Tag Archives: Politics

Intern the terrorist sympathisers now?

Over the last 48 hours I’ve seen a lot of people calling for us to just intern the terrorist sympathisers now. The knee jerk reaction followed the Manchester bombing and repeated after Saturday night’s drive by stabbings at London Bridge. The feeling was that if the security services knew who these people were they should just arrest and intern them now.

When to Intern?

British internment camp for Jewish refugees, H...
British internment camp for Jewish refugees, Huyton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The UK last resorted to internment in 1971 in Northern Ireland. It backfired spectacularly. We’ve apparently considered it a couple of times since then, for example in 1990 we considered interning Iraqis in the UK after Kuwait was invaded. We’ve also considered it a few more times since then. There are probably some situations where internment is a good idea.

  • With a well defined group to intern
  • Where there is popular support for the process
  • Where there is the capacity to sort those that we need to intern from those that are benign
  • Where we can safely contain all those that pose a threat in as short a time as possible

Who to Intern

English: An internment Bonfire in Carnlough,Co...
English: An internment Bonfire in Carnlough,County Antrim.The flags on the bonfire include the union jack,ulster and orange order flags and also UVF and YCV paramilitary flags at the top. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The major problem with interning Irish Republicans in NI in the early 1970s was that we didn’t have a reliable list. We asked the NI government to tell us who to intern. They were part of the problem, and they gave us a list of people involved in protests. The handful of actual IRA people on it were tipped off by sympathisers and escaped the round up. The fact that the community knew we’d botched it made it easy for the IRA to recruit because the Catholic community? could see we were acting against them.

This might not happen if we used people on watch lists for good reasons. However we’d need to double check them all before moving to arrests. We’d also need to guard against grudge denunciations. The last thing we’d want is to help the terrorists recruit. Getting this right is a very had problem, and one that officials are wary of.

Political Support to Intern

Right now this is probably easy. The media have coverws suggestions that we intern terrorist suspects positively?, and there are recent incidents of terrorism that back these up.

Where this gets harder is in ensuring that safeguards for our freedom as a country are maintained. Magna Carta is a fundamental principle of our Constitution. No-one should be detained without trial, and acting to intern suspected terrorists cuts against this. It has been fiercely debated? in Parliament several times in the last fifteen years. 

Currently we can hold terrorist suspects for up to 14 days without charge, and make temporary orders to restrict their freedom (TPIMs). The TPIM orders are house arrest, and we’ve currently got six people affected by them. That’s about 1% of the publicly admitted watch list (there are apparently 500 people being actively watched). 

Even if Parliamentary approval was given for a more interventionist approach we still need to decide the process for internment.  What standard of evidence will we apply to deciding what constitutes grounds to intern someone? Clearly this needs to be less than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. If we could meet that then we could charge them with conspiracy and other offences and put them on trial. We do this for a couple of hundred people each year, about 60% get convicted. 

There are two other standards in play, there’s reasonable suspicion (probable cause to Americans) and the balance of probabilities. The trouble with the former is that it will throw up a lot of false positives. The latter needs us to have more information, and brings the opposite risk of false negatives. It’s a hard problem, but presumably soluble in the same way the security services currently make tricky decisions about resource allocation. 

Capacity to Intern

If we can work out who to intern, and get buy-in, how do we go about it? For a start we’d probably want to look at the lessons from Operation Demetrius, and probably also operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Rounding up suspects is labour intensive. You don’t just send a couple of coppers out with a van and a list of addresses. There’s an intelligence operation to find and fix the suspects. This needs to be followed up with as many simultaneous? raids as possible. Each of those raids needs 10-20 police or soldiers to conduct. They’ll need to secure the area and then a small team will need to effect entry and secure the suspect. Given the terrorist angle they need to be prepared for some suspects to be armed, so they all need to overmatch anything suspects might have. 

If we decided to intern all 500 of those being actively watched then we’d need about 7,500 police and army to deal with it. There would also be a need for additional investigation staff to directly interview and prepare cases against those that were arrested. 

Once word gets out there will be a backlash. Some suspects will get away. Some relatives or friends of those arrested will protest. Others might even join in. 1971 saw rioting and shootings in the wake of the arrests. Any actual terrorists that escape will no doubt launch attacks. The recent attacks have mostly been low resource, knives and vehicles, so any competent adult could launch one on a few minutes notice. 

Where do we intern

Even if we find them all, where do we put them? The best place is in a prison where they can be segregated prior to being interviewed and decisions being made about their release or continued detention. One of the lessons from Demetrius was that putting together potential sympathisers with actual terrorists helps them to recruit. So you’d want to avoid that. That means a period of isolation from other internees until they’re graded either for charge, release or extended detention. 

