Chapter9.gif (961 bytes) Wargames at War

Wargaming Abroad

The US Army's abandonment of wargaming had enormous impact on foreign armies. As the most powerful ground force in the West, all of Americas allies tended to follow the US Armys lead in, or rather away from, wargaming. Before World War II, Germany was the leader in wargaming developments, but after World War II, Germany no longer played a leading role in any aspect of military affairs. Thus Americas superpower status and rejection of warmaking after World War II put most wargamimg out of action for thirty years.

Britain was quick to go over to the Operations Research approach, although the British armed forces did maintain a keen interest in historical studies. Britain had been one of the pioneers in Operations Research, so that between the efforts of US and British OR experts, the purely OR approach to wargaming took firm hold in Western military thinking. Most other nations also maintained a respect for historical military studies, but this counted for little as the US generally led way in new military developments.

Russian Wargaming

Russia still maintained a wargaming tradition, but one that was not exactly wargaming and, oddly enough, similar to the US inspired Operations Research approach. As with much of their science and technology, the Russians took wargaming ideas from the West and turned it into something uniquely their own. Put simply, the Russians took the systematic German historical approach to the study of military affairs and the US Operations Research techniques. What resulted  was massive studies of past military actions and the application of Operations Research techniques to these studies to produce predictions of what could be expected in future battles. The Russian work is quite impressive. Their historical research is first rate and they have a firm grasp of Operations Research techniques. Two other Russian habits have hobbled their work. First there is the mania for secrecy. Few Russian researchers have access to the historical military research, or even the source data in the closely guarded archives. Like any other "theoretical" military work, the results had to conform in some way to Marxist-Leninist dogma. This forced the Russian wargamers to recast their results into sometimes erroneous and misleading forms. The result was that, like most Russian science and technology, the theoretical basis of Russian wargaming was excellent, but secrecy and politics prevent doing much useful with it. Russian wargames are quite similar to the spreadsheet based wargames discussed elsewhere in this book. They use operational and operational-strategic models (especially since the mid 70s). They make extensive use of carefully verified and intensively analyzed historical models. The battles of Kalkhin Gol (1939) and Kursk (1943) are favorite campaigns used for study. Russian wargamers who have come up with conclusions that did not reflect "correct thinking" found their careers in danger and their work ignored. Ongoing reforms in Russia have changed this and once Russia does manage to reform its military on a wide scale, their wargaming will emerge from the shadows and make a substantial contribution to our understanding of how warfare works, in the past as well as the future. There are already many changes occurring in Russian wargaming as a result of the fall of communism in 1989. US and Russian wargamers have been meeting and comparing notes since 1990 and we can expect some interesting developments out of that.

  The Payoff, and Warnings

  Wargames and the 1991 Iraq War

  Table of Contents

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