenges we face.
Explore ways to improve our support to the efforts of civilian public security agencies in countering illicit activities in our respective countries and the hemisphere, such as narcotics trafficking.
Explore how we can collaborate to increase the speed and efficiency with which our armed forces support civilian-led responses to disasters.
Continue to work together to strengthen hemispheric defence forums.
“We have agreed to meet on a regular basis in order to build on today’s historic meeting and continue our cooperation in addressing shared continental threats.

“We will pursue this trilateral agenda respectful of national sovereignty and in coordination with other agencies in our respective governments. The results of our meeting will be conveyed to our respective leaders in advance of the upcoming North American Leaders Summit.”

By: Brant

US DoD Funding for Israel's Iron Dome?

The Pentagon wants to ship more money to Israel for the Iron Dome.

The Pentagon will press Congress for more money for Israel’s Iron Dome system designed to intercept short-range rockets and mortars, a boost for Israel as the Obama administration tries to dissuade the Mideast ally from launching a potential unilateral strike on Iran.

The announcement from the Pentagon on Tuesday also comes as Obama has faced election-year criticism from Republican presidential candidates and GOP lawmakers that administration support for a longtime friend has been inadequate.

“Supporting the security of the state of Israel is a top priority of President Obama and Secretary (Leon) Panetta,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement. “The Department of Defense has been in conversations with the government of Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity.”

The Pentagon cited the effectiveness of the system, which in recent weeks intercepted more than 80 percent of the nearly 300 rockets and mortars fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza at southern Israel.

Here's the official DoD Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary George Little on Iron Dome

By: Brant

28 March 2012

Rearranging the MTOEs... Again...

There's about to be another reshuffling of how the maneuver brigades are organized.

However, whether leaders will make their decision public immediately -- if one is made at all -- is unclear. "An announcement on specific force structure actions is expected sometime before, or in conjunction with, submission of the [fiscal year 2014] President's Budget in early February 2013," service spokeswoman Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry wrote in a statement to Inside the Army.

Whatever the roll-out plans, there are strong indications that the leaders will formally decide to reorganize Army BCTs so that each formation has three maneuver battalions. The reshuffling means the service will be left with 32 BCTs, down from 45, when factoring in the end-strength reductions announced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in January.

That could leave the Army with too many bases for too few brigades, one Army official said, noting the service is keenly aware of the political sensitivities involved in stationing decisions. "Congress doesn't realize it yet fully," said another official, referring to the fallout not only from the end-strength plans but also the BCT reorganization.

By: Brant

Army App Marketplace is Going Live

The Army's new apps marketplace prototype is going live.

The newly launched Army Software Marketplace prototype now delivers 12 mobile training applications for Soldiers to use on personal phones or tablets.

The publicly-facing apps were developed by Army training schools in the Connecting Soldiers to Digital Apps, or CSDA, initiative. The apps, now approved for Army-wide use, are available online via www.marketplace.army.mil. The CSDA community is continuing to submit apps.

When fully implemented, the Marketplace will deliver web-based and downloadable applications to all devices approved for use within the Army's Common Operating Environment on the Army network.

"The Apps Marketplace is at the center of Army efforts to radically reduce the time to deliver applications across the force," said Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, the chief information officer/G-6. "This prototype is a first step in establishing and exercising new submission and approval processes that will eventually enable Army members, organizations and third-party developers to release applications for Army-wide distribution."

By: Brant

New Life for Decommissioned Tanks

Although it's very cool that a New Zealand company lets tourists drive tanks over junk cars, let's not expect to see a branch office open in San Diego.

In a country regarded as the adrenaline-pumped home of adventure sports, one New Zealand company is offering frustrated drivers the chance to squash a car with a Centurion tank.

Tanks for Everything in Christchurch has a fleet of eight tanks, armoured personnel carriers and Jeeps, the largest of which can easily crush a family sedan pancake-flat in a crescendo of squealing metal and shattering glass.

"I think it maybe releases repressed frustration, to go and crush something with a tank," owner Jonathan Lahy-Neary said.

"If you've had a bad day, it's a pretty good stress reliever."

The pride of the operation is Maximus, a British-made Centurion battle tank, weighing 52 tonnes and powered by a V-12 Rolls Royce engine, which saw service with Australian forces in Vietnam in the early 1970s.

There's also a Soviet-era T-55, an incongruous sight in New Zealand's rolling green hills, which Tanks or Everything's Matthew Sandland said was surprisingly easy to purchase from an arms dealer in Hungary.

By: Brant

GameTalk - First-Person Shooters

Not one, but TWO questions guaranteed to draw a 7-paragraph response from Guardian!

1) Iron sights or floating cross-hair? Which one do you like, and why?

2) Floating and breathing - should your sights float while and after you move? Should a game allow to "hold breathe" for better accuracy?

By: Jack Nastyface

Afghan Bomb Plot Foiled

At least they caught this one early. But finding a cache of suicide vests in the Afghan defense ministry can't be a good sign.

A number of Afghan national army soldiers have been arrested inside the country’s defense ministry over a foiled suicide bomb plot, officials told NBC News.
The soldiers were held on Monday afternoon along with 11 suicide bomb vests in a guard box in the building in the capital, Kabul, army officials said on Tuesday.
So what does this say about the government of Afghanistan Kabul?
"The fact that these arrests took place within the walls of the defense ministry illustrates the level of insurgent penetration within the Afghanistan establishment and just tells you -- gives a signal of -- what is likely to happen when NATO leaves," he said.

But hey, it's OK - Secretary Panetta says attacks by Afghans against NATO are not a trend.

