30 November 2012

Rex Brynen weighs in on Syrian conflict

There's an interview with Rex Brynen on the Syrian conflict that includes a direct question about the Syrian rebels and their "armor" force.

2- There have been reports of acquisition of tanks and artillery by the rebels. Do we know if they have actually used them against government forces? Force-on-force battles favor the government of course given the balance of power but can we get a sense of what kind of strategy the rebels might use that would incorporate these heavy weapons?

Captured armor has been used locally and on a small scale, usually as fire support for attacks on checkpoints or bases. There have been only a few cases of tank-on-tank fighting. Generally the rebels lack the experience, ammunition, and maintenance support to use armor effectively. Tanks are also hard to use in what are often hit-and-run attacks.

More effective use has been made of indirect fire weapons, especially mortars, in attacks on regime installations. I think we’re likely to see greater and more effective use of heavy weapons over time, both as the rebels capture more equipment and as they gain practical experience.

There's plenty more at the link that you ought to read.

By: Brant

28 November 2012

GameTalk - Ground Crews

How do you account for aircraft ground crews in wargames?
Where do you site them on the battlefield and how is that represented in the game?
What sorts of inherent defenses can/should they have, and how much interchangeability should they have as you increase the types / quantities of aircraft?

By: Brant

Garbage Delivery

This is a captured Palestinian garbage truck from Gaza. The truck is set up to fire 9 Kasem rockets and then drive off innocently. The note pasted on the drivers door says "In case of traffic violations, please contact the Palestinian Authority".

By: Brant

27 November 2012

Sound Off! More Camouflage!

Last week we asked about US camo.  This week, we want you to tell us what you think the most effective non-US camo pattern is out there...
British DPM?
German Flecktarn?
Something else?
Sound off below!

By: Brant

26 November 2012

Monday Video: Syrian Opposition Armor

Following the recent capture of a Syrian Army base outside of Damascus, the Syrian opposition is starting to field their own armored force.
h/t Rex
By: Brant

21 November 2012

GameTalk - Engineers

How can you best portray what engineers are truly capable of on the battlefield in a wargame?  What do engineers do well that hasn't been accurately captured on the tabletop?  What do they do poorly that's yet to manifest as an actual penalty in a game?

By: Brant

20 November 2012

Holy Shit! Up Front Is Actually Going To Get Printed!?

It's up on Kickstarter right now, and getting really, really well-funded.

By: Brant

Sound Off! Camo Patterns

Everyone agrees the ACU sucks, but what was the most successful US camouflage pattern out there?  Which one was not only successful on the battlefield, but contributed to the positive image and appearance of the US Army?

Tiger-stripes (Vietnam era)?
Basic OD Green?
ACU / pixelflage?

By: Brant

19 November 2012

When Wargaming Was a "Sport"

Yes, there was an article about wargaming - tabletop minis gaming - in Sports Illustrated. That's right: Sports Illustrated.

The observation post I picked to watch the battle was about halfway between a railroad yard and the plateau on which the opposing armies were deployed. I had to squint to see through the blue haze and intermittent puffs of smoke that floated across the terrain. Some of the troops to the east were about to haul an artillery piece over a bridge, and behind them a group of cavalrymen was preparing to charge. To the west, the enemy had concealed some of his men in a pass behind a mountain. It occurred to me that I was one of the few war correspondents in history who ever had been afforded such a splendid panoramic view of an engagement, and again I peered through my glasses at the troops moving into position.

The men looked very small at that distance. For that matter, they looked very small up close, for each was only 1[3/16] inches tall. Their battlefield was a 5-by-9-foot piece of green-painted plywood set atop a pool table. The blue haze came from a gel placed over a flood-light by a photographer, and the smoke came from a smoke-pill apparatus made for him by a friend in the Special Effects department at NBC-TV. The rolling stock in the railroad yard behind me was all Lionel, my observation post was an aluminum tubular kitchen chair and my glasses were not field but nose. I was in Bristol, Conn. to cover a war game that was about to be played by two devotees of this little-known sport, the brothers Bob and Charlie Sweet (left).

President of the North Side Bank, a graduate of Washington and Lee (he played guard there on a Southern Conference championship team in 1934), Charlie Sweet is a 50-year-old outdoorsman whose husky body imprisons, although not very effectively, the spirit of a boy. For years he took time off from his various civic activities (he is on virtually every public-minded committee in Bristol) to make model aircraft, both gas-and rubber-band-powered, as well as model boats, trains and other toys. As a boy he had played with tin or lead soldiers, and around 1950 he found himself thinking that it might be fun to play with them again.

