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Strategic Crisis Simulations: Where soldiers defect, ISIS gains, and presidents die

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George Washington University

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Strategic Crisis Simulations: Where soldiers defect, ISIS gains, and presidents die

An insight into an innovative student org

11.14.17

A refugee camp mistakenly targeted by U.S. air force assets and razed to the ground. An attempted coup of the Politburo, threatening violent upheaval of China’s entire political system. Refugees from camps take up arms to join Al-Qaeda terrorists. North Korea coming terrifyingly close to reducing Japanese islands into nuclear ash.

A sort of testing site for geopolitical and strategic crises, SCS essentially hosts gargantuan roleplaying games which deal with the rich complexity of real-world issues from the Yemeni war to the East China Sea standoff.

We, at George Washington University, would absolutely lose it if such political apocalypses actually unfolded in the world at large. Fortunately, the mechanics of these disasters were conducted in safe, laboratory conditions through the one-of-a-kind Strategic Crisis Simulations (SCS) student organization on campus. A sort of testing site for geopolitical and strategic crises, SCS essentially hosts gargantuan roleplaying games which deal with the rich complexity of real-world issues from the Yemeni war to the East China Sea standoff. On-site mentors during day-long simulations, from the likes of Rand Corporation and the Department of Defense’s Center for Applied Strategic Learning, provide guidance to over 100 participants in fulfilling strategic, diplomatic, and humanitarian objectives.

In simulations, participants work in teams and represent government offices to command and order around political assets, engaging with a storyline.

The crisis backroom responds to the commands of these participants (sent via email) through a series of “injects,” or basically story updates that explain what happened after the order was issued. Plotlines, prewritten by the backroom, are followed as the simulation goes on that challenge the participants. Perhaps the USAID office couldn’t deploy an aid convoy to stranded civilians because new rounds of explosions made access to critical locations impossible. Maybe the convoy was properly deployed, but a nearby area suddenly saw thousands more die from disease or hunger. How about participants in the other room, representing the Department of Defense, mistakenly seizing the convoy under suspicion that it was smuggling arms?

As the headaches within simulations reflect the real and nightmarish bureaucracy of government action, with information and operations between U.S. agencies siloed from one another, participants are forced to cope with stressful crises as a team. These events aren’t just made for security and international affairs junkies; developing teamwork skills, critical thinking, crisis management, creativity, patience, and sheer wit are tried as the chaos of the simulation unfolds. Anybody and everybody learns a lot. It’s plenty of fun to overcome such gargantuan difficulties too. No wonder these games have been ranked between seven to ten out of ten by 90 percent of participants.

SCS has been able to reach out to 20 percent of GW’s undergraduate population...

SCS’s recent large simulations on November 4th and September 16th (the East China Sea and Yemeni War, respectively) have been the club’s most successful to date. Director of Simulations Daniel Matsumoto remarks that the club’s simulations are run consistently with high quality, throwing enough challenges to participants that make the event both fun and both enriching. SCS has been able to reach out to 20 percent of GW’s undergraduate population, which Matsumoto explains is indicative of its influence on campus culture. Sharing it palpably exciting and contagious energy of sheer creative eagerness, SCS will continue to put ideas and people to the test at GW.

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You can read more about Strategic Crisis Simulations on this website, and follow them on Facebook.