Megan Maddox, a scholar in the Garfield Center for Public Leadership, recaps her experiences from the group’s recent crisis simulation. Led by James Thompson, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, the Garfield Center for Public Leadership at Hiram College prepares students to assume the responsibilities of public leadership by developing expertise in matters of public policy, foreign and domestic, grounded in Hiram’s traditional liberal arts education.

During the first weekend of November, scholars from the Garfield Center for Public Leadership held a crisis simulation that focused on the continuous and rising tensions involving the United States and the Middle East. The simulation placed emphasis on the fear of nuclear weapons, the situation in Syria, and how various countries may respond to these issues. 

Students were separated into four teams: the United States National Security Council, the United States Congress, Iran, and Russia. The teams were led by mentors from various parts of the United States, all of whom have a background in the military. 

Donald J. Wurzel, from Savannah, Ga., is currently the vice president of Entigenlogic. He has held many roles in the Navy throughout his life. Wurzel served as the moderator of the exercise, in which he oversaw the simulation, and was there for the scholars when they needed him. Wurzel took on the role of countries that were not represented by the scholars. For example, he played the role of Turkey, a country which plays an important role in the relations of the Middle East, as well as Pakistan, Syria, and groups, such as the Kurds, or Hezbollah. 

Gregory G. Govan, from Albemarle County, Va., is a retired brigadier general of the United States Army. Govan retired in March of 2005 after over 40 years in government service. He led the Russian team.  

James H. Cox, from Delaware, obtained his graduate degree from the US Army War College. He was a colonel in the United States Army, and previously worked in the Pentagon. Cox led the United States Congress Team. 

Ronald L. Watts, from Florida, is a retired lieutenant general from the United States Army. He serves as the chairman on the board of directors for a technology company and is president of the Society of the First Infantry Division. Watts led the United States National Security Council Team.  

Tracy L. Roou, from Falls Church, Va., graduated with her master of arts degree from the University of Wisconsin. She was a foreign area officer with the United States Army and an air defense artillery officer. She was also a military advisor to the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, and currently works as a managing partner for The Consilio Group. Roou led the Iranian Team.  

During the simulation, the countries made various decisions and took numerous stances on issues as they arose. They met and discussed with their mentors, as well as with the other countries. They also had the option to work together or provide support if the countries could not agree on similar stances or moves, but could completely deceive one another. Russia was a powerhouse throughout the simulation, as they stood their ground and rarely compromised to fit what other countries were asking of them. Iran shocked several countries when they stated that they were willing to meet with the United States, however, no meeting of the two countries took place. Another surprising moment was when the United States and Unites States Congress agreed upon some of the same ideals, as this does not happen often in the real world. The United States discussed peace between the nations several times though the simulation, yet threatened countries like Iran, Russia, and Turkey if they did not follow proposals the United States put forth.   

The Middle East was divided into different structures, contributing to the lack of stability in the area. The Iranians, mostly Shia, dominated structures including the Syrian government, and Hezbollah, a militant Shia group in Lebanon. The other structure contained the alliance of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and various other Sunni states in the Middle East. The stand-off between groups became intensified with the growing fear of nuclear weapons, and at present time has now reached a fever pitch due to the Turkish invasion of Syria. The Russians aligned with the Iranians, and they were very active in the region. The alliance is a powerful one, which contributes to the tensions felt by the United States. 

Looking back at the weekend, the scholars learned and gained a great deal, while working alongside peers, with the help of Professor Thompson and the mentors. Students learned how to effectively make public presentations, especially in front of one of the hardest audiences, their own peers. They also learned to think critically and on the spot, as they would be asked questions they maybe had not thought of or discussed in their presentations. Students were expected to immediately answer to the fullest of their capabilities. The students learned that not every person will have the same opinions or agree with what they say, as well as how to take the criticism from opposing mindsets and intellectually grow.

At the end of the weekend, the students realized how hard it can be for governmental leaders to come together and effectively work to fix tensions, fears or issues as they arise. The Middle East is currently in a very complicated situation, and the simulation gave the scholars the opportunity to experience and take part in this situation first-hand. It allowed the students to see some realistic options for what could be seen in the near future. For example, Iran could potentially play a large role as relations with Syria deteriorate. Israel and Iran could find themselves in a conflict, due to the decreased United States presence in the area, and Syria could potentially collapse. It was easy to see how each country has their own goals that they are trying to accomplish, which can make it hard to understand the true goals of a country when it involves the presence of another, especially if the two are at odds.  

The research, readings, and debates associated with this simulation have prepared the scholars to with an understanding of how to dissect and understand the challenges of political decisions and debates. It has also helped the scholars to think like a government or state. By doing so, it has prepared the scholars, as they anxiously await the meetings and discussions to be had with the governmental leaders of Ireland when the Garfield program travels to Ireland in March 2020.   

by Megan Maddox

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