Perhaps it was the “fog of simulation.” But the scariest aspect of a U.S.-Iran war game staged this week was the way each side miscalculated the other’s responses — and moved toward war even as the players thought they were choosing restrained options.
The Iran exercise was organized by Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. It included former top U.S. officials as Washington policymakers, and prominent Iranian American experts playing Tehran’s hand. I was allowed to observe, on the condition that I wouldn’t name the participants.
War simulation is nothing new for think tanks. Back in June, Brookings, along with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Institute of War Study held a one-day crisis simulation titled "Unraveling the Syria Mess: A Crisis Simulation from the Syrian Civil War." Some in Turkey apparently were quite alarmed by that simulation.The bottom line: The game showed how easy it was for each side to misread the other’s signals. And these players were separated by a mere corridor in a Washington think tank, rather than half a world away.
Also, cyber war games were recently held between the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).