Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Books and Boots

This week the New York Times “At War” blog has a thoughtful piece by one of the organizers of Tufts University’s FIELDEX 2010 field exercise on how simulations can help bridge the theory-practice divide, by giving students some sense of the real-life challenges of peace, stabilization, and COIN operations:

Books and Boots

New York Times, 15 June 2010

Jamie Lynn de Coster

In classrooms, students study the war in books, reports and manuals. Although discussions analyzing policies and practices are fruitful, these debates are often limited to the experiences — or the lack of experiences –  of the students in the class. And in a war zone, the hard lessons are learned on the job.

As a graduate student and a military officer, I am all too familiar with this dilemma. Students are, inevitably, far removed from what really happens on the ground. Consequently, we are limited in our ability to truly understand what is going on in our current war zones.

In an attempt to bridge this gap between theory (books) and practice (boots), a lieutenant colonel in the Army, five undergraduate students and I took 60 students from Tufts University and all three military service academies out of the classroom and into the woods for a 24-hour conflict zone simulation. Our mission was to impart an appreciation for the challenges that civilians and military forces face in conflict zones by allowing the students to experience these simulated difficulties firsthand.

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