Today Charlie Sweet is one of the foremost collectors of tin soldiers—or military miniatures, as they are called more formally—in the country. He owns around 6,000 figures, most of which he designed, cast and painted in his basement workshop. Sweet is just one of approximately 10,000 collectors, a figure vouched for by Jack Scruby of Visalia, Calif., a military-miniature manufacturer who also serves as a kind of information center for this breed of hobbyist. "Collectors are divided into three major categories," Scruby said recently. "There are those who just collect soldiers—some of the more famous ones are Churchill, Eisenhower, the writer James Jones, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and King Farouk. Then there are those who get their kicks out of making their own figures, usually in plaster-of-paris molds, casting them in lead and painting them—or who just like to paint the unpainted figures I make and sell. Finally, there are those who play war games with them. Some collectors have really tremendous armies. Leon Chodnicki of Baltimore has more than 40,000 figures, and Gus Hansen of Chicago has at least that many also."

There's a LOT more. Seriously. We excerpted part of page 1. It's 4 pages. Go read.

By: Brant

"Soft Power" - UK Number 1?

Monocle has released their annual "Soft Power" list, and the UK has unseated the US at the top of the list.

Britain has occupied the primary position in the yearly ‘Global Soft Power’ survey, conducted by the Monocle magazine. As per Monocle, Britain occupied the first spot for the first time in the ‘Global Soft Power’ survey due to the grand triumph of the London Olympics, the likability of the latest James Bond film and the international reach of the British media.

The positioning of Britain at the top in Monocle’s ‘Global Soft Power’ survey has been interpreted by the British media as an indication that Britain has the capacity to convince other national governments to do its bidding, without resorting to unmanned drones and semi-automatics.

In the Monocle survey, Britain’s occupation of the first spot has resulted in the US being demoted to the second position. The US has traditionally been perceived as a nation that has had ample ‘soft power’ through its Hollywood, its TV serials, the various clothing brands, its eateries, its beverages, its academic institutions overseas, its musical scene, etc.

the rest of the list?

Germany, France, Sweden and Japan occupied the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th positions respectively.

You need a subscription to read the entire article, but here's the link to it.

By: Brant

Anniversary: The Gettysburg Address

Today marks the anniversary of the delivery of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Was there a battle in US history that was more important to the history of the country? By: Brant

16 November 2012

Cybersecurity - Now a Taliban Problem, too!

I guess if you're going to fail, fail big!

Somewhere out there, Mullah Omar must be shaking his head.

In a Dilbert-esque faux pax, a Taliban spokesperson sent out a routine email last week with one notable difference.He publicly CC'd the names of everyone on his mailing list.

The names were disclosed in an email by Qari Yousuf Ahmedi, an official Taliban spokesperson, on Saturday. The email was a press release he received from the account of Zabihullah Mujahid, another Taliban spokesperson. Ahmedi then forwarded Mujahid's email to the full Taliban mailing list, but rather than using the BCC function, or blind carbon copy which keeps email addresses private, Ahmedi made the addresses public.

"Taliban have included all 4 of my email addresses on the leaked distribution list," tweeted journalist Mustafa Kazemi, a prolific Kabul-based tweeter with more than 9,500 followers. "Quite reassuring to my safety."

The list, made up of more than 400 recipients, consists mostly of journalists, but also includes an address appearing to belong to a provincial governor, an Afghan legislator, several academics and activists, an l Afghan consultative committee, and a representative of Gulbuddein Hekmatar, an Afghan warlord whose outlawed group Hezb-i-Islami is believed to be behind several attacks against coalition troops.

The Taliban routinely send out press releases to their mailing list, often claiming responsibility for attacks against Afghan and coalition targets. They are known for exaggerating casualty figures.

By: Brant

Video: Firefight on Hero-Cam

Here's a firefight as captured by the machine-gunners helmet-cam By: Brant

15 November 2012

War Crimes, Syria, Israel, and Indiscriminate Rocket Fire

Note from Brant:  Rex Brynen has kindly allowed us to repost his excellent summary of 'war crimes' that he originally had up over at Facebook.  He also recommended this link for many of legalisticisms that people may want to dig into.

At the risk of upsetting just about everyone on all sides of every conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere, some clarity on what is--or is not--technically a "war crime":

1) Attacking a military commander or rocket launching site in a way that results in civilian casualties. Usually not a war crime, if the force use was appropriate to the military advantage gained (a very fuzzy/elastic concept) and the civilians were not deliberately targeted. Whether it is a sensible thing to do is another issue.

2) Imposing an embargo on key economic goods for the purposes of collective punishment of a civilian population. Usually yes. An embargo is permissible for other purposes, however.

