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Wednesday, 7 January 2009
London Times Article Link
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

Posted by markherman at 8:56 PM EST
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Sunday, 4 January 2009
What's the End Game?
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

Hamas continues to prove that anarchists cannot run a government. It is clear that Hamas' agenda of destroying Israel dominates any concerns about the Palestinians it governs. They purposely make their people targets of Israeli bombs, so they can use the subsequent destruction and deaths as further justification for their agenda. There are reports that Hamas has used the situation to assassinate opponents as they lay helpless in hospital beds. The sad truth is Hamas doesn't care to govern, just sacrifice the Gazan people on the altar of their agenda. What is worse, it is working, if the naive protests across the globe are any indication of popular sentiment. 


On the other hand, I cannot believe that the Israelis seriously wargamed this situation out. As outrageous as the rocket attacks were, it is beyond me to imagine how this offensive is going to do anything but legitimize Hamas. Air strikes usually achieve the majority of their objectives in the first 48-72 hours. Once you have knocked down or destroyed all of the fixed infrastructure (e.g., buildings, tunnels, ammo caches) you reach an impasse that forces you to stop or escalate. Which is exactly where the Israelis have found themselves. Fanatics never surrender, that is why they are called fanatics. Since the Israeli military knew this, the ground invasion was always going to be a component of this offensive.


Now that the Israeli Army is on the ground in Gaza there is almost no way that innocent civilians will not be killed in significant numbers. If nothing else, Hamas will make sure that this occurs by operating their forces amongst the population. As more Gazans die, the more radical the future generations of Palestinians become. So, it begs the question, what is the Israeli end game?


This was a situation where the Israeli's needed to take the missile fire and bring regional actors to the table to cut off Hamas' funding and ability to smuggle in weapons. There is no way that the new longer range rockets that Hamas is firing into Israel got there without the knowledge of Egypt, Iran, and probably all of the other Arab countries. The road to stopping Hamas begins in Tehran and Cairo. Unfortunately Israel was entering an election cycle and felt compelled to take more direct action. The end result of failure is Israel is now going to become more radical as nothing else has worked. It remains to be seen where this all ends, but if the actors in this drama do not start to consider what the end game looks like, the innocents suffer and peace will remain very elusive.


However, stay tuned, as the Gaza situation may not remain the crisis du jour. the Indo-Pakistani situation is not fully resolved despite some hopeful signs tempered by Pakistani troop movements. Hard to say how that situation will develop, but the new administration needs to start looking beyond the next crisis with a long term set of initiatives that lead to a positive end game for the Middle East and SW Asia.

Posted by markherman at 10:56 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 5 January 2009 12:19 AM EST
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Sunday, 21 December 2008
The Culture of War
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

Since the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) what occurs during a period of continuous conflict is a culture of war becomes generationally entrenched. All one has to do is look at Afghanistan, Kasmir, Somalia, Sudan (Darfur), Zimbabwe, Congo, and Sri Lanka, to name just a few and you see the next generation of children becoming warriors as they do not know any other way. 


The children soldiers of today are the fuel that turns a war into an intergenerational way of life. In the end the world is faced with how to wean these children off of the only way of life they have ever known.


The UN and the World at large is going to have their hands full not only ending the strife, but then demobilizing the minds of millions of children from repeating the mistakes of their elders. This is a multi-generational, multi-disiplinary problem that is going to take a worldwide megacommunity to solve. Hopefully we can begin the process by ending some of the longer standing conflicts and then attempting to deal with the peace that is often harder to win than the war it resolved.

Posted by markherman at 4:42 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 12:25 AM EST
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Sunday, 7 December 2008
Day of Infamy
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders


Today is not only December 7th, but its also a Sunday. If it was 67 years ago, the war would have begun around 1PM EST, so just like others in Washington that fateful day, I woke up, drank some coffee and began reading the morning papers. At that moment the Japanese carriers were NW of Oahu preparing to deliver what they thought would be a killing blow to Americas warfighting capability. I have explored this topic in two commercial wargames (Pacific War and Empire of the Sun, the latter is available for free at: and I continue to study the decision process that brought Japan to attack Pearl Harbor this day 67 years ago.


