From: Washington D.C.
I love me the Northern/Mediterranean/Indian/Carribean Fury scenarios but the situation where the Soviets and their allies somehow get complete strategic surprise against NATO across the globe is a stretch, in my mind.
I agree. That's part of why I avoid making scenarios involving the transition to hostilities because in a certain sense they're sort of uninteresting, by the time things have escalated to war, it's unlikely that both sides are completely clueless about what's going on, and their rules of engagement would probably reflect that. As a result, a complete surprise attack is unlikely. At the point that hostilities begin, both sides probably have an idea that the war could start at any moment, it's just a matter of when they say, "go." In that sense you're unlikely to achieve more than tactical surprise in the contemporary era. Operational is difficult at best and strategic surprise is downright miraculous to achieve. Surely during Desert Shield, Saddam Hussein had a good sense that the allies were going to begin their offense soon. He might not know exactly when, but I'm sure he had a good sense of the build up and its progress.
I also suspect it's really hard to actually capture the things which drive the transition to hostilities in Command. I've never spoken to anyone who has participated in warfare at that level, and I haven't done it myself, but I can't help but suspect it's actually a very complicated time right before the Generals and Admirals say, "go." As last minute diplomatic interventions by everyone from neutral governments, to Dennis Rodman are going on, for the military side, everyone is ready to go, with conventional forces in their assembly areas, aircraft lined up on the flight line, warships, submarines and bombers are approaching their missile launch baskets, SOF have probably already infiltrated days before, and are hiding, waiting to execute their missions. Meanwhile, the politicians who get the last word, must be under tremendous pressure. On their Command, thousands of people will risk death, and deal death. I don't envy them. I'm surprised they don't back down more often. It's a horrible responsibility.
Once they say, "go," though, I'm unsure how the tactics would be different during the transition to hostilities versus afterwards. It might just be a matter of the offensive force having tactical surprise, but not if the ROE are written smartly. At the onset of hostilities, both sides are at their strongest, though, because they haven't expended their best and most expensive weapons, and neither side has lost anything. In that sense, I guess it's the most intense part of a war. Then as both forces suffer attrition, it becomes harder and harder for both sides to mass enough resources to conduct an offensive against each other, or else defend against the other. That's when the pace begins to slow, I guess.