3) Declaring a naval blockade, and stopping ships in international waters. Perfectly legal. However, the actual policy being supported by the blockade might be illegal (see #2).

4) Firing inaccurate rockets at civilian areas. Definitely a war crime. If they were accurate rockets fired at a military target it would probably not be a war crime, even if civilians were hit too (proportionality/military advantage).

5) Syrian army firing at FSA in a residential building that also contains civilians. Usually not a war crime (see #1).

6) FSA firing at Syrian troops in a residential building that also contains civilians. Usually not a war crime (see #1).

7) Indiscriminate Syrian aerial or artillery bombardment of rebel-held civilian neighbourhoods. War crime (see #4).

8) Denying Palestinian right to self-determination. Immoral, politically-short sighted, a violation of other aspects of international human rights law, but not a war crime per se.

9) Settlement activity in occupied territories. Yes, a war crime (Rome Statutes, Art 8.2.b.viii)

10) Deliberately using civilians as human shields. Yes, a war crime.

11) Conducting military operations in built-up areas where there are lots of civilians around. No. The difference between this and #10 is hard to discern in practice, of course, since it hinges on intent.

12) Hiding rockets in the basements of houses. Not a war crime. Bombing those houses is also not a war crime. Shooting those rockets is a war crime if they aren't really aimed, or are aimed at a civilian target. It is not a war crime if they are aimed at a military target or a strategic economic target.

13) Deliberately bombing UN facilities. Yes, war crime. Ditto Red Cross facilities, hospitals. Deliberate targeting of religious establishments and cultural institutions is a war crime too--UNLESS those installations have lost their protection by being used for military purposes (like weapons storage or firing positions). In that case bombing them is permitted.

14) Accidentally bombing UN facilities, etc. No, unless one could show some willful disregard for the presence of such facilities.

15) Car bombs and suicide bombers. Depends on the target (and hence proportionality/military advantage). See #4.

In general, international law clearly allows military forces to kill civilians. However, it places limits on that killing: it must not be deliberate, the use of force may not be indiscriminate, and the use of force (and collateral damage caused) must be proportionate to the military advantage gained.

Finally, the extent to which actions are or are not technically "war crimes" is a separate issue from the morality (and legality) of the larger purpose for which military force is employed (although that can get fuzzy if notions of aggression vs legitimate self-defence are introduced).

By: Rex Brynen

14 November 2012

GameTalk - "Alternate COAs"

How much latitude should you grant players to step outside the bounds of history when playing an historical battle?  Should you allow Napoleon to change his organization at Waterloo?  Should you allow the Germans to defend Normandy more vigorously, or retreat from Stalingrad?  Should you allow Lee to avoid Gettysburg altogether?

At what point are you beyond the "history" of an historical game?

By: Brant

Petraeus, Allen, and the Rest

We've been resisting saying much of anything about the Petraeus scandal, as it's moving faster than we can really keep up with. But CNN has described it as a "dizzying saga", and that's about accurate.

The complicated web entangling an ex-CIA director, his mistress, a top military leader and a woman he allegedly flirted with got no less confusing Wednesday, though the U.S. defense secretary insisted facts will emerge.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta defended his request to withhold Marine Gen. John Allen's nomination to become NATO's supreme allied commander, pending an investigation into Allen's communications with a Florida woman.

The move was "a prudent measure until we can determine what the facts are, and we will," Panetta told reporters Wednesday. "No one should leap to any conclusions."

He added that the general "certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces."

According to the Defense Department, Allen is under investigation for what one defense official referred to as "flirtatious" e-mail messages with Jill Kelley -- the woman whose complaints about anonymous, harassing e-mails led to the discovery of CIA Director David Petraeus' affair with a woman later identified as his biographer. Petraeus resigned Friday after acknowledging the affair.

Allen will retain his post as the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, pending Senate confirmation of a successor, according to the Defense Department. That vote is due Thursday, Senate officials said.

Allen has denied wrongdoing, a senior defense official said.

There's a whoooooole lot more at the link.

By: Brant

13 November 2012

Sound Off! Best Military Meal

What's the best meal you've ever had served to you in the military?

By: Brant

12 November 2012

Military Maps: Camp Lemonier

In case you were wondering what the base of most US actions in HOA looks like, here's the sat view of Camp Lemonier, and the aircraft that were on the tarmac that day.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

ECOWAS Approves Intervention in Mali

It will be interesting to see how effective the ECOWAS intervention force is in retaking northern Mali for the Islamists.

West African regional leaders have agreed to deploy 3,300 soldiers to Mali to retake the north from Islamist extremists.

