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Student Instructor

Unrest in Bahrain

Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.1 Role

Welcome to your role as a participant in the National Security Council (NSC)! You should have received an email with your role assignment, but if you did not, you can view your assignment by clicking on the “My Simulations" tab on your account page. At this point, you should have reviewed essential background information about the NSC, read the case, watched the accompanying videos, and perused some of the additional reading. Whether you have been assigned a specific role as an individual or part of a group, or as a general advisor to the president, we suggest you read the case once again to identify material that is particularly relevant to your role or that requires further investigation. After that, you will conduct independent research as you write your position memo and prepare for the role-play.


There are four subsections that follow. Research and Preparation (3.2) will aid your research for the position memo and provide additional reading to guide your research; the Guide to the Memoranda (3.3) provides information about position memos and an example; and the Guide to the Role-Play (3.4) provides more information on the in-class role-play.


You can learn about your role by reading the information provided on your role sheet, which can be found in the Guide to the Role-Play section (3.4). Review this information thoroughly and often, as your objectives and strategy in the position memo and role-play will be shaped by the institutional perspective of the role you have been assigned (unless you are playing a general advisor). After you finish the role-play and subsequent debrief, you will have an opportunity to share your personal thoughts and recommendations on this case in a policy review memo (Section Four, Wrap-up).

GO TO SECTION 4.1

Case Roles

Description of Role:

The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. He or she presides over National Security Council (NSC) meetings and listens to the advice and information presented by others. The president is not expected to be an expert on any single subject, but instead draws on the expertise of the NSC to analyze options and choose what he or she feels is the best policy to advance U.S. interests.

The president’s goals are to

  • select one or more policy options after considering the opinions and recommendations of NSC members; and
  • balance and promote U.S. interests, with an eye toward both immediate goals and long-term foreign policy strategy.

 

Issues for Consideration:

These can be used to frame the role-play and encourage debate among fellow NSC members.

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Bahrain?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Bahrain, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  •  What are the positions and interests of other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, in the situation in Bahrain? How might these countries be contributing to tensions and how might they help resolve them?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The vice president must be ready at a moment’s notice to assume the presidency if the commander in chief is unable to perform her or his duties. Vice presidents can play a relatively active role on the National Security Council (NSC), serving as a general advisor and freely advocating their own positions during meetings. In particular, the president may ask the vice president to serve as an independent voice, untethered to any of the agencies represented by other NSC participants. The president may also ask about the interaction between the issue at hand and the domestic political situation, including in Congress.

The vice president’s goals are to

  • provide advice to the president on any topic, including those overlooked by other NSC participants; and
  • understand the range of views in Congress and work to build congressional and public support for the president’s chosen approach.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should they influence a U.S. response?
  • How, if at all, would the White House need to work with Congress to execute any of the proposed policy options in this case? How might varying congressional attitudes influence the U.S. response to the situation in Bahrain?
  • How would various U.S. responses to the crisis affect the perception of America among the United States’ allies? What about among those who want to do the United States harm?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Bahrain?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The secretary of defense is the principal defense policy advisor to the president, under whose direction he or she exercises authority over the Department of Defense. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the secretary analyzes the security situation in the relevant region and explains the likely implications of U.S. military involvement, both for the immediate crisis and for the United States’ overall strategic position.

The secretary of defense’s goals are to

  • understand the options for and feasibility of any military action, as well as its possible outcomes; and
  • identify ways to prevent the deterioration of a crisis to the point where it mandates U.S. military intervention.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? Specifically, what would be the costs of moving the U.S. Fifth Fleet from Bahrain?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • Does the current situation in Bahrain require consideration of U.S. military intervention? Why or why not? What conditions might make consideration of an intervention necessary?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, in the situation in Bahrain? How might these countries be contributing to tensions and how might they help resolve them?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The Department of State maintains the U.S. diplomatic presence around the world, conducting foreign relations and using an on-the-ground perspective to generate country-specific knowledge. As head of the department, the secretary draws on this knowledge to present an authoritative view of the United States’ bilateral relationships, the relationships between foreign countries, and the behavior and interests of foreign governments.

