Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Circle the Wagons!- A Priceless Wargaming Moment

The debate between military theorists arguing over the pros and cons of attrition vs. maneuver warfare is endless. Arguments between pundits can go as far as to labeling each style of war-fighting as just pure evil.

Some more moderate thinkers always refrained from such vicious critiques. Richard Simpkin and Robert Leonhard, even when advocating maneuver warfare, had always recognized that attrition and maneuver warfare are two sides of the same coin (i.e. There is no such thing as pure maneuver or pure attrition warfare). In his book "The Changing Face of War", van Creveld explains that armies from countries with plenty of resources had always tended to favor attrition warfare because they can always take the less risky approach of out-gunning the enemy (the US Army for example). He also argues that fighting forces with less resources or in more perilous situations tended to favor the more riskier maneuver warfare style (the German Army in WWII, the IDF, the US Marines, etc.). In van Creveld's point of view, there is no intrinsic vice or virtue in adopting either attrition or maneuver warfare. After all if a commander has the resources to wipe out the enemy's position without risking life and limb, what's the point on trying anything else? Conversely, if the enemy has more and bigger guns, there is no point on trying a mano a mano with him.

Being just a civilian, I read the books or articles and do my best to try to understand the subject. I have this character flaw of always being aching for the innovative theory, the approach that breaks the mold, the out of the box thinking. As such, I sort of internally embraced the maneuverist approach. I just couldn't help it.

Then CMSF came. I played it to death. With the CMSF battlefield being as lethal as it is, I quickly learned to use the superior firepower of the US forces to my advantage. I wouldn't move a single infantry squad without absolute fire superiority. I couldn't find anything wrong with attrition warfare. It just worked.

Then the Marines module came. I fire up the "Circle the Wagons!" scenario (by GeorgeMc): two platoons of AAV US Marines must defend a couple of M1 tanks stuck in the muddy streets of a village. Played it once, played it twice. Still playing it without any progress. The AAVs are like tin cans with a big cannon on top, even the nimblest of the RPGs destroys them. Forget about the AAVs providing fire support. Not enough Javelins, not enough anything. I find myself taking risks I buried in my bag of tricks when I was commanding US Army troops. There is no room for attrition with my virtual Marines.

There, in front of my computer monitor, I have gamed full circle trough two opposing schools of thought. I haven't discovered anything, nor did anything important for the world. But it felt like a million bucks.

Dozens of books on military history/theory: $636.60
CMSF plus Marines module: $60.00
An experience on the vices and virtues of maneuver and attrition warfare: Priceless

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