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Time to Play: Pentagon Turns to War Games to 'Beat Russia and China'

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Board games are not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when one considers the Pentagon's priorities, yet the US Department of Defense is taking a closer look at war-gaming in a bid to counter Russia and China, Michael Peck wrote for the National Interest.

"What games and war have in common – and what makes war-gaming so valuable – is that they are a competition of wits in which the participants use every last bit of cunning to beat their opponent," he said.

Peck's logic is the following: "Mathematical models may be fine for estimating how many F-35s or aircraft carriers America needs. However, a conflict in the South China Sea or eastern Europe will be instigated by humans and waged by humans, and therefore should be gamed by humans too."

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This initiative, championed by US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, is part of the Third Offset Strategy. The Third Offset focuses on developing innovative capabilities to counterbalance a potential opponent.

War-gaming, according to Peck, is meant to offer insights into what the US Armed Forces might need to be able to win the wars of the future and what these conflicts would look like. This is particularly valuable at a time when developing and manufacturing next-generation military hardware costs billions.

"What the Pentagon wants is analytical war games to explore how conflicts might be waged, what weapons an adversary might unleash and what technology the United States needs," Peck explained.

Defense war-gaming, he added, is about "telling us what we don't want to hear, so that we can be better prepared for when real life doesn’t turn out the way we expect. We ignore those lessons at our peril."

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