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Wargaming to avoid real-world conflict

29 November 2017
Wargaming to avoid real-world conflict

Simulating real events in the context of a wargame provides a vital opportunity for both scholars and practitioners to practise potentially world-changing decision making in a safe-to-fail environment.

Those kinds of lessons stick in your mind much longer than someone lecturing you on how to take a decision.

– Major Tom Mouat

Wargaming helps participants to explore the dynamics of war but with the ultimate goal of helping to avoid real-world conflicts and save lives.

Having an opportunity to practise decision making in a simulated environment means tactics and strategies can be tested and adjusted, unlike real life situations where pressure is high and lives may be at stake.

‘Playing’ out scenarios

The School of Security studies at King’s hosts regular international wargaming conferences, inviting scholars and practitioners to ‘play’ out scenarios without risk of harm. They require imagination and flexibility to respond in new ways to potential conflict. 

‘…it doesn’t matter if you fail. No-one is going to die. Your ego might be bruised a bit, but you learn from that sort of thing. Those kinds of lessons stick in your mind much longer than someone lecturing you on how to take a decision.’ said Major Tom Mouat 

These ‘games’ place King’s at the heart of a growing international endeavour. Its academics contributed to the recently published Handbook on War Gaming, which has a direct influence on government.

King’s led sessions have covered a variety of scenarios, including the North Korean Nuclear Crisis, the China-India border dispute, and the Taiwan Strait Crisis. 

Phillip Sabin, Professor of Strategic Studies, explains that the importance for military officers in having access to wargame opportunities: ‘Wargames are designed to explore the dynamics of crisis and conflict, to save lives….you can have military officers trying out tactics, that may go horribly wrong, but nobody dies.’

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