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Strategy at its finest

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Heaven for international relations junkies

03/16/2012

Strategy at its finest photo 1

Representatives of Israel and the United States negotiate over prospective action.

This week, I attended unprecedented negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. What can I say? My job's pretty exciting!

Before you get too excited, they weren't real-life negotiations. They were part of "Strategic Crossroads," a national security simulation I facilitated for the young professional leaders of AJC Chicago and AJC ACCESS Chicago. This was pretty close to a personal slice of heaven for a political science and international relations junkie like me.

Four teams–each representing either the United States, the European Union, Israel or Saudi Arabia–received an "intelligence update" that required a carefully tailored reaction from each. They plotted strategic goals, negotiated with other teams and then presented a set of national security recommendations to the head of their country.

Strategy at its finest photo 2

Members of the EU team contemplate their goals at the beginning of “Strategic Crossroads.”

But the learning didn't stop there. Two Chicago-based diplomats along with AJC Chicago Regional Director Dan Elbaum played the roles of country leaders and gave feedback on the actions and strategies suggested by each team. Their real-world diplomatic experience added insights that might have been overlooked otherwise.

I can't reveal the original scenario–the game was designed exclusively for ACCESS by a current Chicago Booth student Gil Schwartz, who used to create similar simulations for the national security establishment. But I can reveal the desired effect: A more profound understanding of the power plays involved in solving an international crisis; a better handle on the art of diplomacy; and an object lesson in subtlety and keeping one's cool.

I'll be organizing at least three more of these games throughout the year, each focusing on an issue in the Middle East. And similar games are going on all around the country. Schwartz is also designing a new scenario for the upcoming ACCESS 20/20 conference, a D.C. weekend of activism, networking and fun May 4-6.

See you there!

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