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Collapse in Venezuela

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 can view your assignment by clicking on the “My Simulations” tab on your account page. You can learn about your role by reading the information provided in your case role, which can be found at the bottom of this page. Your case role description contains three parts: a description of your role, issues for consideration, and research leads. The role description details the position you will portray in the role-play. The issues for consideration will guide your thinking and assist you in approaching the case from the perspective of your assigned role. Research leads provide suggested materials and topics for further research specifically relevant to your assigned role. 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). If you have been assigned a customized role, please refer to guidelines set by your instructor.

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 re-read the decision point and policy options to identify actions that are particularly relevant to the department or agency that you represent that may require further investigation. There are three 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 Memorandum (3.3) provides information about position memos and an example; and the Guide to the Role-Play (3.4) provides more information on the  role-play. 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 4, Wrap-up).

All case roles are listed below.

Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.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. They preside 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 they feel 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 Venezuela 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.-Venezuela relationship? How has it changed over time? What does this change suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action in Venezuela?
  • 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 Venezuela?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations, such as Colombia and the United Nations, in the evolving Venezuelan crisis? How, if at all, are they involved in the crisis? How might they help resolve it?

 

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 their 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 Venezuela as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Venezuela relationship? How has it changed over time? What does this change suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action in Venezuela?
  • 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 crisis in Venezuela?
  • What roles do the media and public opinion play in this situation? How does public opinion affect the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • 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 Venezuela?

 

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 they have 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 Venezuela 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 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 National Security Council to present?
  • 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 Venezuela?
  • What past examples, if any, exist of the U.S. policy options presented in this case? How might these examples inform U.S. action toward Venezuela?

 

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. They also guide 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 Venezuela 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 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 Venezuela?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?
  • 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 crisis in Venezuela?
  • What roles do the media and public opinion play in this situation? How does public opinion affect the domestic political consequences of various responses?

 

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 Venezuela as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-Venezuela relationship? How has it changed over time? What does this change suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action in Venezuela?
  • What are the roles of sanctions and of foreign assistance in current and historical U.S. policy toward Venezuela?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case? How does this affect the proposed U.S. policy options?
  • What past examples, if any, exist of the U.S. policy options presented in this case? How might these examples inform the U.S. response to this crisis?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The secretary of defense is the principal defense policy advisor to the president, under whose direction they exercise 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 Venezuela 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?
  • Does the current situation in Venezuela require consideration of U.S. military intervention? Why or why not?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case? How might neighboring countries or international organizations affect a military intervention in Venezuela? What is the likelihood that these countries would assist in a military intervention?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?

 

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, they analyze 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 Venezuela as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What is the importance of Venezuela for the U.S. and global economies? What are the possible economic effects this crisis?
  • What financial risks does collapse in Venezuela pose? What are the economic costs, benefits, and risks of the various policy options in this case?
  • What is the status of Venezuela’s economic relationships with other countries? In particular, what debts does the country hold? How might the United States relieve these debts or otherwise boost Venezuela’s economy? What are the potential costs and benefits of such action?
  • What has the role of sanctions been in current and historical U.S. policy toward Venezuela? What are the costs, benefits, and risks of imposing further sanctions on Venezuela?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Venezuela as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the legal considerations of deploying U.S. military forces into Venezuela or neighboring countries?
  • How does the fact that the Venezuelan government’s control over the country is uncertain affect the legal considerations surrounding the various policy options in this case?
  • Are there any legal considerations surrounding the prospect of providing economic assistance—such as debt relief or emergency loans—to Venezuela?
  • What kind of legitimate backing, such as domestic legislation or UN Security Council resolutions, might be useful or necessary for any U.S. action in Venezuela?
  • What is the role of international organizations such as the United Nations or the Organization of American States in this crisis? How could the U.S. government coordinate with these organizations in its response to the crisis in Venezuela?

 

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, they outline 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 would various U.S. responses to the crisis affect the perception of America among other countries and groups?
  • What position could other UN member states, particularly those on the Security Council, take on the situation in Venezuela? How are these governments likely to react to various policy responses by the United States?
  • What actions could the United States take through the United Nations in this case? In particular, should the United States call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to address the situation in Venezuela? Why or why not?
  • What role can or should the United Nations play in this crisis? Is the crisis solely a domestic issue limited to Venezuela or is it a matter of international peace and security? What difference does this distinction make for potential UN involvement?
  • How important is it for the United States to receive the backing of the UN Security Council for any military intervention in or around Venezuela?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Venezuela 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 importance of Venezuela for the global oil supply, and by extension, the U.S. and global economies? If the crisis continues, what effect might it have on the price of oil?
  • What might be the implications for the United States if an individual who is particularly friendly, or particularly hostile, to the United States takes political power and therefore controls Venezuelan energy supplies?
  • What is the PetroCaribe program, and how has it affected the economies of Venezuela and other member countries? What steps might the United States consider taking to assist those countries if PetroCaribe shuts down permanently?

 

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, they work 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, if at all, does the situation in Venezuela 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 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 crisis in Venezuela?
  • Does the current situation in Venezuela require consideration of U.S. military intervention? Why or why not?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case? How might neighboring countries or international organizations affect a military intervention in Venezuela? What is the likelihood that these countries would assist in a military intervention?

 

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. They focus 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, if at all, does the situation in Venezuela 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 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 Venezuela?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in the crisis in Venezuela? How, if at all, might they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?
  • Where does the situation in Venezuela fit in the broader context of national security concerns facing the United States, especially in South and Central America? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

USAID was founded in 1961 to distribute assistance, or foreign aid, from the U.S. government to other countries. Today the organization administers a wide variety of assistance programs intended to help countries reduce poverty, establish and strengthen democratic institutions, improve education and health, address the effects of climate change, and promote gender equality, among many other objectives. The agency often works in postcrisis and postconflict areas to deliver emergency assistance and encourage economic opportunity and peace.

The USAID administrator’s goals are to

  • advise the president on issues involving economic, social, and political development and USAID’s efforts to advance related objectives; and
  • describe the potential role and contributions of USAID, and foreign assistance more broadly, as part of the potential U.S. policy response.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Venezuela 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 crisis in Venezuela?
  • What is the role of foreign assistance in U.S. policy toward Venezuela? What would be the costs, benefits, or risks of using this aid as part of the response to the current crisis, for example, by threatening to withhold aid, granting additional aid, or changing the types of aid offered?
  • What have been the major components of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Venezuela in recent decades? What has been the effect of this assistance?
  • What kinds of obstacles and challenges might aid workers encounter in Venezuela or neighboring countries? How do these considerations affect the strengths and weaknesses of each policy option?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The general advisor offers analysis and recommendations that are unconstrained by the interests of any department or agency. They are 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, if at all, does the situation in Venezuela 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 crisis in Venezuela?
  • 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.-Venezuela relationship? How has it changed over time? What does this change suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action in Venezuela?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case, especially Venezuela? How does this affect the proposed U.S. policy options?

 

Research Leads:

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

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