By: Brant

27 March 2012

Sound Off! OSUT or Specialty Schools?

The US uses "one station unit training" for combat arms - where basic training is integrated with the actual branch-specific schooling. For technical trades and non-combat folks, they are sent to a centralized basic training first, and then dispersed to their MOS-specific school.

If you have to pick one model for everyone...

... everyone goes to basic training together and then separates out from there?
... everyone goes through OSUT and focuses on their specific MOS?

Sound off below!

By: Brant

Former Head of Turkey's Military a "Terrorist"?

Are we using "terrorism" and "terrorist" as by-words for anything we don't like? Yes, the Turkish military hierarchy looks bad for the way they've opposed the actions of the Erdogan government. And yes, there's probably something to the charges that Basbug faces. But does that mean he's a terrorist?

Turkey's former armed forces chief raised a clenched fist and waved to supporters when he faced terrorism charges on Monday in a historic trial that demonstrates the ebbing power of an army that once ranged above political leaders in the country.
The court, sitting in the Silivri high security prison complex, underlined the fall of the military by denying General Ilker Basbug's opening appeal to have his case considered by the Supreme Court.
Basbug, chief of staff from 2008 to 2010, is accused of being a leader of a shadowy network dubbed "Ergenekon", behind a string of alleged plots against the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. His lawyer, however, said at the weekend the case targeted not only Basbug, but also "the Turkish armed forces and even, in political terms, the state."

By: Brant

26 March 2012

Monday Video: Front Lines in Afghanistan

Starting your week off with an Afghanistan BANG

Nominate your own videos for inclusion in the comments below.

By: Brant

More "Friendly" Fire in Afghanistan

They aren't even bothering to just target Americans anymore... a uniformed Afghan shot a pair of Brits.

A man in an Afghan army uniform shot and killed two British soldiers Monday inside a NATO base in southern Afghanistan, officials said.
The attack appeared to be the latest in a string of so-called "green on blue" attacks in which Afghan security forces have turned on their international colleagues or mentors. Such attacks have become increasingly common over the past year, particularly since the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base in February.
Six U.S. soldiers were killed in apparent revenge attacks following that act, which also sparked riots that left dozens of Afghans dead. U.S. officials have said the religious materials were burned by mistake.
Details were still sketchy about Monday morning's attack. NATO said in a statement that an individual wearing an Afghan soldier's uniform turned his weapon against international troops. Coalition forces then returned fire.
"The gunman was shot and killed," said NATO spokesman Maj. Jason Waggoner. He declined to provide further details.
There have been more than 45 attacks by Afghans on NATO colleagues in Afghanistan since 2007, more than 75 percent of those in the last two years, according to Pentagon data.

45 attacks by Afghans in uniform on NATO forces? Wow.
And then comes this headline... When juxtaposed with the above article, it just comes across as ludicrous.

Afghans fear for future when NATO forces leave

The article talks with ordinary Afghans (though stays in the city) and asks about the post-NATO Afghanistan.

He had no confidence in the ability of Kabul's security forces to maintain peace. "The Afghan police, the army, if there is an explosion or a suicide attack they can't do anything."
The central premise of Washington's strategy is to leave behind a nation stable enough to secure itself and thwart an Al-Qaeda renaissance, supported by only a small US presence, subject to agreeing a strategic pact with Kabul.

And nothing like juggling the numbers to 'support' the upper limits on what you can actually accomplish.

The US commander on the ground, General John Allen, told Congress last week that he thought a future 230,000-strong Afghan force, scaled down from a planned 352,000, was "the right target given what we think will be the potential enemy scenario for 2017".

By: Brant

23 March 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Airborne In My Pocket

Here's one for the Q&D crowd: it's Airborne In My Pocket. It's a 1-2 player print-and-play game, so give it a try yourownself before you roll it out with a friend.

Yep, it's Carc-a-war with figs!

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

21 March 2012

GameTalk - Doctrine and Tactics

Should games enforce historically accurate battle tactics and doctrine, or should they allow players to use ahistical methods in the name of game-play and "what if" theories? Do you allow the French and Spanish fleet to turn into and meet the British at the battle of Trafalgar (thereby preventing the Brits from "cutting the line")? Must Napoleon's Infanty close on the enemy in an assualt column formation, or can they deploy into firing lines?

By: Jack Nastyface

Falklands Row Expands to Other Nations

Preu has cancelled a visit by a UK warship.

Britain's Foreign Office expressed regret on Tuesday that Peru cancelled a visit by a Royal Navy frigate in a show of support for Argentina over the contested Falkland Islands.
"HMS Montrose was scheduled to make a short visit to Peru as part of a routine deployment to the region. This was agreed as an act of friendship and cooperation between Peru and the UK," a spokesman in London said.
"Ship visits are a sovereign decision for states, but we regret that Peru has revoked its previous agreement to this visit.

By: Brant

20 March 2012

Battle Cat

By: Brant

US Wargaming Possible Fight With Iran?

In an exploratory game, rather than a rehearsal, the US played out a possible shootout with Iran...

A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.

The officials said the so-called war game was not designed as a rehearsal for American military action — and they emphasized that the exercise’s results were not the only possible outcome of a real-world conflict.

and some details

The two-week war game, called Internal Look, played out a narrative in which the United States found it was pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, according to officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then retaliated by carrying out its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The initial Israeli attack was assessed to have set back the Iranian nuclear program by roughly a year, and the subsequent American strikes did not slow the Iranian nuclear program by more than an additional two years. However, other Pentagon planners have said that America’s arsenal of long-range bombers, refueling aircraft and precision missiles could do far more damage to the Iranian nuclear program — if President Obama were to decide on a full-scale retaliation.