That said, UK prisons seem to have capacity issues. So who would you release early to make space? 

CLWG Games Weekend 2007 Reports

Some reports from the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG) games weekend.

Siege of Yendor Tryout

Jim put on a session to try out the mechanisms for the upcoming megagame. We spent some time trying to bring down a section of wall, and also seeing whether or not it was possible to directly assault the wall without first undermining or demolishing it.

Jim’s Breeding Idea

This was a design session rather than a game, but we gave it a good go none the less. Jim had come away from the Light of the Trees megagame with an idea that it ought to be possible to do a sub-component of a game about breeding heroes using some real genetics theory. The main aim was that, like in real life, the players managing the breeding programme wouldn’t actually know what the actual genetic make up of their characters were. Over time those players that were keeping an eye on things and using the evidence that they were accumulating would be able to make some educated guesses about the best pairings that would drive their breeding programme in the direction that they wanted to take.

We all started off with a single individual each, although without worrying about whether that individual was male or female (as this was thought to over-complicate things). The idea was to work with a bloodline rather than a series of individuals, although each generation would be split into separate individuals representing the main lines. This was felt to be necessary to allow the breeders an opportunity to selectively breed those with the correct traits with individuals from the other bloodlines.

The fact that we rapidly bogged down was fairly predictable as we tried to track several individuals. There was a fair amount of mechanical detail involved in generating the offspring as well as the players not having enough information to make good decisions about which individuals to breed with which others. There would have been a better handle on it if we’d played out a bit more of the game before moving into a general discussion of the issues, approach and suggestions of how it could all be achieved.

As a design session it was very thought provoking, and I carried on thinking about it for almost a whole week, on and off. Jim’s conclusion from the session was that it probably wasn’t practically possible to achieve what he set out to do. At the time I would have agreed with him, but a few days of thought have changed my mind on that.

I come to this with more than a smattering of background, I studied “Genes, Organisms & Evolution” as an undergraduate, the course forming a major part of my degree. That said I’ve forgotten most of the detail in the intervening 15 years since I graduated. However the text books are still on a bookshelf nearby.

I think that the general premise that Jim was trying to attain is a sound one and that with some streamlining and appropriate background that it can be achieved. The key is to stick with Jim’s bloodline idea and not get drawn into dealing with individuals, except where heroes or other primary characters are required, and these Heroes should have nothing to do with the breeding stock, although their characters will be determined by it.

The key assumption I am working on is that that this is a sub-component of a game that plays over generations rather than a game in itself. As part of the background the designer of the main game needs to make some decisions about how many characteristics need to be tracked, whether these have any inter-relationship or are independent and also how often he wants particular characteristic levels/attributes to feature.

For example let us assume that a game designer wants to track both personal bravery and intelligence in the hero bloodlines. He might decide that these will not be related to each other. For bravery he might decide that there are four possible states, Heroic (no morale required), Brave (positive modifier to morale), Normal (no modifiers) and Cowardly (negative modifiers). Of these outcomes he might want Heroic to be quite rare, Brave to be common but not a majority, Normal to be the majority position and Cowardly to be less common than Brave, but more likely than Heroic.

Taking the assumption that bravery is a hereditary characteristic how does this translate into genetics?

Well you could specify three variants of a bravery gene (alleles are they are known), H, O & C. HH would be the Heroic types, HO the brave, OO and OC the normal and CC & CH the cowards. In these cases the H allele is recessive (so only those with two copies are heroic). The C allele is also recessive, but dominates the H allele. The O allele is dominant over C but not over H.

This takes you into a method of at least allocating a characteristic based on genetics, but it doesn’t address either simplicity of recording it nor of proportions. Not all genes are evenly distributed in the population. Those that confer survival advantages propagate more widely and those that lead to disadvantages rapidly leave the gene pool.

In this case you would expect O & C to be widely distributed, possibly equally. H is likely to be less frequent as though it confers an advantage when hunting it becomes much less advantageous once farming is available, and in fact becomes a positive disadvantage over time. If 10% of the population carried the H gene then 1% (i.e. the proportion with two copies of it) would be heroic. If the O allele was 50% of the population and the C allele the remaining 40% then you would have a distribution as follows:

H (10%)

O (50%)

C (40%)

H (10%)

1 (Heroic)

5 (Brave)

4 (Cowardly)

O (50%)

5 (Brave)

25 (Normal)

20 (Normal)

C (40%)

4 (Cowardly)

20 (Normal)

16 (Cowardly)









Let us also assume that there was a decision to track intelligence as a numeric score also with three alleles generating a score when summed. The alleles being 0, 1, 2. These would be distributed as 10%, 80%, 10% in the general population.

