The 49th state suffered a nuke strike in a recent Pentagon computer simulation in which members of the press role-played the president, secretary of defense and various key military officials. The exercise is reported in chilling detail by reporter Sam Bishop of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Of course, you can't buy this strategic war game in any store. The simulation is clearly being used by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency to build support - and funding - for its program. Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) is a key backer of the agency and its simulation, which uses video-game technology to promote the missile defense system.
Retired Admiral David Frost, now a consultant, told Bishop, "Our objective here is simply to increase the understanding of how the system operates... we're on the verge of making some degree of operational readiness of new capabilities, really powerful new capabilities, and that's why we're doing this now."
The war game presentation centered on the additional strategic options presented by a missile defense program.
"Congress spent a lot of money on missile defense so far, and part of its value, maybe even the largest part of its value, is its deterrence value," Frost said. "We hope to make it clear to other countries that it's sort of pointless to attack us."
Not everyone is convinced.
"Any president that relied on this missile defense system for national security decisions is relying on a chimera, on a mirage," John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World told Bishop. "Any simulation like this is based on fantasy as opposed to reality... The exercise is a phony exercise, no better than a computer game."
GP: Whaaaa? We like computer games...
In the game, Midland, a fictitious nation clearly representing North Korea launches a nuclear attack. Role-players sat at cubicles decorated in accordance with their character in the game. A Patriot missile bunker in South Korea, for example, was draped in camoulage netting. Each player was equipped with a large-screen computer monitor displaying a scalable world map as well as a set of headphones linking them to other players. As the game began, red flickers representing North Korean missiles appeared onscreen, headed for impact zones in South Korea and Japan. All but one were intercepted by Patriot batteries.
A second attack wave launched long-range missiles at Los Angeles, Hawaii, Alaska, and several U.S. military targets. A shortage of interceptor missiles and some strategic mis-communication resulted in one of the Korean nukes detonating at Shemya Island in the Aleutians.
Funding for the missile defense system is likely to provoke sharp debate in upcoming budget hearings.
GP: Not a video game story, per se, but the use of game technology for a such a high-level military and political purpose is fascinating. By the way, John Isaacs, the outspoken critic, mentioned that a few years ago the Missile Defense Agency distributed a coloring book to promote its program. Missile Defense coloring books? We'll be looking for those on Ebay.