The exercise was designed specifically to test internal military communications and coordination among battle staffs in the Pentagon, Tampa, Fla., where the headquarters of the Central Command is located, and in the Persian Gulf in the aftermath of an Israeli strike. But the exercise was written to assess a pressing, potential, real-world situation.

In the end, the war game reinforced to military officials the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of a strike by Israel, and a counterstrike by Iran, the officials said.

By: Brant

Defense Budget "Analysis"

This chart was posted over at Mother Jones today. Now yes, you need to consider the source, but it's based on data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies. The sourcing of the actual chart is only an issue if you follow the link and decide to read the comments.

Click to enlarge, at least a bit

In case it isn't approved by the site moderators, here are the comments I submitted to the article.

I'm curious about 2 things in the US figures, and wondering if they were included, and how (if at all) comparable expenditures are included in other nations' military budgets:

1. R&D. The US R&D budget for the military is pretty damn big compared to other countries. We tend to develop a lot of the technologies/hardware, then sell it to other people to help recoup the costs. We were better at this 30 years ago than today (F16 vs F35) but we still do a lot more R&D than say, Germany or Brazil.

2. Military family support. How much of the budget is covering things like military housing, family health care, on-post/overseas schools for military kids, etc? The US tends to do a lot more for their military families than other nations, in part because of the frontier tradition of larger, unified military bases where the entire community is self-contained (that was replicated in Europe in the Cold War). Other nations have their military folks at the "local" base far more integrated into the community with regards to housing, shopping, family activities, etc. Plus many of those nations have a completely different health care structure than the US does, which changes the calculus of providing health care to military families.

This doesn't mean there's not room for improvement in the defense budget, but when you're comparing US numbers to everyone else, you have to include deployment costs (discussed ad nauseum), as well as these other considerations, before you just scream about how out of whack the US budget seems. The US Navy is all over the world, in large part ensuring global trade lanes are reasonably open. If the US pulled back to home ports, would other nations pick up the slack? Impossible to know, but probably a factor in the numbers discussed here.

By: Brant

Syrian TV Says Soccer Team is Acting Out Smuggling Routes to Inform Rebels

And not just any soccer team, but Barcelona, one of the best teams on the planet.

Syria’s state-run television channel has made the astonishing claim that the Barcelona soccer team is assisting a group of rebel fighters by delivering coded messages via its tactical formations.

The Middle Eastern country continues to be stricken with internal strife, as forces backing President Bashar al-Assad combat several rebel groups hoping to overthrow the government. Yet the long struggle seems to have caused widespread paranoia, even on the officially sanctioned news networks.

Al-Dunya TV aired a bizarre feature Sunday outlining how Barcelona transmitted details of effective smuggling routes that could be used to distribute arms to dissident fighters. The program repeated charges originally made in December. According to the TV reporter, the Barca side’s positioning on the field allegedly was deliberately set up to recreate a giant map, with players representing smugglers and the ball depicting a cache of arms.

A run from Andres Iniesta is said to portray the first part of the route, while the end of the move, where superstar World Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi passes the ball, indicates the successful handover of the shipment, according to Al-Dunya.

The station used a segment on its nightly news bulletin to launch into a detailed description of how Barca had decided to add covert operations and international espionage to its dazzling array of talents.

Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets are supposedly all in on the plot, which would surely have needed the approval – if not the masterminding genius – of coach Pep Guardiola.

It is estimated that more than 9,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the start of an uprising against President al-Assad last year, as part of the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East.

Even in the unthinkable eventuality that it was receiving assistance from the reigning European club champion, Syria’s biggest rebel group – the Free Syrian Army – is still hopelessly outgunned by the government forces.

The European Union imposed an arms embargo on Syria last year, but the widely acclaimed Stockholm International Peace Research Institute revealed foreign arms supplies to the country had increased fivefold in the past five years, with the majority of them provided by Russia.

By: Brant

Russian Troops to Syria?!

Yep, the Russkies are sending anti-terror troops to support the Syrian government.

A Russian military unit has arrived in Syria, according to Russian news reports, a development that a United Nations Security Council source told ABC News was "a bomb" certain to have serious repercussions.

Russia, one of President Bashar al-Assad's strongest allies despite international condemnation of the government's violent crackdown on the country's uprising, has repeatedly blocked the United Nations Security Council's attempts to halt the violence, accusing the U.S. and its allies of trying to start another war.

Now the Russian Black Sea fleet's Iman tanker has arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea with an anti-terror squad from the Russian Marines aboard according to the Interfax news agency. The Assad government has insisted it is fighting a terrorist insurgency.

The Iman replaced another Russian ship "which had been sent to Syria for demonstrating (sic) the Russian presence in the turbulent region and possible evaluation of Russian citizens," the Black Sea Fleet told Interfax.

RIA Novosti, a news outlet with strong ties to the Kremlin, trumpeted the news in a banner headline that appeared only on its Arabic language website. The Russian embassy to the US and to the UN had no comment, saying they have "no particular information on" the arrival of a Russian anti-terrorism squad to Syria.

Holy crap...

h/t Blackcloud 6

By: Brant

19 March 2012

Assassination and Elections

I don't need to tell you that this is in Africa, right? You could guess that by the headline, huh?