The reality of war is it is always an uncertain affair and ending a war is much harder than starting one. Since the industrial age all sides pay a high price in war. The Japanese truly believed that they could prevail in a war against the United States and their allies, but their end game thinking was at best heroic in its assumptions and at worse delusional. The lesson is assumptions that are not put to rigorous analysis are often flawed and lead to very poor decisions.


When I think of the Allied alliance in World War II I am struck by how little is written or discussed about the nature of alliances. One  should remember that alliances have traditionally been mechanisms that take small wars and make them big wars, something that our new leadership should take into account as they re-examine our current theory on expanding NATO. Alliances also have more often than not lowered the barrier to war  and reduced security. The reason is it enables less significant alliance members to make emboldened decisions that impact the collective. These two themes have played themselves out since the Peloponnesian War. The lessons of history are pretty clear on these two points.


So on this December 7th, Sunday morning, I would like to remember the suffering of the brave men and women, from all sides who died on this day and those that came after it. May they rest in peace...

Posted by markherman at 10:11 AM EST
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Thursday, 4 December 2008
Pakistan and the lessons of Sarajevo, 1914
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

How many crises can one government handle? Pakistan has effectively lost control of half of its territory, and whether guilty of the Mumbai massacre or not its citizens stand accused of the atrocity. Add to the mix a wobbly government and perceptions that it is not in control of its security service and one can easily imagine it will take just one more push before the house of Jinnah collapses.


What are the possibilities? Some spectacular Taliban victory in the territories or the military losses faith in the  Zardari government if it loses face with the Indians over Mumbai. Clearly it is in Americas interest to bring calm to these troubled waters, but the Indian government is about to enter an election cycle. As we just saw in our recent election, tempers and frustration can spill over very quickly. The Indian government has been damaged by the Mumbai massacre and will need to act and talk tough. Pakistan is being contrite, but as I read about the Indian governments demand for the arrest of 19 wanted men I was reminded of Sarajevo.


During the summer of 1914 the Archduke of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by Serbian terrorist supported by the security service of Serbia. The subsequent investigation and Austrian ultimatum demanded that Serbia hand over the guilty and permit intrusive oversight of the investigation or face war. Without rehashing all of the details the result was World War I.


How the Pakistan government handles the Indian demand within the context of history and the current unstable situation has all the factors present that I have seen in wargames where discontinuity lurks around the corner. Both countries are nuclear armed, under pressure, and it will not take much for things to reach a tipping point.  Hopefully saner minds will prevail.

Posted by markherman at 7:24 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 4 December 2008 7:32 PM EST
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Saturday, 29 November 2008
Technorati Code Requirement
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

<a href="" rel="me">Technorati Profile</a>


This is some kind of web requirement for making this blog searchable.



Posted by markherman at 10:07 AM EST
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Thursday, 27 November 2008
Global Warming and National Security
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

Alfred Thayer Mahan, the famous American naval theorist,  wrote in his 1897 work, "Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future", that the opening of the Panama Canal would change the geography of commerce and cause foreign naval forces to follow. The lesson of history is geographic changes have national security impacts.


In my 54 years the geography of the planet has remained more or less static. All significant land masses and the waterways they dominate were owned and written into international law. There remain a few geographic lacunae, but for the most part all nations know who owns what.


Regardless of whether you do or do not subscribe to global warming, the reality is the North Polar ice is melting at a prodigious rate. Estimates vary, but most agree that at some point in the next decade or so, we will see year round open water in a new Northwest passage. What is also true is in an energy conscious world, commerce will use this shorter route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. 


Another feature of year round open water in the Arctic is access to what some estimate to be as high as 25% of the worlds natural gas and oil resources. Add into this mix the fact that international borders in this region are not fixed just makes the situation more, not less chaotic. If this was not enough, fueled in part by the potential resource opportunities, Greenland is moving to become an independent nation from Denmark.


The good news is this situation is not sneaking up on us, but at some point sooner than later, things are going to become very interesting. In some recent internal wargames we have begun looking at the situation and the future will belong to those who pay attention now and not later. Based on these wargames the Russians are in the best geographic and infrastructure position to exploit the situation. More interesting is a United States trying to play catch up could create the conditions for a mini- cold war (pun intended). Stay tuned...

