On June 4, War on the Rocks published an article by Dr. Benjamin Jensen, nonresident senior fellow in the Scowcroft Center’s new Forward Defense practice area, and Marine Corps officer Lt Col Matthew Van Echo, titled: “You Can Teach a Marine Deterrence: Understanding Coercion Requires Changing PME.” The article argues that professional military education and planning exercises are often solely focused on warfighting under fixed circumstances rather than on broader (and more ambiguous) competition and coercion. Developing the military officer of the future will require more innovative approaches to wargaming, which allow students to practice war as an art rather than a science, and which place military campaigns and exercises in their proper geopolitical, geostrategic, and logistical context. Upon reviewing lessons learned from the Agile Competition wargames they implemented at the Marine Corps University’s School of Advanced Warfighting, Jensen and Van Echo advance a solution: exercises can be integrated into a broader series of wargames which sequentially force students to address the competitive environment from both a blue and red perspective, before eventually planning military campaigns within that environment. Moving forward, this type of wargaming would benefit from additional strategic dialogue, more detailed intelligence and deception planning, and additional strategic role-players.
There is a solution: Take the training wheels off and develop a new type of planning exercise that stresses competition and strategic ambiguity.