The secretary of state’s goals are to

  • serve as the president’s principal foreign policy advisor; and
  • analyze how policy options will affect the interests, reputation, and relationships of the United States.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should they influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Bahrain?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship? How does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, in the situation in Bahrain? How might these countries be contributing to tensions and how might they help resolve them?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The Department of the Treasury carries out policy on issues related to the U.S. and global economies and financial systems. The secretary of the treasury, as head of this department, serves as one of the president’s chief economic advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, he or she analyzes the economic dimensions of foreign policy issues and weighs the potential impact of policy options on U.S. economic concerns, including growth, trade and investment, and the position of the U.S. dollar.

The secretary of the treasury’s goals are to

  • serve as a senior presidential advisor on economic policy; and
  • determine how foreign policy options might affect the U.S. economy and financial system, the global economy, and economic relations between the United States and others.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten the U.S. economy?
  • What is the importance of Bahrain for the U.S. and global economies? What are the possible economic effects of the current unrest?
  • What economic tools could the United States use to advance its goals in Bahrain?
  • What is the importance of the Persian Gulf region for the U.S. and global economies? What are the possible effects of continued unrest and potential U.S. intervention on trade and the flow of oil in the region?
  • If the United States intervened militarily in Bahrain, what would be the financial costs and broader impact on the U.S. economy?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The secretary of energy leads the Department of Energy, which carries out U.S. policy on energy, environmental, and nuclear issues. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the secretary must consider the energy-related dimensions of foreign policy issues, any energy-related tools that might form part of the U.S. response, and the implications of policy decisions for the American energy supply and environment.

The secretary of energy’s goals are to 

  • formulate and evaluate energy-related measures as part of policy options; and
  • gauge the implications of foreign policy decisions on U.S. energy security and environmental concerns. 

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should they influence a U.S. response?
  • Could the unrest in Bahrain affect global oil flows? What effect might this have on the price of oil in the United States?
  • If the United States were to move the Fifth Fleet from Bahrain, or if its relationship with Bahrain, changed dramatically, what impact might this have on the supply of oil to the United States?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The attorney general is the head of the Department of Justice and the chief lawyer of the U.S. government. The department represents the United States in legal matters, including by prosecuting violations of federal law. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the attorney general gives the president advice and opinions on the legal aspects of policies under consideration.

The attorney general’s goals are to

  • consider the legal elements and implications of U.S. foreign policy options; and
  • ensure that any policies decided by the NSC are in compliance with domestic and international law.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should they influence a U.S. response?
  • How has the Bahraini government used law enforcement to counter the opposition in recent years? Should the United States urge the monarchy to release any Bahraini opposition leaders and protestors currently being held in prison?
  • What kind of legal backing, such as domestic legislation or UN Security Council resolutions, might be useful or necessary for any U.S. action toward Bahrain?
  • Are there any options for mediation from international or regional organizations that would help the various parties resolve their dispute?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

Created after September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) focuses on such issues as terrorism prevention, border security and immigration, disaster response, and cybersecurity. Agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration are part of this department. The secretary must help the president and other National Security Council (NSC) members understand any risks to the United States and its citizens that may arise from the situation and possible policy responses.

The secretary of homeland security’s goals are to

  • advise the president on the homeland security dimensions of crises and potential policy responses, including any threats or implications for U.S. border security; and
  • ensure the implementation of steps to protect the country and manage any security risks arising from the issue under consideration.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What steps should the United States take to reduce the risk of harm to Americans stemming from the situation, whether in Bahrain itself, in the region, or in the United States?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should they influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Bahrain?
  • How would governments and nonstate actors hostile to the United States view various policy responses to the unrest in Bahrain? Would certain U.S. responses be likely to lead to attempted terrorist attacks or other threats to homeland security?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The role of the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) is to advance U.S. foreign policy interests in the bodies and forums of the UN system. Reporting to the secretary of state, the permanent representative helps formulate and articulate the U.S. position on all political and security matters under discussion at the UN. At National Security Council (NSC) meetings, he or she outlines policy steps available to the United States at the UN and advises NSC participants on the positions and actions of other UN member states.