Posted by markherman at 12:16 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 27 November 2008 12:22 PM EST
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Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Corporate Evolution
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

One of the things that I have seen across a wide range of corporate wargames in different industries are the firm's that dominate a market for long periods of time do so by continually attacking their current market share with a more innovative product that displaces their current products. In essence they realize that all products eventually lose to a competing product, so they might as well be the ones to win that competition by displacing themselves. Basically a corporation evolves or it dies, much like the Dinosaurs (think big and slow) who eventually lost to the early mammals (think smart and agile). Mammals have so far kept their market share by continuing to evolve.


So, if one were to look at the software market and hypothesize that it were dominated by a Dinosaur, could they see the seeds of their eventual displacement. If their products were unforgiving and difficult to use and if the new versions were not substantively different than their predecessor all that it would take is for a mammal to come along. The mammal might start by capturing niche markets where the Dinosaur was disadvantaged; ones where ease of use, low user IT knowledge, and innovation were valued above other characteristics. The Dinosaur would not have much to fear initially as the niche markets were small, although willing to pay a premium. 


But this is where corporate evolution raises its ugly head, something changes in the environment. The mammal is better adapted to survive, while the dinosaur struggles. New technology that creates new personal devices enter the fray The mammal links their business model to  capture this adjacent, but potentially more lucrative market. If the Dinosaur misses the moment to rapidly adapt and innovate with a new business model they may have written their own epitaph. The combined leverage of the new devices and the niche infrastructure create market momentum. Like the historical animals, the Dinosaur may survive for quite some time, but corporate evolution has already written the answer. 


There are many ways corporations decide to move forward, but many of the solutions to today's problems are not intuitive, but counter-intuitive. As firms look to thread their way forward through uncertain economic times, it will be the wargames, not the spreadsheets that will show the way.

Posted by markherman at 5:41 PM EST
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Friday, 7 November 2008
It took a day...
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

Russia's President Medvedev took less than 24 hours (see post below, number 2) to show his hand. Besides setting up a change in their laws that would permit Putin, his likely successor, to have successive 6 year vice 4 year terms, he laid out their response to a US deployment of Missile Defense systems to Poland and Czech. The response is to position some unspecified number of Iskander mobile SRBMs to Kaliningrad. For those who are not familiar with missiles and missile defense, SRBMs can be launched at various trajectories. If they are close they can use a suppressed trajectory, which would give a missile defense system little time and less opportunity to intercept an attack, not to mention shooting sufficient numbers to overwhelm a sparse deployment. To use a chess metaphor, this proposed SRBM deployment is Zugswang.


Zugswang puts your opponent in a position that no matter what they do they hurt their position, usually leading to checkmate. The United States either uses this situation to alter or cancel the missile defense deployment embarrassing our Allies (Poland and Czech) and diminishing our stature or we continue on with the deployment escalating the situation further.


Hopefully all of these moves and countermoves were considered before we went down this path. If not, it would have been easy to wargame and sort through. Clearly this situation has got a ways to go before it is resolved.

Posted by markherman at 8:46 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 7 November 2008 9:05 AM EST
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Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Election Day...
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

At long last its time to vote and end another Presidential election. Whoever wins is going to have their hands full. The list of things that are going wrong or could go wrong is truly heroic in proportion these days. If history is any guide, the next crisis is not even on the radar screen. The next crisis will probably fall into one of four categories.

 1. Current foreign problem gets worse: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iranian nuclear test (or we figure it out and pre-empt capability)...


2. Another significant foreign crisis: Russia stoking nationalism to deflect opinion from its economic issues, Pakistan government falls, Egyptian government falls...


3. Economy slides into a depression or does not respond to overt government measures to get things back on track...


4.  Domestic crisis: Al Qaeda pulls off a significant attack or another poorly handled natural disaster


With a list like this, I wonder why the two candidates want the job. Regardless, if the government does not systematically sit down and think the problems through vice just reacting, I suspect we are going to have some interesting times ahead... good luck to whoever wins...

Posted by markherman at 10:01 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 4 November 2008 4:48 PM EST
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