Guinea Bissau's former head of military intelligence was shot dead at a bar near his residence in the capital Bissau late on Sunday, hours after citizens voted peacefully in a presidential election, witnesses and a security source said.
The killing of Colonel Samba Diallo follows a rash of political assassinations in the tiny West African state, a known haven for cocaine smugglers, and places a cloud over a vote that was meant to usher in a period of greater stability.
A resident near Diallo's residence told Reuters that soldiers fired on him just before midnight and that his body was later taken away. Another witness said he saw Diallo's body at a hospital morgue after the shooting.
A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Diallo was shot dead while at a bar near his home, but could give no further details. A Bissau army spokesman said he had no information on the incident.
Diallo had served as head of military intelligence under ex-Army Chief of Staff Jose Zamora Induta until the two were deposed and temporarily jailed in an April 2010 mutiny that Western diplomats said was likely over control of the lucrative drugs trade between Latin America and Europe.

By: Brant

Questions to Answer Before Going To War

The NY Times has a great op-ed today that details what we should consider before "pulling the trigger". Hey, that rhymed! I'm a poet and didn't know it.
Anyhow, the headings in the column...

But the text under each heading us also excellent and well worth the read.

By: Brant

h/t Doctrine Man!

Arming Vichy France?

An interesting archival moment uncovered by the BBC...

A British general kept Winston Churchill and Free French leader Charles De Gaulle in the dark about a top secret 1942 plan to arm Vichy France, recently discovered documents reveal.

Both Churchill and De Gaulle had made clear their contempt for Marshall Petain's regime, which controlled a large part of France thanks to a deal struck with Hitler.

Relations between Britain and France had been strained since July 1940, when Churchill, who was determined to stop French ships falling into German hands, ordered the Royal Navy to sink several French war ships off the coast of Algeria - 1,300 French sailors lost their lives in the action.

In retaliation, a furious Vichy not only broke off diplomatic relations with London but also bombed Gibraltar.

In December 1941, Winston Churchill made clear his distaste for the supposedly neutral Vichy regime and its often enthusiastic collaboration with Hitler.

Later, Vichy voluntarily deported Jews to Germany.

Charles De Gaulle was equally contemptuous. Vichy's leaders had accused him of being a traitor when he fled to London after the fall of France. At the time, Marshal Petain, a hero of World War I, was a more popular figure in France - many saw him as having shielded Vichy from the worst excesses of Hitler's forces and saved the region from German occupation.

By: Brant

h/t Rex @ PaxSims

18 March 2012

This Story Doesn't Add Up

There's some really, really fishy about the "American" who has been "released" in Iraq.

A militia loyal to Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr freed an American former soldier on Saturday after holding him captive in Baghdad for nine months.
The American, identified as Randy Michaels, was shown on television in a U.S. military uniform with no insignia, flanked by two members of parliament from Sadr's movement, including the parliament's first deputy speaker.
He was handed over to the United Nations mission in Baghdad, which transferred him to the U.S. embassy. Washington confirmed he was a U.S. citizen but released no further details.
In brief remarks to Iraqi journalists hastily convened to witness his release, Michaels said he had deployed to Iraq in 2003 and initially served there as a soldier for 15 months.
He remained in Iraq "in a civilian capacity from then until June of 2011, when I was taken hostage by elements of Yom al-Maoud," he said, referring to the Promised Day Brigade, an offshoot of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.
"I was taken inside Baghdad and have been kept in and around different locations within the city by al-Maoud. It was explained to me that my release has been for humanitarian purposes and there was no exchange involved."
Sadrist lawmakers repeatedly described him as an American soldier. However, the Pentagon says none of its serving troops have been listed as hostages in Iraq since the remains of the last missing soldier were recovered last month.

As we find out more, we'll post the updates here.

By: Brant

Dissent in Al-Shabaab Ropes American into Intrigue

An odd YouTube video shows an American-born terroristclaiming he's a target by the group he joined for the Jihad.

It seems that all is not well within Al-Shabaab, the Somali extremist group allied to al Qaeda. A short video was posted online Friday in which its best known propagandist, an American citizen from Alabama, said he believes that others in the group might attempt to assassinate him.

In the video, lasting just over a minute, Abu Mansour al-Amriki sat with a black banner behind him and a rifle leaning against a wall. In English and Arabic he says: "I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the sharia and matters of strategy."

He did not go into details and it's not known when the message was recorded.

Al-Amriki, whose real name is Omar Hammami, has become famous in jihadist circles for videos posted to YouTube and other social media encouraging fellow Americans to join Al-Shabaab. He is also seen in videos as a field commander, often shown leading fighters.

Ben Venzke of the terrorist monitoring group IntelCenter described the video as "unprecedented in recent history for a member of a major terrorist group to release a video fearing for his life from the very group he joined."

The English-language part of the video starts around 42 seconds in.

By: Brant

16 March 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Tactical Combat in the Middle East

Toshach Miniatures has a PB/PL "update" that they call Tactical Combat in the Middle East (TCME).

There's no BGG or CSW boards for this one, either!

What do you guys think? Cool? Uncool? Build your own mods with the counter generator from earlier in the week?

h/t to Mark at LNLP for bringing this one to our attention

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Next Afghanistan Unit(s) Announced

The DoD has identified the next units headed to Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense today identified three major units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan. The Spring 2012 scheduled rotation involves one brigade combat team headquarters with more than 70 personnel; one brigade combat team with more than 3,600 personnel; and a combat aviation brigade with more than 2,400 personnel to include:

Headquarters unit (rotation began last month):
76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters, Indiana Army National Guard

Brigade Combat Team and Combat Aviation Brigade:
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy
12th Combat Aviation Brigade, Katterbach, Germany

DoD will continue to announce major deployments as they are approved.

By: Brant

Norks Already Defying Deal with US?

