At the staggering cost of some $250 million, the U.S. armed forces hosted war games in July and August of 2002 to road-test a new theory of war. The idea, as one analyst put it, was not to crush the enemy's "war-fighting capability" but to go after his "war-making capability." Defense whiz kids had decided that since any potential foe's military is connected to its economic system, which is tied in turn to the local culture, it would be possible to understand the links between all of those systems and effectively paralyze a country by severing them.

To test this theory, the Joint Forces of Command enlisted the services of a retired marine, Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper. Van Riper was to play the part of a "rogue military commander who had broken away from his government somewhere in the Persian Gulf and was threatening to engulf the entire region in war." The U.S. army was called in to neutralize this threat before things got really bad. Van Riper's forces were named the Red Team, while the good guys were saddled with the Blue Team label.

On the first day of the game, Blue Team flooded the zone. They poured tens of thousands of troops into the region and stationed an entire aircraft carrier group "just offshore of Red Team's home country." They issued an eight-point ultimatum to the mad general (the gist of which was, roughly, surrender now, you stone-age has-been) and then started to sever the links that they believed were vital for Van Riper to conduct a war. They blew up microwave towers and destroyed fiber optic lines, leaving him without means of fast, secure communication with his troops.

And then Van Riper embarrassed them. He used motorcycle couriers and codes hidden in prayers to send and receive information. To land and ...

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