Wednesday, August 29, 2007

GEORGE W. BUSH'S FINAL STROKE: Simulating war with Iran

Today, DD returns to the topic of war with Iran.

When the Washington Post editorial page thunders that "we" ought to fight back against the alleged depradations of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard -- "a radical state within Iran's Islamic state ... waging war against the United States and trying to kill as many American soldiers as possibleā€ -- one senses Washington in the process of working the polity with propaganda and cant prior to another preemptive strike on a weaker country.

The Post wrote it was "puzzling" European diplomats and others disapproved of attacking Iran. It should have added that many, many American citizens don't want war with Iran but it is common thought the administration of George W. Bush is inclined to start one, a conflict which will not be seriously opposed by a supine Congress and welcomed by the current foreign policy establishment.

So this blog returns to gaming national death rides -- like war with Iran.

Having thought about the exercise for a bit and realizing it would be possible to take such an exercise out of context, we turned to Point of Attack 2, a simulation of the mechanics of weapons and military standard-operation-procedures designed for the United States Air Force and now sold as an obscure computer wargame.

I've written of Point of Attack 2 recently here. It was reviewed in the context of it having been programmed to game every aspect of the weaponry (even theoretical) in modern combat. One of its Outer Limits simulations, straight from the box, is the use of incapacitating rayguns to battle al Qaeda terrorists. This has generated a number of curious and sometimes unreadable technical reports including one Air Force Ph.D. thesis opaquely entitled "Theory of Effectiveness Measurement."

Point of Attack 2 is not a game for commoners. To duplicate the series of scenarios DD has planned to illustrate various aspects of Bush administration policy in action, readers will have to buy it on-line. And then they will have to come to grips with a complicated software simulation of war, one that is not fun in the normal sense of any computer game purchased at BestBuy.

Point of Attack 2 is not a game, like those once described in the most fatuous quote ever written on wargame simulations, useful for training and inspiring "dedicated young men and women, their weapons merged into an information network that enables them to cut out with surgical precision the cancer that threatens us all -- heat-packing humanitarians who leave the innocent unscathed, and full of renewed hope. In their wake, democracy ... and an Arab world restored to full flower ... defended on all fronts by the best of the digital generation."

Point of Attack 2 was seemingly designed to abstractly show the brutal mechanics of weapons systems. It has no flashy graphics and little sound. It turns out spread sheets and tables of detailed statistics which show the outcome of battle, kill by kill. It is utterly ruthless in execution.

DD does not think it likely general readers will be interested in running down such matters. Translated: There's little incentive to make mischief with results from the game.

The first scenario in this intermittent exercise is entitled "George W. Bush's Final Stroke."

It is a company-sized action against a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, set up somewhere in the failed state of Iraq, where it is alleged by the Pentagon in daily news to be training Shiite militias and guerilla fighters to gun down Americans. (Or one can think of it as an action near the Iraqi-Iranian frontier.)

As a setpiece attack, it takes place in terrain which favors the defense, in this case a training camp set up between an abandoned airfield and a small town.

The US force is a Stryker company with on-call artillery and air support, tasked with destroying a Revolutionary Guard and insurgent base of operations.

Those who have Point of Attack 2 and choose to game the Final Stroke scenario from the archive on this page will need the "Coastal Airfield" optional map the game's developers make available at HPS.

In any case, those familiar with Point of Attack 2 know the game is best played when allowed to primarily run itself. With the objective established, AI routines will take the player most of the way toward a conclusion.

Play-tested several times, the US force always achieves a decisive victory but not without cost. The enemy has been set to defend fanatically and is well-equipped with weapons for defeating light and medium armor. As a result, even when the adversary has been crushed as an effective fighting force, remnants continue to fire from cover until the end of the game. In terms of national reputation, it's a disaster waiting to happen, showing that despite the application of overwhelming firepower the enemy fights until the last man.

A spreadsheet of one standard game's results are included in the scenario archive.

The browser may notice that the body count indicates the US Army destoyed slightly over 100 percent of the opposing force. This is standard for the game which enforces a rigid and very realistic fog-of-war. In this, it's quite possible for the player, as the commander relying on situation reports, to believe that more of the enemy has been killed than actually has. The runover is either imaginary or in the civilian population.


In this snapshot from a sample run of the game, the US is set to "minor attack" which cuts down on civilian casualties at the expense of the fighting man. Points awarded for "Weapons systems destroyed" do not equate to death counts in the game. Derivation of casualties requires a review of the battle log and comparison with game spreadsheets on personnel kills.


In this game run, all constraints are removed from the attacking force, resulting in more civilian death. The margin of victory is still the same order of magnitude, rising from 4:1 to 6:1.

George W. Bush's Final Stroke for Point of Attack 2. Archive in ZIP format. Point of Attack 2 users can unload the scenario into their "Saved Games" subdirectory of their POA2 installation.

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