Looks like the Norks are already breaking the deal they made a few weeks ago.

North Korea announced plans Friday to blast a satellite into space on the back of a long-range rocket, a provocative move that could jeopardize a weeks-old agreement with the U.S. exchanging food aid for nuclear concessions.
The North agreed to a moratorium on long-range launches as part of the deal with Washington, but it argues that its satellite launches are part of a peaceful space program that is exempt from any international disarmament agreements. The U.S., South Korea and other critics say the rocket technology overlaps with belligerent uses and condemn the satellite program as a disguised way of testing military missiles in defiance of a U.N. ban.

By: Brant

An Inaccurate "Debate" About Iran?

Stephen M. Walt has an excellent article about the top ten media failures in the debate about a 'war' with Iran. I've excerpted the list here, but there supporting paragraphs are outstanding and well worth the read. In short, Walt's point is that the information we are being fed through virtually every news source is filtered through a group of assumptions that inherently skew the coverage.

The interview got me thinking about the issue of media coverage of this whole business, and I'm sorry to say that most mainstream news organizations have let us down again. Although failures haven't been as egregious as the New York Times and Washington Post's wholesale swallowing of the Bush administration's sales pitch for war in 2002, on the whole the high-end media coverage has been disappointing. Here are my Top Ten Media Failures in the 2012 Iran War Scare.

#1: Mainstreaming the war.

#2: Loose talk about Iran's "nuclear [weapons] program."

#3: Obsessing about Ahmadinejad.

#4: Ignoring Iranian weakness.

#5: Failing to ask why Iran might want a bomb.

#6: Failing to consider why Iran might NOT want a bomb.

#7: Exaggerating Israel's capabilities.

#8: Letting spinmeisters play fast and loose with facts.

9. What about the human beings?

10. Could diplomacy work?

h/t SO over at Defence & Freedom for the link to the article.

By: Brant

15 March 2012

Go Mobile in New UAV Side-Scrolling Game

It's more arcade than analytical game, and the text below is corporate PR, but it's still a nifty new mobile Android game that channels Blue Oyster Cult for it's title...

The new Android app, "Fear the Reaper" published by Black Ops Pops uses an old formula (side scrolling shooter, ala Defender) but puts on a modern warfare twist! Fly the famed MQ-9 Reaper drone, used by today's top secret military to attack the bad guys. Since the game uses the accelerometer to fly, one must tilt the screen to and from to navigate the treacherous terrain...Another interesting dimension to this game is the addition of "no-strike targets" represented by mosque symbols -- do not shoot them or the game will detract life from the score.
Luckily for the player, there is an C130 that occasionally flies by and drops a care package. Care packages range from more health (adds more life to bar at the top), stealth mode (Fly right through those pesky enemy radar sites) or diplomatic immunity (shoot through no-strikes).
In keeping with the tradition of fast paced arcade games, these care packages come in very handy as the game progresses. The player is rewarded with more life every 10,000 points.
Black Ops Pops already has one hit game with CamGun -- a novel idea where you use the phone's camera to simulate a first person shooter, like Call of Duty. CamGun allows for the snapping of photos of the kill and upload them to Facebook. Although Fear the Reaper isn't as novel as that app, it has a higher level of arcade amusement.
Download Fear the Reaper in the Play Store here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fearthereaper or in the Amazon App Store here: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Munsell-Fear-The-Reaper/dp/B007JVZM74/

By: Brant

14 March 2012

GameTalk - POW's

Is managing POW's an interesting and / or realistic game mechanic? In Close Combat, surrendered enemy soldiers followed your nearest unit around the map. In Combat Mission, you could give POW a "move" order. Any examples from boardgames? And should you be able to execute POW's without penalty?

By: Jack Nastyface

13 March 2012

Sound Off! Military Blogs or Military News?

Do you prefer to get your military info from ...

... blogs? Opinions, editorializations, hearsay, rumors, and wild flying assertions, but purportedly 'closer to the troops'?

... news sites? Facts, sourced statements, background info, and official access, but often lacking in military context because the reporters have rarely worn a uniform?

Report your thoughts below!

By: Brant

12 March 2012

Excellent Perspective on Afghan Killing Incident

Following the shooting of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier, there is no end of analyses. This one, from The New Yorker, is one of the best.

A man with a gun walked into a house and killed eleven people, according to officials who spoke to the press. Four of the victims were little girls, younger than six years old. The man walked into two more houses, and in the end sixteen people were dead, nine of them children of various ages. He had tried to burn their bodies, allegedly; and he had walked a mile in order to kill them.
Does it matter that the victims were Afghans and the alleged killer was an American soldier, a sergeant, deployed there? In a way, no; those four little girls are as much a loss as if they were in Brooklyn or Birmingham or anywhere, and the same is true of all of the victims. And from the allegations that have been made public so far, this wasn’t some blundering misdirected drone strike—though that is quite bad enough—but a grown-up man who set out to kill children, along with their parents and other relatives.
In another way, though, it makes an enormous difference. This man was wearing our uniform, with our country’s name on it, and whatever awfulness in his heart found a shape in a war that we, in recent years, have only half-regarded, with a fitful unease. In wars awful things happen; that is why one must be so wary of even the most necessary of them. What exactly happened and why we don’t know; an investigation is under way. (There are conflicting witness reports, with some villagers saying that more than multiple soldiers were involved, perhaps drunk. The military says just one, and that he's in custody.) We’ll have more at News Desk soon.

The official statement from Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta on the shooting.

“Today I spoke to President Karzai to offer my deepest condolences and profound regret for the tragic incident in Kandahar province that resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children.

