Being in DC has its joys and its drawbacks. But one thing that can’t be beat is the location – giving you access to everything DC has to offer as well as everything available in NY and Boston as well. I try to take advantage of that – and this weekend was a very good example of what being in the Korbel in DC program can afford a person.
I recently returned from Boston where I attended SIMULEX 2010 – a 2-day political-military simulation held by the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
You can read more about the actual details of the simulation here, so I’ll use this post to describe my impressions of the experience.
1. Attending SIMULEX 2010 was without a doubt one of the coolest things I’ve done in two years of graduate school. This kind of crisis-based real time simulation is critical to understanding how decision makers arrive at the choices they do. Until this experience I wasn’t fully cognizant of the incredible speed and quantity of information – media, intelligence and more, which forces those in power to make decisions very, very quickly. And perhaps more importantly – how the flow of this information is managed.
2. I was on and eventually headed the military team for NATO/EU. Which by itself was a problem because NATO and the EU aren’t the same organization. They parallel one another in many ways but in others they’re very different – namely the exclusion of Turkey, which is NATO’s second-biggest standing army, from political decisions taken in the EU. Without taking a position on the accession process of Turkey to the EU I can tell you that this quandary caused problems in the quick decision making necessary to meet the challenges posed by the crisis we faced at this year’s SIMULEX.
3. I’ve participated in other simulation at Korbel but this was without a doubt the most well-run and complex simulation any of the top-20 graduate schools in international relations run. SIMULEX is legendary because it has constantly evolved and because of the caliber of professionals who participate along with students. There were representatives from CIA, NSC, ODNI, NATO, every branch of the US and many European military orgs and many other institutions at the simulation. My team was composed primarily of fellow graduate students from Fletcher as well as a PhD student from Stanford and myself.
4. Running a successful simulation requires the use of software to enable smooth communication between the different teams as well as control. This is far more difficult than it looks – you’ve got numerous teams taking actions, issuing statements, requesting conferences (face-to-face and virtual) and messaging one another – all at the same time. In addition Control has to make decisions as to the actions of players (in order to keep the scenarios realistic teams can’t make wildly out-of-character moves – such as China using a nuclear weapon on Russia within the first round of play). Tufts uses some very cool software from the University of Maryland to manage this process.
The two-day process was extremely valuable in many ways. I feel like that one experience really helped me to be a better decision maker as well as a better, more focused student. I highly recommend that any students in the Korbel in DC program next year take advantage of SIMULEX – you won’t regret it.