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Penn Law, U.S. Army War College partner to run international strategic crisis negotiation exercise, March 25-27

March 25, 2021

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, partnering with the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, will host a unique, two-day international strategic crisis and negotiation exercise from March 25-27.

Seventy students, organized into nine teams that each represent a different nation, will negotiate through a complex and broad geopolitical crisis centered around the South China Sea. Over a dozen mentors, staff, and faculty are also supporting the exercise, in which students will be tasked to resolve a challenging international dispute with diplomatic, informational, military, legal, and economic factors at play.

This is the third time the Army War College has partnered with the Law School to run a strategic crisis exercise. The program will be led by the Law School’s Theodore K. Warner Professor of Law & Professor of Real Estate Michael Knoll; former U.S. Army War College faculty member and Senior Lecturer in Law Col. (Ret.) Paul McKenney; Ambassador (Ret.) Daniel Shields; and Lecturer in Law Aaron McKenney L’19 WG’19.

“The scenario provides a great opportunity for law students to expand their understanding of negotiations, diplomacy, the military, and, perhaps most importantly, problem-solving and teamwork,” said Aaron McKenney.

Because of COVID-19 limitations, this year’s exercise will be held both on campus and virtually, which, McKenney noted, “adds a new layer of realism to the course in light of different national procedures with respect to the pandemic.” Three teams (Japan, India, and Brunei) will be participating in person, on campus, while the other six (USA, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia) will be virtual on Zoom.

Each of the teams will have opportunities to negotiate one-on-one or with multiple teams over the two main exercise days, Friday and Saturday. The innovative format “also provides students another learning point as they will see the advantages and disadvantages of teams working in-person versus virtually and the impact of such factors on negotiations,” said McKenney.

During the simulation, students will navigate the international legal and strategic aspects of the crisis while engaging in intense negotiations, working in teams as well as with counterparts with divergent interests, and participating in conflict de-escalation and resolution.

The volunteer mentors for this year’s exercise include former foreign service officers, retired and former military officers, law firm partners and associates, and academics.

“They will play a key role in helping to coach and guide students and that mentorship can even extend after the course ends,” said McKenney. “Nevertheless, this is a student-run exercise, where students must work together within their team and across other teams to achieve their desired outcomes.”

The U.S. Army War College, one of the five federal senior service colleges, educates senior military and civilian leaders for future strategic leadership assignments. The Center for Strategic Leadership’s areas of emphasis are experiential education, senior leader education, support to Army senior leader research, and support to both Army War College and Army senior leader strategic communication efforts. The Center hosts, supports, develops, and conducts world-class events (workshops, symposia, conferences, games, and exercises) focused on a broad range of strategic leadership and national security issues and concepts in support of the War College, the Army, and the Interagency and Joint Communities.