by Thomas B. Allen ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 8, 1987
An exactingly documented, commendably measured briefing that raises disturbing questions about the games geopolitical and military strategists play far from the bloody realities of battle. Allen traces war gaming (a term currently eschewed by the clandestine trade's practitioners, who prefer simulation and/or modeling) back to the post-WW I era when the. Naval War College began plotting campaigns against America's probable enemies. With the assistance of private-sector think tanks, all branches of the armed forces and several Federal agencies (including the State Department) now engage in what-if exercises whose versimilitude has been greatly enhanced by high-speed computers. Without denying the frequently valuable contributions gamesters can make to national security, the conduct of foreign policy, and crisis management, Allen strongly suggests the scenarios acted out in the bowels of the Pentagon or other venues involve considerable risk. One major peril, he shows, is that the mathematical formulas used in programming yield outcomes that are spuriously definitive--and all too credible not only to a younger, video arcade generation of officers but also to their civilian as well as military commanders. In the workaday world, alas, solutions to global and brushfire problems are seldom clear-cut, much less quantifiable. In this context, the author offers a bitter, possibly apocryphal, anecdote that recounts how Nixon Administration officials who used official data to query a Defense Department computer on the Vietnam outlook shortly after taking office were informed the war had been won in 1964. For Allen, though, the principal issue is whether institutionalized faith in gaming will lead to a Strangelovian system that could automatically trigger a nuclear Armageddon from which military commanders (and their demonstrably more belligerent civilian superiors) would flinch. About as complete and coherent a report as it's probably possible to get on war gaming, a largely unprobed aspect of US defense policy. The engrossing text incorporates illustrative maps and graphic material.
Pub Date: June 8, 1987
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1987
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