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[] WPO 06.08.02 (Arkin): Meet Country X,

Meet Country X
An Innovative Pentagon War Game Fine Tunes a U.S. Attack on Iraq

By William M. Arkin
Special to
Tuesday, August 6, 2002; 7:42 AM

Since July 24, the U.S. military has been playing a $235 million wargame 
named Millennium Challenge 02 (MC 02), one that Secretary of Defense Donald 
Rumsfeld blandly says "will test the forces and equipment that will help us 
judge and define both near-term and future capabilities."

The scenario for Millennium Challenge is classified. All military spokesmen 
will say is that the scenario includes an earthquake in Country X followed 
by chaos and a military coup and the taking of some islands in a mythical 
part of the world where most of the oil lifelines exist.

What country is Country X?, Brig. Gen. James Smith, the direct wargame 
supervisor and Deputy Commander of the military's Joint Warfighting Center 
in Suffolk, Virginia, was asked at a May 22 press conference.

"Country X. It's not relevant. And it's classified," he answered.

Well it is relevant. Country X is Iraq. While war planning for a Desert 
Storm II plays out bizarrely in the news media, MC 02's insight into 
state-of-the-art thinking in the Pentagon demolishes predictions of a 
conventional war in which U.S. armor forces drive up the middle of Iraq to 

MC 02 isn't an imaginary exercise.

"We have taken real targets -- about 14,500 -- targets from Country X," 
says General Smith. "We are using real data points, from a real country."

"We have developed about a thousand electronic target folders."

Smith says that the United States has developed a "very in-depth look at 
each of these nodes, both military, economic, information and political."

MC 02, an experiment in size and complexity that has never before been 
attempted by the U.S. military, takes place across the country over 
computer networks, linking together military headquarters and simulated 
troop, air and sea units, synchronized with 13,500 actual military 
personnel fighting their way through a challenging scenario for war. 
According to internal briefing documents obtained by, 
the western United States training and testing ranges in the Nevada desert, 
southern California, and extending to San Nicolas and San Clemente Islands 
off the coast are a thinly veiled overlay of southern Iraq.

For almost a month, until August 15, U.S. gamers and live participants will 
battle 20 plus Iraqi divisions mobilized around towns and villages. Iraq 
(also sometimes called Country Red in the exercise) has weapons of mass 
destruction and advanced military equipment in the war game.

"We are seeing a much more adaptive and asymmetric approach to try to find 
way's to mitigate our strengths," a "threat development" officer who worked 
on the MC 02 scenario says. "Strategically, they [the enemy forces] are out 
to not lose quickly. They will adapt, cover and conceal, strike in small 
numbers, disperse -- this is how people are going to fight United States."

The threat for MC 02 has been in the works for over two years, the officer 
says, and there was much gnashing of teeth after September 11 when MC 02 
planners got together to decide how the exercise would have to be modified. 
One concern, a participant in the discussions says, was that real world 
events in Afghanistan and other locations would outpace experiment results. 
Planners argued that the exercise needed to take into consideration 
homeland security, the war and its drain on equipment and personnel, the 
worldwide engagement of special operations and covert forces, all of which 
significant influences the type and size of the force that would be 
available for an Iraq war. In the end, while the overall scenario was kept, 
it was refocused to include strikes against terrorists and supporting regimes.

MC 02's overall theme, Rumsfeld and other military officials say, is to 
demonstrate the capability to conduct "rapid decisive operations" in the 
year 2007. Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO's) sound so impressive, as if 
previous goal in warfare was to be slow and inconclusive. In RDO, though, 
the U.S. commander has at his disposal (and under his control) a much wider 
range of government resources -- diplomatic, economic, covert -- and the 
power to employ the most appropriate of those forces, not always military 
force, to achieve a desired political or military outcome rather than a 
level of destruction or "attrition" of the enemy. That is what the military 
today calls effects-based (that is, "results driven") actions.

"When you're bringing all elements of national power to bear on a problem, 
it includes the economic, the political, the diplomatic, various types of 
sanctions, intelligence from all sources, as well as military power," 
Rumsfeld said in visiting the MC 02 command center in Virginia.

General William "Buck" Kernan, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command and 
Gen. Smith's boss, says that "The possible types of attacks to not only the 
United States but to our coalition partners no longer allow us to react 
solely with military power."

The RDO dreamers say that in theory Millennium Challenge may prove that an 
operation can be successfully carried out without a shot being fired. 
Whether such a proposition is proven or provable will not be substantiated 
in the exercise. But given the high visibility of MC 02 and the dominant 
position of RDO's and effect-based thinking in the Rumsfeld Pentagon, it is 
especially surprising that conventional scenarios for a massive ground war 
with Iraq have much support at all at this point.

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