02 June 2012

Invade Syria? There's a App For That

Michael Peck talks about video games that let you wargame an invasion of Syria, albeit without the myriad political entanglements.

Where there's a war—or a potential war—there's a game. But not a great game when it comes to these humanitarian-military interventions. There's not much challenge in a Libya game where Gaddafi's legions could be whipped by five Teletubbies in a clown car, or a Kosovo title where the Serbian player's goal is to hide from NATO bombs. These regimes tend to be tigers against fighting unarmed civilians and lambs when real armies show up for a rumble. But Syria may be different. It has 500,000 regular and reserve troops, 5000 tanks, and experience fighting the Israelis on and off for 60 years. Knowing that the most they can expect from the Sunni Muslim rebels is being dragged through the streets while their adoring populace spits on their corpses (or maybe a war crimes trial in the Hague) is a powerful incentive for Assad and the ruling Alawite minority to fight to the end. An arsenal of the latest Russian anti-tank and ant-aircraft missiles gives them ample means to do so.

Strangely enough, there is a computer wargame on a Western invasion of Syria. 
Released in 2007, Combat Mission: Shock Force was the next generation of Combat Mission, the 1999 tactical World War II game. Some gamers were incredulous that the battlefield has shifted from French villages and the Russian steppe to Syria. Because, c'mon, like NATO is really going to invade Syria? It takes a dictator who bombards his own cities to make life imitate art.

CMSF postulates a NATO invasion force (your choice of a U.S. Army Stryker brigade, U.S. Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and various forces from Britain, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands) versus a hodgepodge of Syrian forces ranging from elite Republican Guards and commandos to ill-trained irregulars. The scenario is regime change in response to Syrian support for terrorism, but that's just window-dressing for a highly-detailed, turn-based tactical wargame best enjoyed by the sort of people who are into discovering the optimum tactical formation for a mechanized infantry battalion assaulting a fortified village. The game sports an impressive amount of order-of-battle research and modeling—or at least plausible estimates—of the effectiveness of modern weapons. Those expecting an American blitzkrieg like Desert Storm will discover that Russian anti-tank missiles—the ones that punched holes in advanced Israeli Merkava tanks in the 2006 Lebanon war—will do very bad things to a lightly armored Stryker troop carrier. For all the talk of boots on the ground, the NATO forces are strong on high-tech vehicles but short on the infantry needed to clear RPG-armed defenders from villages and trenches. Add in stiff penalties for taking NATO casualties, or for NATO inflicting collateral damage on civilian targets, then getting rid of Assad is no cakewalk if his army decides to fight.

By: Brant

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