Tracking Bloodlines

The method I thought you would use to track each bloodline is a table with each of the attributes to be tracked down the side and the alleles to be tracked along the top. Each allele would have a score between 0 and 10 to show its relative proportion in the population of the bloodline. An example of this is shown


H (r)


C (r)

Bravery alleles





L (0)

M (1)

H (2)

Intelligence alleles




In each generation the player running the breeding would be given some feedback of their bloodline’s characteristics. In this case they would be told that they were of average intelligence and not especially brave. The breeder player would then make a decision about trying to improve the bloodline either from the general population, another player’s bloodline (with the specific approval of that player) or from within his own bloodline.

The general population bloodline should be determined before the start of the game and remain constant for the duration of the game. Player controlled bloodlines are very likely to change over the course of generations as the genealogists recommend good matches for strengthening the bloodline based on observed characteristics of other bloodlines.

Breeding from the General Population

There is a general assumption that there are other bloodlines that the genealogists are aware of but which are not part of the played groups. These probably represent the minor nobility or some other class that the main bloodline knows but are lower than those represented by player teams. When breeding from these it is assumed that the characteristic which is sought to be improved is always manifested in the individuals that are to be added to the bloodline for breeding purposes.

Using the general bloodline track (see example above) the umpire checks whether the person has one or two copies of the appropriate gene. In the case of characteristics which are recessive then there are always two copies of the gene. (e.g. If you were trying to breed heroes into your bloodline then you would start off with two copies of the H allele to breed in).

For each of the genes recorded (i.e. Bravery and Intelligence in these examples) you would determine which alleles were to be incorporated into the new bloodline. Roll 1d10 for the copy to be imported (except where we have previously determined that recessive characteristics give an exact gene). We’re already getting an H from the hero, we need to roll 1d10 to see which intelligence allele will be passed on. This is most likely to be an M result.

These alleles will then displace one of those in the general bloodline. If a 2 is rolled for the Bravery gene then the new H allele displaces an O allele. Another 2 for Intelligence has the new M allele displace another M allele, so no real change. The new bloodline track looks like the example below.


H (r)


C (r)

Bravery alleles





L (0)

M (1)

H (2)

Intelligence alleles




The feedback to the player would be that the family was of average intelligence and above average bravery, although with a larger number of cowards than one would expect. (There are now 4% heroic, 16% brave, 32% Cowardly). This might prompt an attempt to breed out the cowards, harder than might appear as the C allele is largely recessive.

What this system needs is a proper game to sit within. Ideally one of dynastic succession and involving at least a bit of individual character impact on the outcomes. Sadly that isn’t something on my current project list.

Religion in ‘Hapsburg Ascendant’

Brian started off a discussion of the role of religion in games set in the 17th century, particularly his upcoming megagame. His wish was to get some roleplaying of the religious motivations that were what made the 30 years war happen and to get the players to warp their rational decision making process (if you can describe wargamers as rational) to fit the religious mindset prevalent at the time.

We had a fascinating discussion, aided by Arthur having a stack of relevant textbooks to hand in his classroom. We talked around the issues of not giving perverse incentives and not making it too easy for players to work out how they got advantages from religious behaviour.

The conclusions that we came to were that each of the major sects needed to have its own set of rules, that there ought to be a league table so that there was a visual incentive to act correctly (this being a lesson from the Sengoku megagames) and that once a defined level of behaviour had been reached that there ought to be a direct umpire driven reward for the correct behaviour. The reward needed to be strong enough to show that it was ‘God’s work’ but also not so strong that it caused problems. Also we felt that because ‘god works in mysterious ways’ that the players should not get to determine what might happen if they had their god’s favour.

Orange or Lemon? – Onside Report

This game was intended to show the political goings on in the attempt to get a revolution settlement in Scotland following on from the English parliament’s declaration of Prince William of Orange as their King in February 1689 (new style).

The game we played was a highly entertaining roleplay of some of the issues and certainly gave a good flavour and reached, more or less, the historical outcome. I certainly enjoyed it immensely, and I think the players did too.

I designed the game with almost a board game like level of mechanism for winning the support of the non-played members of the Convention (which is essentially an unofficial Parliament as it had been called by Prince William of Orange and not King James).

