Friday, July 24, 2015

Hertog Summer Study: Turn 1

I'm out in not-so-sunny California on what is called the Hertog Summer Study. The program is run by John Hopkins University and this years focus is on China as a strategic actor. My boss nominated me earlier in the year (thank you sir!) and after writing an essay and sending in a package, I was picked to attend.

After enduring a terrible red-eye flight to arrive on Sunday, I sat through lectures on Monday and Tuesday to get all the participants up to the same understanding. The Chinese military lectures were old hat for me, but Chinese economics was more eye-opening. But the point of the seminar wasn't to receive briefs. Instead, we were going to play an online simulation, called Hegemon: Rise of China, to simulate what would happen in a South China Sea dispute.

Hegemon is designed as a game to get policy makers to understand the military consequences of a war. Military actions are written at the strategic level, so there is a lot of detail of military action that is auto-generated. The negotiations are done person to person, with different people playing different parts. On Tuesday we got our team assignments, and I was picked to play Indonesia. How about that! Unfortunately, because there are two different games ongoing, I have to play an Indonesian A and B team. That requires a bit more brainpower to keep everything straight, but I'm up for the challenge.

When we finally got our KMZ file (the game is played on Google Earth), the world looked like this.

So first, my country is pink. Luckily, I'm manly enough to take that. However, I really don't have any units. Because the game designers made the game at the strategic level, I don't have a lot of units. A few Hawks that can shoot missiles, some Special Forces units and some Marine units. No navy units to move. On top of that, there is an insurgency going on in Papua!

In case you want to know what a Hawk looks like. Image courtesy of
All the little colored blips are reclaimed territory in the South China Sea. The Philippines isn't any better off than me. In fact, they are worse off since I actually have air power.
Taiwan, China, Japan and forward deployed US forces. The game designers took out Korea so that the focus of the game was the South China Sea and Taiwan. Apparently last year it somehow wound up with the US dropping a nuclear weapon on South Korea!
The northern border. I forget that Russian eastern theater can play a spoiler in many ways. The game designers took out any western (European) units. They also removed India, and we have no one playing Thailand, Laos, Myanmar or Bangladesh.
The satellite view is above. Sharing intelligence and satellite pictures is a negotiable thing.

Indonesia is a swing country. I'm smack in the middle of all the potential fighting without a lot of military. I'll have to negotiate my way to victory, lest I get bowled over by the US or China.