End-State Wargaming?

By Ash, Eric | Aerospace Power Journal, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

End-State Wargaming?


Ash, Eric, Aerospace Power Journal


LEADING OFF THIS issue, Congressman Ike Skelton advocates studying history to better prepare for the reality of the future. Complementing this theme, Matt Caffrey provides an interest ing perspective with his piece on the history of wargaming. Just as we should not limit our study of military history to certain conflicts, in the mix of wargaming and history, so should we be careful not to wargame just the wars we would prefer to fight-rather than the ones we get. Effective military leaders will be students of both military history and wargaming.

Studying military history reveals that our ability to terminate wars militarily exceeds our ability to end them politically. Interestingly, we also terminate wargames militarily better than we end them politically. The interesting mix of military history and wargaming is important to the profession of arms. Each affects the other, but in a sense they exist in orthogonal planes. War is hardly a game, and wargaming certainly is not war. Hopefully, military history reflects past reality, but wargaming reflects potential reality-- in the future or the past. Wargaming can also influence future reality and, consequently, military history.

Military history is full of painful insight about the end states of war. For example, due in part to the Versailles Diktat following World War I, that conflict certainly was not the "war to end all wars." The aftermath of World War II was also enigmatic, leading to the cold war and Korea, among other problems. The Korean conflict clearly has not yet left us. The denouement of Vietnam was hardly spectacular. We are still heavily engaged with no-fly zones in Southwest Asia-as Maj Brent Talbot and Lt Jeffrey Hicks remind us in their article. And Europe is still haunted by the Balkans nightmare, despite world wars and air campaigns like the recent one over Kosovo-analyzed in Lt Col Paul Strickland's piece on Operation Allied Force. Military leaders are well aware of war's end-state dilemmas; yet, despite much focus on desired end states, historical reality reflects many undesired outcomes. …

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