Almost none of those mechanisms were tested in the game we played, but it worked as a game anyway – almost a proof of the old saying that you could stick a bunch of CLWG members in a room with some game money and an a game would break out. Instead of money I gave them a map of the Edinburgh High Street and an idea. I’ll leave it to the players to tell you how the game actually went.

In terms of future development I will refine the player briefs (I was still working on these when I started the session and a couple are not yet fully complete). This will improve player understanding of the period and importantly make their personal objectives a bit more tailored from the generic ones of:

  1. Stay alive.

  2. Ensure that the clan/family remains in being and in control of its territory.

  3. Increase your/the clan wealth (either through plunder or by increasing territory).

  4. Increase the influence of Clan Cameron.

  5. Have your King accepted as de facto sovereign.

  6. Ensure that your enemy is diminished.

For the lowlanders you can replace ‘Clan’ with ‘family/heirs’. These do work, but there need to be a couple more triggers to get some of the characters to get stuck into being active. There is also a need to explain the general apathy of the population in their support for the King who has antagonised most of them in the last decade, even before he became the King.

Blitz Firefighting

An end to the weekend with an extended bout of firefighting during the London blitz. This game actually started at the same time as my session and I joined in when we’d finished playing Orange or Lemon? I ended up as one of the LFB professionals sent along to bolster the firefighting force.

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Design Session for "The Lion Comes Home" – Onside report

This CLWG session yesterday was a very loose and rambling affair with myself and three (or perhaps four) others in John Rutherford’s living room.

Despite the great number of digressions I managed to get quite a few useful pointers about structure, level of detail, team composition and, importantly, how much more research I had to do.

With luck the game will appear some time during 1996 for a first showing, but until I’m nearer completion I won’t go as far as putting a date on it. For those potentially interested in playing the probable format is along the lines of:

Start Point – July 1945

The Labour Government has just come to power and the war is continuing against the Japanese. The basic agenda is to

  • get the war ended,
  • demobilise the armed forces,
  • implement their policies to create a welfare state,
  • rebuild Britain,
  • bring order to British occupied areas after the European war,
  • honour commitments to give independence to colonial states and
  • ensure the security of Britain and British interests abroad.

Game turns

Each game turn will represent one year and will last about 30 minutes.

The only mandatory part of the turn will be the setting of the budget for the following turn at the very beginning of the current turn. This will allow for some of the nature of Government Accounting (GA) to show through.

Other events will be conducted as the players feel it necessary – anything missed will be slipped into the next year (or lost completely as appropriate).

Public Opinion

After each event an opinion poll will be conducted and the Government/Opposition ratings given. This should help the Government of the day decide how effective the people think it is and should give an indication to when elections are best held.

Given that the electorate are a fickle lot, and opinion pollsters not necessarily unbiased, the ratings are at best only a general guide to the trend rather than an absolute.

Other feedback will be provided in the form of press cuttings (i.e. as a headline or suitable ‘printbite’ from the editorial). I hope to have a few of these made up before the game and will dish them out as appropriate.

Changes of Government

As our democratic system requires the Government to hold a General Election within at least five years of the last one I expect that there will be at least two elections during the course of the game.

In the event that the Government loses the election then all those holding Ministerial rank will be reshuffled, this may also coincide with the retirement or resignation of senior officials or commissioned officers.



The main decision making team consisting of the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary (FCO) and Secretary of State for War (WO).

War Office (WO)

Responsible for allocation of manpower, spending the Defence budget and protecting Britain and her interests abroad.

The team will have three players each representing one of the forces, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) will have the casting vote and will be responsible for reporting to the Secretary of State.

Foreign & Colonial Office (FCO)

The FCO will co-ordinate all external relations and dealings with colonies. One of the main sources of information about the local conditions and factions, also the key negotiators with colonial governments in the run-up to independence.

All major decisions will have to be referred to Cabinet through the Foreign Secretary.

The team will comprise the Head of the Diplomatic Service, two senior diplomats and one junior minister (the Colonial Office).

Cabinet Office

A small team looking after the Machinery of Government (MOG) and domestic policy issues.

This team will have as members the head of the Home Civil Service, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and the PM’s Private Secretary.


Apart from myself I expect that three other umpires will be required. Two to keep the War Office and FCO busy with information from afar and one other to deal with domestic issues.

I intend that the information provided to the players will come from three distinct sources, from Diplomatic sources (embassies, experts & espionage), military sources (patrols & photo-reconnaissance) and from news media (print and radio).

These sources may not always agree and may have exclusive coverage of certain events – news media may also be prone to disinformation, political bias or censorship.

Things to tell

As the potential for information overload is very high the majority of colonies will be ignored for a variety of reasons, size, strategic importance/unimportance, lack of conflict, timescale for independence et cetera.

