Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 31/07/2009

NDU on Gaming the 21st Century

JFQ54x700The latest issue of Joint Force Quarterly 54, 3 (3rd Quarter 2009) has a short but interesting piece on “Gaming the 21st Century: What to Game?” by the Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defense University:

As we brainstorm topics, we should be asking, “What’s going on here?” and write games that explore the answer to this question.

Indeed, we are overfocused on games that elicit policy recommendations and on crisis simulations. For better insight, however, we should pay more attention to the work of mainstream social science research, which has devoted more serious attention than the policy analytic community to how to do good qualitative research. A greater engagement with rigorous social science could be useful in identifying specific topics as well as new ways to examine old ones. Basic concepts as diverse as public goods theory, the two-level game, and social capital could tell us interesting things about contemporary problems such as the challenges of crafting international agreements to counter transnational terrorism, what domestic factors help democracy succeed in some places and not others, and the implications of variations in different institutional arrangements.

Among the topics suggested by the piece are transnational terrorism, international law and the internationalization of norms, and “stability, security, transition, and reconstruction (SSTR) issues.”

…an interesting topic because among Iraq, Afghanistan, and teetering governments elsewhere in the world, how to (re)build or shore up governments and civic institutions and the impact of their success on U.S. national security interests is set to be one of the top issues for the foreseeable future. Most nationbuilding now occurs at what game theorists have called a two-level game—that is, there is both a domestic process through which agreements must be reached as well as an international level of negotiations. An interesting thing about SSTR issues is that the same actors are usually simultaneously playing both games. Whether supporters or obstacles to the process, they are negotiating (or challenging) international agreements and roles for a nascent state at the same time as they build domestic institutions, trying to advance their preferred vision at both levels simultaneously. External actors, whether partners or spoilers, frequently intervene in both domestic and international processes, providing security support to the government and procuring international funding for it, or providing assistance to an insurgency or the opposition.

Indeed, participants, especially local participants, are often playing three-level games—with the international community, with rival groups, and within their own often-fractious organizations or ministries.

By the way, while we’re always impressed NDU’s simulation skills, we’re a little less sure of the folks who post JFQ to the web. The first page of the article (linked to from the table of contents) is here. The second page—hidden from all but those webgeeks who like to guess at URLs—is here. Someone at CASL/NDU also owes us a short PaxSims post, in exchange for all that witty conversation over Chinese food. You know who you are!

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