At a summit of Ecowas, the group's chairman said it was ready to use force to "dismantle terrorist and transnational criminal networks".

The soldiers would be provided mainly by Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels took control of the north after Mali's president was overthrown in March.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Outtara told reporters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, that the soldiers could be deployed as soon as the UN approved the military plan.

He said he hoped the Security Council would approve the plan by late November or early December.

By: Brant

Busting Bond: The myths of movie spycraft – CNN Security Clearance - CNN.com Blogs

CNN Security Clearance blog has an entertaining read about "the myths of movie spycraft" in honor of the release of Skyfall, the new Bond flick.

The latest James Bond movie, "Skyfall," delves into some tantalizing personal details about the world's favorite British spy, from formative events in his childhood to an up-close look at his relationship with M, the chief of the super-secret British spy service where Bond works.

The new film offers plenty of the heart-thumping chase scenes one expects from a Bond movie, and it also gives glimpses of Bond's well honed art of spycraft. Which begs the question: How realistic is today's Bond?

And they proceed to run through a handful of 'myths' - in some cases with some amusing revelations.

Bond Myth 1: Spies have super human abilities
Bond Myth 2: Style is a spy's best weapon
Bond Myth 3: It's easier to work alone
Bond Myth 4: Breaking the rules makes you bad
Bond Myth 5: Technology always makes the job easier
Bond Myth 6: Sophisticated drinks and theme songs make you cooler

By: Brant

11 November 2012

Offered Without Comment

By: Brant

Veterans' Day from Doctrine Man

If you're not reading Doctrine Man!! on Facebook, you're missing out. Equal parts amusing, informative, and poignant.

Today, it's poignant.

By: Brant

Mike Royko on Veterans' Day

Mike Royko is a WWII Veteran who was a newspaper columnist for a lot of years. This column has been in circulation for over a decade, but it should be required reading every Veterans' Day.

I just phoned six friends and asked them what they will be doing on Monday.

They all said the same thing: working.

Me, too.

There is something else we share. We are all military veterans.

And there is a third thing we have in common. We are not employees of the federal government, state government, county government, municipal government, the Postal Service, the courts, banks, or S & Ls, and we don’t teach school.

If we did, we would be among the many millions of people who will spend Monday goofing off.

Which is why it is about time Congress revised the ridiculous terms of Veterans Day as a national holiday.

The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor all veterans.

So how does this country honor them?…

…By letting the veterans, the majority of whom work in the private sector, spend the day at their jobs so they can pay taxes that permit millions of non-veterans to get paid for doing nothing.

As my friend Harry put it:

“First I went through basic training. Then infantry school. Then I got on a crowded, stinking troop ship that took 23 days to get from San Francisco to Japan. We went through a storm that had 90 percent of the guys on the ship throwing up for a week.

“Then I rode a beat-up transport plane from Japan to Korea, and it almost went down in the drink. I think the pilot was drunk.

“When I got to Korea, I was lucky. The war ended seven months after I got there, and I didn’t kill anybody and nobody killed me.

“But it was still a miserable experience. Then when my tour was over, I got on another troop ship and it took 21 stinking days to cross the Pacific.

“When I got home on leave, one of the older guys at the neighborhood bar — he was a World War II vet — told me I was a —-head because we didn’t win, we only got a tie.

“So now on Veterans Day I get up in the morning and go down to the office and work.

“You know what my nephew does? He sleeps in. That’s because he works for the state.

“And do you know what he did during the Vietnam War? He ducked the draft by getting a job teaching at an inner-city school.

“Now, is that a raw deal or what?”

Of course that’s a raw deal. So I propose that the members of Congress revise Veterans Day to provide the following:

- All veterans — and only veterans — should have the day off from work. It doesn’t matter if they were combat heroes or stateside clerk-typists.

Anybody who went through basic training and was awakened before dawn by a red-neck drill sergeant who bellowed: “Drop your whatsis and grab your socks and fall out on the road,” is entitled.

- Those veterans who wish to march in parades, make speeches or listen to speeches can do so. But for those who don’t, all local gambling laws should be suspended for the day to permit vets to gather in taverns, pull a couple of tables together and spend the day playing poker, blackjack, craps, drinking and telling lewd lies about lewd experiences with lewd women. All bar prices should be rolled back to enlisted men’s club prices, Officers can pay the going rate, the stiffs.

- All anti-smoking laws will be suspended for Veterans Day. The same hold for all misdemeanor laws pertaining to disorderly conduct, non-felonious brawling, leering, gawking and any other gross and disgusting public behavior that does not harm another individual.

