Old news, but new ideas (at least, new to me).
A couple of weeks ago I got around to reading Blink (a thoroughly engaging read) and the discussion of ret. Lt-Gen. Paul Van Riper has stuck with me.
In 2002, he played the Red leader in the most expensive war games ever staged, and apparently managed to out-think and out-fight the Blue team, which was caught up in a web of ideologically-driven minutia.
I’ve since tracked down a couple of related pieces which I would appreciate having critiqued. Please, keep the debate over the actual war to a minimum: this is (I believe) about where the intellectual rubber meets the road (or spins off of it, as the case may be). Maybe it’s better to say it seems to be about institutional conditions in the planning for war, rather than the current conduct of the war. Either way, I’m sure that there’s a lot to be learned about being too tied into a particular program, the difficulties of thinking (and responding) outside the box: both of which are politically significant.
I have a number of questions, but being ignorant of a large number of factors, I’m not even sure how to pose the questions (nevermind what they should be). I am acutely interested in what others think/ know/ see in this.
If you’ve read Blink, that’s a great place to start. The articles I’ve been reading in addition to that are this PBS piece Interview: Paul Van Viper, At the breaking point, By Robert Schlesinger(access requires membership or not paying attention to a commercial. It’s too long so I’ll not post it.), and Army Times
Background highlights from a London Guardian article:
[quote=“London Guardian”]At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.
What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America’s defence establishment and raised questions over the US military’s readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator’s part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.
In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise and unorthodox tactics, the wily 64-year-old Vietnam veteran sank most of the US expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the US assault to a halt.
What happened next will be familiar to anyone who ever played soldiers in the playground. Faced with an abrupt and embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated military exercise in US history, the Pentagon top brass simply pretended the whole thing had not happened. They ordered their dead troops back to life and “refloated” the sunken fleet. Then they instructed the enemy forces to look the other way as their marines performed amphibious landings. Eventually, Van Riper got so fed up with all this cheating that he refused to play any more. Instead, he sat on the sidelines making abrasive remarks until the three-week war game - grandiosely entitled Millennium Challenge - staggered to a star-spangled conclusion on August 15, with a US “victory”.
If the Pentagon thought it could keep its mishap quiet, it underestimated Van Riper. A classic marine - straight-talking and fearless, with a purple heart from Vietnam to prove it - his retirement means he no longer has to put up with the bureaucratic niceties of the defence department. So he blew the whistle.
His driving concern, he tells the Guardian, is that when the real fighting starts, American troops will be sent into battle with a set of half-baked tactics that have not been put to the test.
“Nothing was learned from this,” he says. “A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future.” The exercise, he says, was rigged almost from the outset. [/quote]