Projection of Force and War

It has been a while since my last post and I am refusing to go back to my ‘normal’ mode of life where there is a lack of thought and reflection. So here are somethings I have been reading on.

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In any expeditionary campaign, the ability to project effective force to accomplish operational objectives, in order to fulfill strategic goals, showcases the reach of a global power. Genghis Khan did it with his marauders. His objectives were not to rule, conquer nor occupy. He may have thoughts of a great empire, but the Mongolians’ nomadic way of life does not allow him to crave out an empire outside his immediate families and trusted subordinates. Napoleon reached  out with his combined military might and his empire stretched across Europe. This is, until he overstretched into Russia and the insurgencies in Spain sapped his strength just before his death. The United Kingdom, in Pax Britannia ruled over its empire of colonies with its navy as well as the Englishman’s ability to subject his colonies with an acceptable rule.

How fares the latest empire now, the United States? A most benign superpower the world has ever seen. Its enormous capability to industrialize itself during the two World Wars and technological advances enabled the US to project its forces to most parts of the world. However, is this force effective? Numerous examples from the Vietnam War, Iraq War and the current Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism operations has shown that the US has mixed results in influencing the targeted region and its people. They may have neutralized the armed forces, but the people of the region may not have been brought to heel.

The trend on insurgencies, asymmetric warfare and “hybrid wars” is not a new one. No matter what the operations has been called, conventional or counter-insurgency, war is war. War is the continuation of politics by other means. It is to force your will upon the adversary. War is not won until one side gives up. Unlike chess where the capture of the opponent’s king signals a victory and all pieces of the game are displayed clearly, war does not have an end otherwise defined by the players. Combatants of war are also not clearly demarcated as to which side they are in.

It becomes necessary for the military commander to understand the political and social objectives of his own own in order to determine the goals at which his forces and actions may be directed. He must also understand the adversary. To know the context in which the order side operates in, in order to force a situation in which his opponent deems his goals unachievable or too costly to be accomplished. Only then, can the commander of a force fulfill the national interests and deny his adversary his.

Gaming System

After playing (too much) computer games, I am beginning to realize what type of games do I like. Generally, I like playing with games what challenges me without being too helpless, with stories that bond me with the characters in the plot and an interface that allows me to do what I want without too many steps.

Having watch a video on storytelling, I realize that any game, presentation or even lesson, has to have three component. Firstly, as Doug Stevenson puts it, the emotions of the player, audience or students must be engaged. The story must activate their imagination. Masterful games like Ultima IV triggers our wonderings without breath taking graphics because of the stories of the characters inside. Characters such as Lord Britannia, Iolo the Bard and Dupre the Paladin engages us with the stories they tell and when they die on the screen, we mourn with them… The story must flow from one chapter to another. In a presentation, we are not just telling them the facts and figures, it is about telling them a story about them or about us and how it affects their future. We connect them to what we telling them emotionally.

Secondly, content follow connection. The system of the game, content of the presentation or facts of the lesson must be pitched correctly to the audience. A game cannot be too hard yet remain challenging. A presentation must be targeted at the audience to make sense to them. Lessons must be taught at the level of the students so that they learn. Variety is the spice of life. Not just that, variety brings interests to the story. I don’t always remember the details of a story, but I will always remember a plot twist. In a game, presentation or lesson, flexibility is also the key. The player must be allowed to be creative with the ways to solve the game. Likewise, a presenter must be flexible to use the local context and situation to bring the idea across. Finally a teacher must be flexible sufficiently to engage the students’ questions and weave them into the lesson.

Finally, form matters. As a hygienic factor, form should not get into the way of the emotion bonding nor the fascinating. Ask any gamers about why they give up some games after a few tries. Some may tell you it’s too boring or too hard or easy. Some will tell you that some games concepts are great and the story is fantastic, but the controls are simply too hard too follow. To complete certain actions, if the player has to go through a seven step process, they will soon ask for a shortcut. Similarly, in a presentation, once you have your audience jumping through mental loops too many times in order to understand your concepts, you have lost them. Finally, as all teachers know, put the workings of a problem clearly so that your students can understand the steps and so that, during an exam, they will get full marks for it too…