"A full investigation is already underway. A suspect is in custody, and I gave President Karzai my assurances that we will bring those responsible to justice. We will spare no effort in getting the facts as quickly as possible, and we will hold any perpetrator who is responsible for this violence fully accountable under the law.

“I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command. I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens. This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.

“As we mourn today with the Afghan people, we are steadfast in our resolve to work hand in hand with our Afghan partners to accomplish the missions and goals on which we have been working together for so long. This terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together. As I told President Karzai, I am fully committed to ensuring that our cooperation continues. It is essential to forging a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations.”

By: Brant

10 March 2012

DoD Releases Roadmap to Transform Energy Use

The Department of Defense Releases Roadmap to Transform Energy Use in Military Operations

The Department of Defense released today the Operational Energy Strategy Implementation Plan. The plan establishes seven specific targets and associated near-term activities keyed to the goals of the Operational Energy Strategy, which was released in June 2011. Together, the Strategy and Implementation Plan found at http://energy.defense.gov will serve as a roadmap to transform the way the Department of Defense uses energy in military operations.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said, “Smart use of energy can be a strategic advantage for the U.S. military against our adversaries. As we continue to invest in the best military force to defend America today and tomorrow, I want the department to harness the best energy innovations at all levels, from the individual warfighter to the largest installation, to enhance our operational effectiveness and deliver more bang for the buck.”

To oversee the execution of these efforts, Panetta has directed the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs Sharon E. Burke to co-lead a Defense Operational Energy Board with a designee of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The chairman has designated the Director for Logistics, Lt. Gen. Brooks Bash.

“By building energy considerations into the department’s processes, including the way we buy equipment and value energy when employing the force, we can improve our warfighting ability while lowering risks and costs for military missions,” said Burke.

The department has already made significant combat energy improvements. In Afghanistan, U.S. forces have fielded improved generators, microgrids, energy-efficient shelters, air conditioners, and tactical solar to reduce fuel use on the battlefield and cut the number of fuel convoys vulnerable to attack. At sea, the Navy has deployed shipboard hybrid-electric drives, stern flaps and hull and propeller coatings to improve efficiency. By optimizing flight patterns, routing, and cargo loading, the Air Force will avoid $500 million in fuel costs in the next five years.

By: Brant

Battle Lab: Warfighter 101 Designer's Notes

Going waaaaay back in the archives here (try 7 freakin' years!) for the original set of designer's noted I wrote for a website that is now a mere shell of itself.

Warfighter 101 System

Greetings! This is my first stab at writing out my developer’s notes for any of my game designs, so bear with me a bit here.

The Warfighter 101 system came into being the in spring of 2001. I was a wage slave looking for something I could play on weekends with a few of my wargame-loving buddies in the National Guard. With summer fast approaching in South Carolina, we needed an entertaining indoor pursuit. All of us had played wargames throughout our youth, but had stepped away from the hobby over the years. It turns out that none of us left wargaming because of time, money, or availability of opponents. We simply couldn’t find a game we enjoyed playing. We had knocked around some games of Squad Leader and PanzerBlitz/PanzerLeader but we really wanted to play games with a modern theme to them. We tried MBT, and even though we are/were all armor officers, we just couldn’t stomach the system; it didn’t move fast enough for us.

much more after the jump!

09 March 2012

DoD Announces Next Afghan Rotation Units

The DoD has identifiedthe next units for the upcoming Afghanistan rotation.

The Department of Defense announced today three major units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan. The Spring 2012 scheduled rotation involves one corps headquarters with more than 500 personnel; one division headquarters with more than 700 personnel; and a brigade combat team with more than 3,000 personnel to include:

Headquarters units:

V Corps Headquarters, Wiesbaden, Germany

1st Infantry Division Headquarters, Fort Riley, Kan.

Brigade Combat Team:

4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

By: Brant

We're Back to Indignant Outrage at the Wrong Things

After pulling the advisors in the wake of the shooting at the Afghan Interior Ministry, they haven't returned.

Many Western advisers stationed in Kabul opposed the decision by General John Allen, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to withdraw them from their offices, even if -- as NATO insisted -- the move was temporary. "Pulling all advisers from the ministries as a blanket reaction to an incident at the Interior Ministry was an extreme reaction, giving the message that we don't trust anyone," says Santwana Dasgupta, an American support manager at the Ministry of Higher Education. "During these times, I believe it is even more important for the international community to reach out to the Afghans they know, express their dismay at the Koran burnings and not to hide in fear," Dasgupta tells TIME. "I think it is a shame that internationals are asked to run and hide."

No, it's a shame that internationals have to run and hide because illiterate and intolerant 19th-century simpletons think that every personal affront should be solved with a jihad and a bullet.

By: Brant

08 March 2012

Make Your Own Counters - Online

Woohoo! Someone's put up an online counter-maker! It's mainly for PanzerBlitz and Striker, but you could re-purpose it as needed.

By: Brant

Whither "Free Speech" in Uniform?

How much of your Constitutional right to free speech do you surrender when putting on your uniform? That's the issue at hand in a politically-charged case in California.

Marine Sgt. Gary Stein first started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights. Then he declared that he wouldn't follow orders from the commander in chief, President Barack Obama.

While Stein softened his statement to say he wouldn't follow "unlawful orders," military observers say he may have gone too far.

The Marine Corps is now looking into whether he violated the military's rules prohibiting political statements by those in uniform and broke its guidelines on what troops can and cannot say on social media. Stein said his views are constitutionally protected.