The U.S. permanent representative to the UN’s goals are to

  • advise the president and secretary of state on the diplomatic actions the United States can or should take at the UN; and
  • promote the United States’ interests and values at the UN.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What role can or should the United Nations and its component parts play in this dispute? Is this solely a domestic issue limited to Bahrain or is it a matter of international peace and security, and what difference does this make for potential UN involvement?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should they influence a U.S. response?
  • What actions aimed at reducing tensions and advancing possible resolutions of the dispute are available to the United States at the UN?
  • What are the major characteristics of the United States’ relationship with Bahrain? How important is this relationship to U.S. foreign policy goals?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The chief of staff oversees the Executive Office of the President, which provides the president with support to govern effectively. This post has traditionally been home to many of the president’s closest advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the chief of staff ensures that the president has the necessary analysis on the full range of factors relevant to the case, including the U.S. political situation. He or she also guides the process of implementing and communicating presidential decisions.

The chief of staff’s goals are to

  • highlight the domestic implications of U.S. foreign policy choices; and
  • develop strategies to carry out the president’s policy and communicate it to U.S. and international audiences.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What role do the media and public opinion play in U.S. policy toward Bahrain? Should the administration work with Congress to find solutions to the dispute in Bahrain?
  • What have been the effects of U.S. policies toward Bahrain thus far, and have these policies advanced or hindered U.S. goals?
  • What are the most important factors for the president to consider when making a decision? What types of analysis would be most useful for other members of the NSC to present?
  • How can the president best articulate his or her decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The national security advisor (NSA) has a special role in crisis management, serving as the “honest broker” for the national security policy process. Although the president makes final decisions, the NSA is responsible for ensuring that he or she has all the necessary information, that a full range of viable policy options has been articulated, that the prospects for success and failure have been identified, that any legal issues have been addressed, and that all members of the National Security Council (NSC) have had the opportunity to contribute.

The national security advisor’s goals are to

  • facilitate the president’s consideration of issues by keeping the NSC discussion on track and guiding it toward concrete policy options; and
  • build trust as an honest broker among the other NSC participants.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Bahrain, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Bahrain?
  • What are the most important factors for the president to consider when making a decision? What types of analysis would be most useful for other members of the NSC to present?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The U.S. intelligence community consists of seventeen agencies and organizations that gather and analyze intelligence to help policymakers formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy. The director of national intelligence oversees this network of agencies. He or she focuses on providing the latest relevant information to National Security Council (NSC) members and articulating the capabilities and interests of the intelligence community.

The director of national intelligence’s goals are to

  • provide complete, accurate, and up-to-date information to the NSC on the situation under discussion; and
  • serve as the principal advisor to the president and the NSC on intelligence matters.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the primary interests, motivations, and goals of the Bahraini monarchy and the opposition in this dispute?
  • What is the nature of the Bahraini opposition? In particular, what are the short- and long-term intentions of the principal opposition groups?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Bahrain?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Bahrain, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military and the principal military advisor to the president, the secretary of defense, the National Security Council (NSC), and the Homeland Security Council. The CJCS does not exercise command authority over U.S. troops. Instead, he or she works with the heads of the U.S. military services to provide advice to the president and other senior leaders.

The CJCS’s goals are to

  • serve as the president’s military advisor on the NSC; and
  • advise the president on specific military options and the corresponding risks, benefits, and implications.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? Specifically, what would be the costs of moving the U.S. Fifth Fleet from Bahrain?
  • Should the United States maintain, increase, or decrease its military forces in Bahrain and the Persian Gulf region? What message, if any, would this choice send to the Bahraini monarchy, opposition, and other relevant parties?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • Does the current situation in Bahrain require consideration of U.S. military intervention? Why or why not? What conditions might make consideration of an intervention necessary?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The general advisor offers analysis and recommendations that are unconstrained by the interests of any department or agency. He or she is tasked with providing a comprehensive assessment of the situation at hand and ideas for policy options that serve U.S. interests.

The general advisor’s goals are to

  • understand the breadth of the issue and outline its stakes for the United States; and
  • advise the president on the range of policy options proposed by all NSC members.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the situation in Bahrain as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Bahrain?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should they be prioritized? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, in the situation in Bahrain? How might these countries be contributing to tensions and how might they help resolve them?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with Bahrain, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?

 

Research Leads:

This is a customized role created by the instructor. Please see your instructor for your role description.

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