Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

FP: Stumbling into (simulated) war with China


With the assistance of David Shlapak of RAND’s Center for Gaming, Dan De Luce and Keith Johnson of Foreign Policy magazine recently tried their hand at descalating a simulated Sino-Japanese naval confrontation over the Senkaku Islands. It didn’t go very well:

We entered into the scenario looking for offramps. We went out of our way to choose the least aggressive options and to try to exercise restraint — even when we played the part of China as well as the United States at different stages of the game. But just as Shlapak warned us, events quickly got out of hand, and we found ourselves in a nightmarish escalatory cycle of war fueled by nationalist sentiment in both Japan and China. And the scenario depicted here is not far-fetched fiction. Just this week there was more brinkmanship, as Tokyo warned Beijing that if its naval ships sailed near the islands and lingered, Japan would send in patrol vessels to see them off. China responded with a stern warning of its own, saying that if Japan takes provocative actions, it “will have to accept responsibility for everything that happens.”

All of that is in the real world. In the artificial one constructed by Shlapak, those rhetorical volleys were replaced by open combat. This is the story of what happened next: a war we didn’t seek, didn’t want to fight — and that ended very badly…

You can read the rest at Foreign Policy.

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