The main thrust of the game will concentrate on not more than half a dozen colonies – probably India, Palestine/Israel (a mandate), Kenya, Malaya and one or two other smaller areas where things could have gone wrong.

I intend to produce a compendium of colonies. This will represent the distilled wisdom of the FCO in the form of:

  • a brief history of the colony,
  • its political/religious/tribal factions
  • faction attitudes to the British, independence, the other factions, communism, and the economy.
  • The economic implications of withdrawal
  • an estimated timetable for establishing a stable native government.
  • The relative strategic importance of each colony
  • projected consequences of its loss for the viability of other colonies.

Although the compendium can be relied on absolutely for history it only represents the belief at the time it was prepared for projected future outcomes and attitudes of factions given are those perceived by local diplomats and colonial civil servants.

Cold War Perspectives

At the start of the game the hot war is still in progress. The Americans have developed the Atomic Bomb, but have not yet used it.

As we depart from history before the Bomb is dropped it may not be, or it could be a bit earlier or later. One major point of focus for the latter part of the game (from around the third turn) is relations with the Soviet Union and the Cold War.

Although I intend to fudge history a little to prevent hindsight from being 20/20 the general attitudes of the superpowers will remain as they are.

One of the drivers of the British decolonisation must be to reduce Defence spending whilst maintaining sufficient forces in Europe to fight World War Three. In the race to go home the government must do its utmost to ensure that none of the colonies fall into communist hands.

This should have a major influence on policy and put a brake on the speed of decolonisation.

Also worth considering is the effect that the cold war has on defence spending. Britain will have to consider its independent nuclear deterrent and the method of its delivery to the target. It will also have to consider the type of conventional forces to be deployed. A list of unit types and costs will be given to the War Office and will be updated as new technology becomes available.

Military Operations

A level of commander competence will be assumed for all military operations. All that the War Office/Cabinet will be expected to provide are

  • rules of engagement,
  • directions for operations (e.g. low intensity counter revolutionary warfare, aggressive patrolling, high profile guarding of government & commercial assets),
  • the level of manpower and any extra funds necessary to conduct operations.

Obviously many of these will be dependent upon the funds and total manpower available to the armed forces. Too many conflicts breaking out in the same year will quickly drain the treasury.

Government Accounting (GA)

GA is a very horrible area to deal with. I intend to produce a simple chart for both expenditure and income.

The income chart will show probable yields for a number of taxes at several rates – these may not fit any economic models anyone has ever studied but should give a reasonable indication for the Chancellor to plan his budget.

The expenditure chart will show Public Spending as a series of categories – some controllable and others immutable. For the controllable areas, Defence, Welfare State and Foreign & Colonial spending a chart will give approximate costs of certain activities, programmes and military units.

This should give the three planning teams a chance to tailor their activities to the funds available. It is my intention to have a laptop available to do the number crunching – a bit out of period but rather necessary given the number of factors that can be altered.

Like real GA there will be no requirement to balance the budget, nor to stick with it if it is insufficient. There is also the contingencies fund to play with as well as the ability to take supplementary estimates during the year. The only constraint that will be applied is that the original budget be delivered at the very start of the previous turn.

The first action in turn 1 (1945) will be a post-election budget setting the turn 2 (1946) budget. This introduces a time lag between setting a budget and starting to work with it of one whole turn, not that far from real GA where the budget is set in the Autumn for the following April.


I have deliberately not mentioned any mechanisms for two reasons, the first is that they will remain hidden on the day and the second is that I haven’t yet worked them out well enough to explain.

I do have some very useful ideas which were supplied from the design session and I will happily explain them after the event. It is a bit of a cop-out but then we are not necessarily aware of what drives real political events and I would rather keep those playing much in the dark regarding detail of the opinion polls etc. Anyone with a burning curiosity should talk to me about it quietly and I will explain so long as they promise to umpire.


I am aware that I have rambled a bit about what I hope the game will look like and have in its details and mechanisms. This is because I am typing this immediately from memory and a few incoherent, illegible notes the evening after the session.

All this detail is fresh and if not typed now will doubtless be forgotten, hence the stream of consciousness style of narration. Hopefully by the time of the game it will have coalesced into a more coherent whole and the details will all be readily available for my compendium of colonies.

If all goes smoothly I hope to put the first version on at an all day venue sometime in late Spring/early Summer. The game will require around 20 people to run, of which around three or four will have to be umpires.

If you are interested in playing or umpiring then please let me know and I will try and give you plenty of advance warning of the intended date and your probable role.

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