- It will be a treasonable offense for any spouse or live-in girlfriend (or boyfriend, if it applies) to utter the dreaded words: “What time will you be home tonight?”

- Anyone caught posing as a veteran will be required to eat a triple portion of chipped beef on toast, with Spam on the side, and spend the day watching a chaplain present a color-slide presentation on the horrors of VD.

- Regardless of how high his office, no politician who had the opportunity to serve in the military, but didn’t, will be allowed to make a patriotic speech, appear on TV, or poke his nose out of his office for the entire day.

Any politician who defies this ban will be required to spend 12 hours wearing headphones and listening to tapes of President Clinton explaining his deferments.

Now, deal the cards and pass the tequila.

- Mike Royko

By: Brant

10 November 2012

Happy Birthday to the US Marine Corps

on 10 November, 1775, Samuel Nicholas founded the USMC.

We all know the Marines have the best damn commercials out there. What's your favorite? Sound off below!

By: Brant

Boy, When Iraq say you're 'corrupt', you've got a problem

The Iraqis backed off a Russian arms deal, claiming - get this! - that the Russians are corrupt. Whoodathunkit?

Iraq has cancelled a $4.2bn (£2.6bn) deal to buy arms from Russia because of concerns about "corruption", an Iraqi government advisor has said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has suspicions about corruption within his own team, his spokesman told the BBC.

The purchase - said to include attack helicopters and missiles - was only signed off in October.

Iraq has been rebuilding its armed forces since the end of US-led combat operations against insurgents.

One Russian military expert has suggested the that Iraqi authorities scuppered the Russian arms deal under pressure from Washington.
Russian arms deals?  Corrupt?  In other late-breaking news, gravity continues to hold people to the planet.

By: Brant

09 November 2012

NEWS: Petraeus Resigns

CNN is reporting the resignation of GEN Petraeus as the head of the CIA. It is supposedly connected to an extra-marital affair, and not part of the continuing delusional right-wing fantasy that everyone wanted to parachute into Benghazi guns-a-blazing and was told to "sit and spin" by the Prez.

CIA Director David Petraeus submitted his resignation Friday to President Barack Obama, citing person reasons, a U.S. government source said.

According to the source, Petraeus admitted to having an extramarital affair when he asked to resign.

A retired U.S. Army general who served as the top U.S. commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Petraeus was sworn in as the head of the CIA in September 2011.

By: Brant

Assad as the new "Baghdad Bob"?

Apparently Assad thinks that there is no civil war in Syria.

Syria's president said in an interview broadcast Friday that his country is not in a state of civil war, and that he has no regrets about any decisions he has made since the uprising against him began nearly 20 months ago.
Instead of civil war, Assad said, Syria is facing "terrorism through proxies," referring to foreign backing of the rebellion against his regime.
In a sign of relentless ferocity of the conflict, a surge of more than 5,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey overnight to flee violence, a Turkish official at the government's crisis management center said Friday. The new exodus raises to 120,000 the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

In al fairness, it is a pretty uncivil war right now.

But hey, any chance to revive the memory of the Iraqi Information Minister must be seized!

By: Brant

07 November 2012

GameTalk - Area / Square / Hex / Point-to-Point

What are the inherent strengths or weaknesses of the different types of map movement paradigms?

By: Brant

06 November 2012

Sound Off! Political Changes

With the US election going on, it makes us stop to think - what's the one political change that can/should be imposed on the US military?

You thoughts below

By: Brant

02 November 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Kick-Ass Sale Edition

Cult of Mac has a bundle deal going right now that would greatly interest Mac gamers. For $30, you get

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ($40)
Civilization V ($50)
Company of Heroes: Complete ($30)
Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy ($55)
And Yet It Moves ($10)
LIMBO ($10)

That's a helluva lot of gaming goodness for the cost of a nice meal out.

By: Brant

East Coast Stoms

I was talking with Longblade (from GrogHeads) yesterday about the storm.  We pretty much agreed that there are going to be two completely different lessons that people are going to take from the storm.

One group of people are going to say "Holy crap! There's no way the current government capabilities can handle something like this.  I need to improve my preparations to take care of myself in case this ever happens again."

The other group of people are going to say "Holy crap! There's no way the current government capabilities can handle something like this.  We need to increase the government's capabilities and give them more control."

And while there's probably some truth to both of those statements, you can probably guess where I come down on this one.

By: Brant

01 November 2012

BULLETS! - Analyze

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Analyze the info before broadcasting it. The first question needs to be "so what?" After that, then figure out what to do with the data. Where does it fit into the picture of the battlefield? Once it's relevancy and validity has been established, send it down the tube to those who need to know.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant