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Student Instructor

Korean War in 1950

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

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • If the United States were to intervene militarily north of the 38th parallel, what should its military and political goals be? How should it determine when the mission had been completed?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception of American power and leadership among the United States’ allies and friends? Among governments and nonstate actors who want to do the United States harm?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?

 

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

  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception of American power and leadership among the United States’ allies and friends? Among governments and nonstate actors who want to do the United States harm?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on the situation in Korea and the ultimate U.S. goals there? How, if at all, should the administration work with Congress to consider and implement potential responses to the situation?
  • What is the range of attitudes in the media and among the U.S. public toward Korea and the ultimate U.S. goals there? What, if any, constituencies in the United States have a particular interest in or especially strong views on this issue? What does all of this suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception of American power and leadership among the United States’ allies and friends? Among governments and nonstate actors who want to do the United States harm?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • How, if at all, might the State Department’s diplomatic efforts be required to support various policy options in this case?  What, if any, diplomatic steps would be useful to support either policy option?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • If the United States were to intervene militarily north of the 38th parallel, what should its military and political goals be? How should it determine when the mission had been completed?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What are the military capabilities and interests of the countries that are involved or could become involved in the conflict in Korea? How should this knowledge affect consideration of various U.S. responses to the crisis?
  • What would be the implications of a military deployment into North Korea, whether quick or extended, for U.S. military capacity in other parts of the world?
  • If undertaken, what might a U.S. military intervention north of the 38th parallel require? What kinds of capabilities and assets could the U.S. military deploy? Would the intervention feature only Korean ground forces or American ground forces as well?

 

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

  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?
  • What, if any, economic interests does the United States have in Korea and the broader northeast Asian region? How might these interests be affected should the conflict evolve in various ways?
  • What might be the financial costs and broader impact on the U.S. economy of a U.S. military intervention in North Korea?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • If the United States were to intervene militarily north of the 38th parallel, what should its military and political goals be? How should it determine when the mission had been completed?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception of American power and leadership among the United States’ allies and friends? Among governments and nonstate actors who want to do the United States harm?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What are the most important factors for the president to consider when making a decision? What types of analysis would be the most useful for other members of the National Security Council to present?
  • Research the performance of past national security advisors and the ways in which they managed the interagency process. Which advisors and policy processes have been considered especially successful or unsuccessful, and why?

 

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

  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception of American power and leadership among the United States’ allies and friends? Among governments and nonstate actors who want to do the United States harm?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on the situation in Korea and the ultimate U.S. goals there? How, if at all, should the administration work with Congress to consider and implement potential responses to the situation?
  • What is the range of attitudes in the media and among the U.S. public toward Korea and the ultimate U.S. goals there? What, if any, constituencies in the United States have a particular interest in or especially strong views on this issue? What does all of this suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?

 

Research Leads

Description of Role

The U.S. intelligence community consists of agencies and organizations that gather and analyze intelligence to help policymakers formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy. In addition to administering the Central Intelligence Agency, the director of central 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 central 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 Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • If the United States were to intervene militarily north of the 38th parallel, what should its military and political goals be? How should it determine when the mission had been completed?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What are the military capabilities and interests of the countries that are involved or could become involved in the conflict in Korea? How should this knowledge affect consideration of various U.S. responses to the crisis?
  • What would be the implications of a military deployment into North Korea, whether quick or extended, for U.S. military capacity in other parts of the world?
  • If undertaken, what might a U.S. military intervention north of the 38th parallel require? What kinds of capabilities and assets could the U.S. military deploy? Would the intervention feature only Korean ground forces or American ground forces as well?

 

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 Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • If the United States were to intervene militarily north of the 38th parallel, what should its military and political goals be? How should it determine when the mission had been completed?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What are the legal considerations surrounding the potential deployment of U.S. military forces into North Korea and an effort to reunify the Korean Peninsula? What are the roles of the president and Congress on this issue?
  • What, if any, obligations and opportunities does the United States have stemming from existing UN General Assembly and UN Security Council resolutions regarding Korea?
  • Are there particular legal questions surrounding U.S. military participation in a multilateral military operation?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • If the United States were to intervene militarily north of the 38th parallel, what should its military and political goals be? How should it determine when the mission had been completed?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What are the military capabilities and interests of the countries that are involved or could become involved in the conflict in Korea? How should this knowledge affect consideration of various U.S. responses to the crisis?
  • What would be the implications of a military deployment into North Korea, whether quick or extended, for U.S. military capacity in other parts of the world?
  • If undertaken, what might a U.S. military intervention north of the 38th parallel require? What kinds of capabilities and assets could the U.S. military deploy? Would the intervention feature only Korean ground forces or American ground forces as well?

 

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

  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception of American power and leadership among the United States’ allies and friends? Among governments and nonstate actors who want to do the United States harm?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • How, if at all, might the State Department’s diplomatic efforts be required to support various policy options in this case?  What, if any, diplomatic steps would be useful to support either policy option?
  • Are there particular legal questions surrounding U.S. military participation in a multilateral military operation?
  • What interests do other major UN member states, especially the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, have in Korea, and what policy preferences might they have in the current situation? How should the United States take these views into account when deliberating its policy options?
  • What is the role of the United Nations, particularly the UN Security Council, in the crisis and in U.S. policy steps so far? What additional steps might be available to the United States through the United Nations, based on the policy option the president adopts?
  • How important is it for the United States to receive the backing of the UN Security Council for any military intervention north of the 38th parallel? Why?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Korea as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? Where does it fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • If the United States were to intervene militarily north of the 38th parallel, what should its military and political goals be? How should it determine when the mission had been completed?
  • How could either policy decision in this case, and its outcome, affect the perception of American power and leadership among the United States’ allies and friends? Among governments and nonstate actors who want to do the United States harm?
  • What kind of relationship does the United States have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might these countries react to possible U.S. intervention north of the 38th parallel, and how should this affect consideration of the policy options?
  • What kind of relationship does North Korea have with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China? How might this affect the outcome of a U.S. decision to proceed north of the 38th parallel, or not to do so?
  • Can the United States reconcile its desire to unify Korea and contain communism in the region with its desire not to provoke China or the Soviet Union? If these desires cannot be fully reconciled, how should they be balanced or prioritized?
  • What are the risks and potential benefits for the United States of pursuing unification of the Korean Peninsula or of confining itself to pushing the North Korean military out of South Korea?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on the situation in Korea and the ultimate U.S. goals there? How, if at all, should the administration work with Congress to consider and implement potential responses to the situation?
  • What is the range of attitudes in the media and among the U.S. public toward Korea and the ultimate U.S. goals there? What, if any, constituencies in the United States have a particular interest in or especially strong views on this issue? What does all of this suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?

 

Research Leads

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