While troops have always expressed their views in private, Stein's case highlights the potential for their opinions to go global as tech-savvy service members post personal details, videos and pictures that can hurt the military's image at home and abroad.

"I think that it's been pretty well established for a long time that freedom of speech is one area in which people do surrender some of their basic rights in entering the armed forces," said former Navy officer David Glazier, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"Good order and discipline require the military maintain respect for the chain of command," Glazier said. "That includes prohibiting speech critical of the senior officers in that chain of command - up to and including the commander in chief."

Stein has not been asked to take down his statements yet. I also wonder if he would've said the same thing while Bush 43 was in office.

By: Brant

07 March 2012

GameTalk - Narratives

The solitaire boardgame "Ranger" uses a "turn-to page #" scenario-book to progress gameplay; the Lock 'n Load series uses a "reveal story element" when a unit enters a special hex; and build-your-own adventure books were once (semi) popular with the RPG crowd. Is the "wargame with a story" a useful and enjoyable mechanic, or are they too much story and not enough game?

By: Jack Nastyface

06 March 2012

Sound Off! Military Metaphors!

What's the best and worst military metaphor you've ever heard applied to a non-military context? We all know there are a ton of sports uses, but what else is there?

Fire for effect in the comments!

By: Brant

05 March 2012

Monday Video: Time To Fly

Starting your week off with a BANG!

By: Brant

Pakistan Taliban Power Struggle

Hey, maybe if we just wait them out, their own internal politics will do them in? Nah. More likely ours will.

The head of the Pakistani Taliban has removed his deputy commander, the militant group confirmed to the BBC, in a sign of a growing power struggle.

Hakimullah Mehsud demoted Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, who was the second-highest ranking Taliban leader, at a Taliban council of leaders on Sunday.

No reason was given but correspondents say the move is the latest sign of a rift within the group.

Maulvi Faqir Mohammad has not yet been replaced by another militant commander.

A Taliban spokesman told BBC Urdu that he had been removed with immediate effect but that the Taliban leadership was considering appointing him to some other position within the group.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says the decision is the latest sign of a growing rift within the Pakistani Taliban - known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) - that began when its former leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in August 2009.

By: Brant

There's Soooo Much Wrong Here

Really... You're going to try to prop up a government and a people who run dogfighting rings, call the losers "Americans", and want to kill the people trying to drag you into the 19th century?

Protests over the burning of Korans at a NATO base may have faded but some Afghans are still venting their rage over the incident -- at a bloody Kabul dogfighting ring.
If emotions here are any indication, desecration of copies of the Muslim holy book did lasting damage to the image of the United States, which is struggling to pacify the country before NATO combat troops leave at the end of 2014.
"We call the dogs who lose Americans. We are furious about the Korans," said Mirwais Haji, 28, as a defeated canine limped off the snow-covered dirt ring on the edge of the capital.
"We want the Afghan government to bring the people who did this to us. We will kill them ourselves."

By: Brant

03 March 2012

Stars and Stripes Relocation Drawing Major Attention

Media organizations don't like it when they become the story, especially the Stars and Stripes, who are being relocated, and they object to their landing zone.

An inside-the-office debate began to simmer when Pentagon officials — answering the order from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to find significant budget efficiencies — saw a way to cut $1 million a year in rent by relocating the newspaper from the National Press Building, a prestigious downtown address. The 80-member newsroom and business staff was ordered to Fort Meade, Md., where it would be housed at no cost alongside the agency that oversees official Pentagon and military media operations.

Staff members objected. And now, concerns that proximity could potentially lead to interference have reached Capitol Hill — which heightens the debate, since Stars and Stripes is subsidized with taxpayer funds but operates with a Congressional endorsement to maintain journalistic independence.

One of the most powerful voices on military affairs in Congress, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, wrote Mr. Panetta this week agreeing that questions of editorial independence for Stars and Stripes were “well-placed, and should lead to a review of possible alternatives to this decision.”

Mr. Levin, a Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote: “If this move is based on cost savings, were other alternatives considered, including other government spaces and other leased locations? If Stars and Stripes is moved to Fort Meade, what will the department do to ensure that the actual and perceived independence of the important service provided by Stars and Stripes is preserved?”

Douglas B. Wilson, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said the decision to relocate the newspaper to Fort Meade “is not a matter of reducing independence for Stars and Stripes. It is a matter of reducing rent costs to the taxpayer.”

He added, “In an era when the entire department is having to find efficiencies, and budgets are being reduced, it would be hard to explain why $1 million a year in rent should not be replaced by free office space.”

Terry Leonard, editorial director at Stars and Stripes, said he and the staff do not object to moving — only to a move that locates them at the headquarters for official Pentagon media operations.

By: Brant

Bad Day For C-IED Guys in the 'Stan

David Axe reports on a significant theft in Afghanistan.

On Jan. 7, someone strolled into a supply room at Camp Eggers, a coalition base near the U.S. embassy in downtown Kabul, pocketed two sets of car keys and walked out undetected. Sometime over the next 24 hours, the thieves drove away with two black-painted, armored Toyota Land Cruisers belonging to the U.S. Army’s 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, a unit that escorts coalition personnel around Kabul.

The loss of the Land Cruisers is bad enough. But what’s really got the Army worried is what was inside the vehicles: two sets of top-secret Duke radio frequency jammers used to block the signals that detonate remote-controlled improvised explosive devices. In a notice posted to the website of the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command (and first noted by Military Times), investigators plead for anyone with knowledge of the theft to contact CID offices in and around Kabul.

