Summary of Patterson School of Diplomacy Simulation 2010

When Israel starts dropping bombs on Iranian nuclear sites, you don’t want it to be your first rodeo.

The Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky on Feb. 25-26 held a 22-hour simulation of an international crisis that began with just such a hypothetical as part of its graduate program.

“We did the simulation to help students learn to react under pressure with limited information and asymmetric information,” Asst. Prof. Robert Farley said.

About 39 Patterson School students and five faculty members worked as part of the simulation, with 5-6- member student teams representing the United States, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United Nations.

(Representations of the decisions and actions made by the students as reported by University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications students are contained on this site, meant to simulate a “CNN-style” media group, and at www.gulfnewspattsim.wordpress.com, on a site modeled after Al Jazeera.)

Previous Patterson School simulations have modeled a Somali pirate crisis, a coup in Belarus, a hostage crisis in Afghanistan and the death of Fidel Castro.

Farley said that in his opinion, the best decision of the simulation was made by the team playing Iran. By pursuing a strategy of restraint after the “bombing” that released massive radiation and killed thousands, Iran gained opinion support worldwide, “discombobulating the Israelis and the Americans,” he said.

“I think that if they had it to do over again (the student team playing) the Israelis would have launched the second strike much sooner. Waiting gave time for opinion to crystallize worldwide,” Farley, an expert in military doctrine, transnational politics and national security, said.

Students at the Patterson School, one of the Top 25 schools of international diplomacy/international relations in the world, Farley said, learn “the ins and outs of the bureaucracy and they learn in detail about military, intelligence and policy-relevant economics.” Also, the Patterson School’s smaller size allows the school to focus on the “art and skill of diplomacy and negotiations — the art of diplomatic tact,” he said.

Amanda Ingenito, 24, originally of Northern Virginia and interested in pursuing a career in diplomacy and intelligence, was one of five students who portrayed Russia in the simulation.

“We had a great time,” she said. “We initially had to discuss and come to a consensus as to what our goals as Russia would be. We concluded that our aim would be to maintain or improve its international prestige. And the best way to do that was to be the peacebroker – to beat the U.S. to being the peacebroker,” she said.

With one day notice of the simulation’s topic and lots of Spiderman-themed cake, the student diplomats seemed to do well.

Ingenito said that required summer reading on Iran and Israel and courses like Defense Statecraft and Cross-Cultural Negotiation and Bargaining helped the students prepare.

Caren Roushkolb, of Medina, Ohio, another student in the program, was part of the United Nations team. That group held several P-5 (Permanent Group of 5) meetings and had to deal delicately with how to include other countries that might want to be invited, without alienating any parties.

The most exciting portion of the simulation, Roushkolb said, was “the last chunk when we were able to deploy IAEA forces to investigate radiation in Iran at the same time Israel’s second strike planes were in the air.”

Covered in real-time by 20 journalism and integrated strategic communications students who staffed two culturally distinct 24-7 multimedia sites across campus, the student diplomats held press conferences, issued statements that were formal, covert and leaked from a number of sources, and answered tough questions from the “international press.”

Interestingly, the student journalists, led by Asst. Prof. Kakie Urch and JAT Asst. Director Prof. Scoobie Ryan, got an early pep-talk from someone very well-versed in the Middle East: UK Prof. Terry Anderson, the long-time Associated Press Beirut Chief of Bureau who spent years in captivity as a hostage after being kidnapped by Arab extremists.

Anderson, whose own journalism students also participated in the simulation, gave the group an impromptu backgrounder on the cultural activities that would be going on in the region on a Friday afternoon before Purim.
Journalism students raced to press conferences by “Dick Cheney,” “Iran,” and “President Obama,” asking questions, shooting and editing video, sound and images and integrating their deadline reporting on evolving events on a digital content management system.

More than once, student diplomats had to react to the “non-reaction” of a press that demanded better sourcing, more information or simply, a more “newsworthy” announcement.

After 22 hours, the exhausted diplomats debriefed their decisions and the simulation with their faculty, led by Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, a 22-year veteran of the State Department and the Patterson School’s Director.

In writing an evaluation of the simulation, Farley said, “This was the most intricate simulation that Patterson has run in several years, and it came off relatively well. As the purpose of the Patterson simulation is to place decision-making responsibility in the hands of tired, tense, ill-informed students, we made a decision long ago to sacrifice realism for drama. Obviously, a US shoot-down of an Israeli warplane is exceedingly unlikely to happen in the real world.”

“Then again, the turn of events was very surprising to Simulation Control. To the extent that the simulation revealed anything of policy relevance, it suggested that a policy of restraint on the part of Iran could cause some serious strategic problems for Israel,” he wrote.

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