Saturday, August 29, 2009

Irregular Warfare Simulations: More Like SimCity than War Games?

This is the last time I will bore you with an article on Training and Simulation Journal TSJ, I promise. At least for this month. :)

The TSJ article in question is "Future imperfect: U.S. Army struggles to model irregular warfare scenarios."

In a nutshell, the article says that fighting irregular wars in extremely difficult and that simulating them is a nightmare. A tremendous effort is in place and the results are mixed. The article features one simulation in development, UrbanSim, that looks very promising.

The buzzword du jour in the article was "human terrain", a conceptual space where the interactions between troops, the civilian population and the insurgents take place. Navigating through this "human terrain" is quite challenging and the commander of a regular force has to deal with the approval ratings, informants, information operations, infrastructure, etc. The strenght of the expression "human terrain" in irregular warfare makes it equivalent to the geographical terrain that is so important to use tactically in regular warfare.

I've seen this "human terrain" expression before in the book "Urban Warfare in Iraq 2003-2006". In a chapter entitled "People: the key terrain", this book presents the tricks of the trade on how the US Army has dealt with the "human terrain" in Iraq.

This book is not written as a conventional book, but rather reads as very detailed notes from a PowerPoint presentation. Nonetheless, the amount of information presented is huge. Recommended for those servicemen being deployed.

A simulation model the "human terrain" in irregular warfare will have to model societies, infrastructures and military forces. Sociology, urban planning and military science mixed all in one simulation.

The TSJ article mentions that the US Army is looking for some sort of predictive value on a future simulation of irregular warfare. Given the incipient state of the field of computational sociology, the goal of a simulation of irregular warfare with predictive value sounds too ambitious. A model of the penetration of armor-piercing ammunition is relatively easy to formulate, but a model of how a neighborhood will react to a new checkpoint in their main street is a totally different story.

A computer model with great predictive value would be great, but why not starting with formulating a framework with cheaper, less precise models of societies.

SimCity maybe? :)


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