Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gaming's contribution to the new maritime strategy

The Navy released its new maritime strategy in October 2007, and gaming played a critical role in the development process. Writing in the Spring 2008 issue of the Naval War College Review, Robert Rubel explained how (the article begins on page 69 of the magazine, page 75 of the .pdf file).

Here are some key paragraphs:
From the outset, this project would not simply derive from existing strategic guidance, such as the National Security Strategy or the National Defense Strategy. This may seem somehow subversive to those who are used to military planning processes in which guidance from higher headquarters is regarded as holy writ. However, consider our situation—the project was undertaken at the end of the Bush administration and our requirement was to look ahead twenty years. We could not responsibly make the assumption that current U.S. security strategy would remain in place, and there was no adequate way to predict the direction of the next administration’s policies. Our solution was to postulate four different potential strategy vectors of a future administration, which resulted in having four U.S. teams in a strategic war game we conducted. The first team represented a “Primacy” strategy, in which the United States would attempt to maintain its near-hegemonic status in the world. The second team adopted a “Selective Engagement” posture, in which the United States would focus its efforts on averting conflict among major powers. The third team played a “Cooperative Security” strategy, in which the nation committed itself to seeking security through multilateralism and international institutions. The fourth team represented an “Offshore Balancing” strategy, in which the United States retracted certain security guarantees and caused major powers to balance each other.

. . . .

The Strategic Foundations Game took about six weeks to play and involved the four U.S. teams, one for each potential policy future, and five “strategic entities,” countries and nonstate groups selected for detailed play. Teams were directed to develop grand strategies for the next twenty years that would maximize their security, aspirations, and interests. Non-U.S. teams were not required to demonstrate hostility to the United States unless that made sense in terms of their grand strategies. This represented a departure from normal gaming, in which worst-case scenarios are the rule. In the open adjudication sessions in which each team proclaimed its strategy, a compelling central thread emerged. Each state had an intrinsic interest in the effective functioning of the global system of trade, even such “rogue” actors as Iran and North Korea. Only al-Qa‘ida and associated groups had endemic hostility to the system. This insight produced the “big idea” that the protection of the existing global system of trade and security (as opposed to the process of globalization) provided both the context for the new strategy and the intellectual glue that tied together all regions of the world. Thus the notion of system security and defense figures prominently in the maritime strategy document, both “up front,” in its introduction, and in the description of the maritime strategic concept. This could not have been more important—even, in its way, more revolutionary. It provided a basis for not only a maritime strategy but a national grand strategy not aimed against a particular country or threat but positive, without being aggressive. The strategic concept upon which the maritime strategy is based—defense of the global system of commerce and security—offers the opportunity for future administrations to adopt a clearly articulated grand strategic defensive posture,with all the political advantages that brings. As a defensive strategy, it makes global maritime cooperation much easier to attain.

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