If the Army suspects who might be responsible, it’s not saying. Equally, it’s not clear if the bandits were after the Duke equipment specifically, or if the Land Cruisers were the sole target and the jammers were simply bonuses.

Best case scenario: the thieves have no ties to insurgents and no appreciation of the jammers’ value … and the high-tech devices wind up in a scrap heap somewhere.

Worst case: the jammers wind up in the hands of insurgents who then reverse-engineer them to create some kind of counter-counter-measure, thus making already-deadly IEDs even more dangerous.

By: Brant

Israel Attacks Iran, and... ?

Foreign Affairs has an entire issue devoted to the Iranian nuclear standoff, sans Persian Incursion review. But one of the better articles is about "What Happens After Israel Attacks Iran". An excerpt:

Indeed, the analysis in Israel about the possible effects of a bombing campaign against Iran is limited to a small, professional elite, mostly in government and behind closed doors. This intimate circle that does consider scenarios of the “day after” concentrates almost exclusively on what an Iranian response, direct or through proxies, might look like. This is not surprising, given that Israel must worry first and foremost about the immediate military implications of an Iranian counterattack. But in doing so, Israeli policymakers are ignoring several of the potential longer-term aspects of a strike: the preparedness of Israel’s home front; the contours of an Israeli exit strategy; the impact on U.S.-Israel relations; the global diplomatic fallout; the stability of world energy markets; and the outcome within Iran itself. Should Israel fail to openly debate and account for these factors in advance of an attack, it may end up with a strategic debacle, even if it achieves its narrow military goals.

Israeli officials have thought extensively about how the first moves of a military conflict between Jerusalem and Tehran might play out. Ephraim Kam, a former Israeli military intelligence officer and deputy head of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), reflected the general consensus in the security establishment when he wrote in the Institute’s 2010 strategic assessment that Iran may respond in two possible ways to an Israeli operation: missile strikes on Israel, either directly or through allied organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas; or terror attacks, likely on Israeli targets abroad by Iranians or those proxy groups.

A direct Iranian response would involve a missile barrage from Iran onto Israeli territory, similar to the volley of rockets launched at Israel by Iraq during the first Gulf War. Only one Israeli citizen died then, and it seems that Israeli officials estimate that the damage of a similar Iranian strike would be greater, but still limited. This past November, Ehud Barak, referring to possible direct and proxy-based Iranian retaliation, said that “There is no scenario for 50,000 dead, or 5,000 killed -- and if everyone stays in their homes, maybe not even 500 dead.” Barak’s calm also reflects Israel’s previous experience in preempting nuclear threats. Iraq did not respond when Israel destroyed its nuclear facility in 1981, disproving the doomsday predictions made by several Israeli experts prior to the strike, and Syria remained silent when Israel bombed its nascent reactor in 2007.

Israeli policymakers also do not seem particularly concerned about the prospect of a proxy response. They recognize that Hezbollah, as it did in 2006, can target Israel with a large number of rockets. Yet in an interview with Ronen Bergman in The New York Times late last month, several Israeli experts argued that, regardless of a potential battle with Iran, the probability of an extended conflict with Hezbollah is already high. According to this logic, an attack on Iran would merely hasten the inevitable and might actually be easier to sustain before, not after, Iran acquires nuclear weapons. In addition, the new constraints now operating against Hezbollah -- the ongoing revolt in Syria chief among them -- might even limit the ability of the organization to harm Israel in a future conflict. Indeed, over the past several months, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has emphasized the group’s independence, saying on February 7 that “the Iranian leadership will not ask Hezbollah to do anything. On [the day of an Israeli attack on Iran], we will sit, think, and decide what we will do.”

It's long, but a very, very good read.

By: Brant

02 March 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Andean Abyss

Hey - a game I played in it's pre-production days! Designer Volko Ruhnke was kind enough to appear on our panel last summer at Connections, and brought along Andean Abyss to show off on playtest/demo night. I tagged in for Skip Cole as one of the guerrilla groups midway through the game, but I did get a few turns in and it was a blast.

For a game that's not yet been released, there's an awful lot of chatter at CSW.
Go order your own copy from GMT!

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

01 March 2012

Battle Lab: Games and Sims for Training and Learning

This might be one of my favorite topics (as evidenced by the bibliography on this site as well) and was the subject of much of my academic work, as well.
This article was originally published in Battles magazine #3, and was cited in Dr Sabin's book Simulating War.
Dr James Sterrett (of the US Army CGSC) has previously offered his thoughts on the topic, as well.

Games and Sims for Training and Learning
This is a favorite topic of mine, and the Origins War College has hosted several panels over the last few years devoted specifically to the basic topic of “What is a game and what is a sim, and what can we do with them?”

In the world of military training, games and simulations have developed over the years from map exercises to elaborate digital virtual reality exercises. In many cases, the tools developed for training have come from commercial products, or were later converted into commercial products, and thus the wargaming community has the opportunity to poke, prod, and play with comparable tools to those used to train soldiers and sailors around the globe. As the world has gone digital, many of these tools and toys have moved away from tabletops and into computer monitors, but the underlying heart – the game engine – is still of great interest to gamers.

Mapping the conceptual terrain bounded by games-simulations-exercises is more than just an intellectual exercise, as it allows us all to establish a common conceptual framework and vocabulary for the future discussion of the utility of these games and sims. It also allows to discuss with more specificity our exact likes and dislikes, and level of comfort with the features and processes, and the underlying mechanisms that make them go.

When describing the use of games for training and learning purposes, there are several concepts that must first be understood, and their meanings agreed upon, before the best use of games and simulations can determined.

much, much more - including graphics! - after the jump