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Of games II: Unified Quest — more about materiel or morale?

[ by Charles Cameron — some recent game references with seriously playful intent ]


Jihadists and RAND agree. As Omar Hammami puts it:

I believe that these kuffar, despite being from amongst the most misguided of creation, have actually put their finger on something that is extremely beneficial for us to ponder. This important idea that I am referring to here is found in the beginning of the long quote I just read to you all … The authors of this RAND research stated that the ideology of al-Qaida is in reality its center of gravity…

On the US side of things, DangerRoom tells us a report recently requested by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs considers the battle of minds to be pretty important, too:

Ten years of war have given the U.S. military more than its share of frustrations. According to an internal Pentagon study, two of them were as fundamental as they were related: Troops had terrible intelligence about Iraq and Afghanistan, and they told their own stories just as badly.

Those are some preliminary conclusions from an ongoing Pentagon study into the lessons of a decade of combat, authorized by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the multi-tour Iraq veteran and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The study doesn’t single out any sensor or spy platform for criticism. Instead, it finds that U.S. troops didn’t understand the basic realities of society, culture and power structures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and couldn’t explain what they were doing to skeptical populations.

“We were slow to recognize the importance of information and the battle for the narrative in
achieving objectives at all levels,” according to a May 23 draft of the study, which InsideDefense
obtained, “[and] we were often ineffective in applying and aligning the narrative to goals and
desired end states.”


Ideology, thought, aqueedah, narrative, mind, mind, mind. That’s — what can I say — a hugely influential consideration regarding whether the war is won or lost…


So when GEN Robert Crone visited Small Wars Journal ahead of the Unified Quest Army Future Game, I posted a comment quoting Hammami as saying “the war of narratives has become even more important than the war of navies, napalms, and knives” and posed my question:

how will words and narratives – not so much in terms of propaganda and deception but as recruitment lit, as moral suasion, as scripture, and as poetry and song — figure into your game?


How did that go, guys?

I know public relations figured into the game, one of the reports I’ve seen tells me that:

Though the wargame addressed issues ranging from cyberwar to terrorism, from interagency coordination to public relations, central to the scenario was the challenge of deploying US forces to countries where they have not operated before.

But that’s about it — the rest seem to be all about things like seabasing — “putting an entire Army Stryker brigade afloat on ships and then landing them at minor harbors” — and AirSea Battle — “the Air Force and Navy concept for projecting US power overseas in the face of increasingly sophisticated defenses”…

Materiel, not morale…

And besides, this goes far deeper than PR, doesn’t it?

The respective “force multiplying” impacts of martyrdoms and rumors of martyrdoms, of sacrileges and rumors of sacrileges, of bombed out weddings, poetry, ahadith — such things are difficult to assess, aren’t they? And as Klaus Klostermeier observed, “Theology at 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade seems after all, different from theology at 70 degrees Fahrenheit…” — even the weather can make the difference between a few stragglers and an enraged crowd…

So. Take a look at those guys around the table (above).

In game terms: have the game designers figured out an impact ratio for bullets to beliefs yet?

One Response to “Of games II: Unified Quest — more about materiel or morale?”

  1. Michael Robinson Says:

    Different times and different technologies but one thinks back to the approach of  Richard Wellesley, elder brother of the Duke of Wellington, as Governor General of the Bengal Presidency (1798-1805), founding the College of Fort William in 1800, the College’s employment of linguists and scholars to review and prepare dictionaries, grammars  etc. in all the Indian languages and translations of classic texts of all kinds into English.  The Company had begun printing in the Indian languages in type 1781, but was an early user of the new technology of lithography, introducing it to India and running their own lithographic presses at the College by 1820 to ensure the widest possible dissemination for the works of classic literature of the various local languages among the Company administrators both military and civil.

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