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Student Instructor

Cyber Clash with China

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 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 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 below. 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).

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. 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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the principal dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship? What factors account for the competition and cooperation between the two countries? What does the current state of the relationship suggest about the potential effect of various U.S. actions in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis—in the U.S. relationship with China, the disputes in the South China Sea, and the evolution of behavior in cyberspace? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? How should they be prioritized?
  • Where does cybersecurity fit into the broader context of U.S. national security concerns? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in both the evolving norms in cyberspace and the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea? How, if at all, might they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?
  • What is the status of international norms for state behavior in cyberspace? How might the policy options in this case adhere to or defy these norms, to the extent that they exist?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the principal dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship? What factors account for the competition and cooperation between the two countries? What does the current state of the relationship suggest about the potential effect of various U.S. actions in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis—in the U.S. relationship with China, the disputes in the South China Sea, and the evolution of behavior in cyberspace? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? How should they be prioritized?
  • Where does cybersecurity fit into the broader context of U.S. national security concerns? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on cybersecurity and internet governance, particularly in the context of U.S.-China relations? How might these attitudes influence the U.S. response to the crisis?
  • How do the media and public opinion affect U.S. policy toward China, especially regarding cybersecurity and internet governance? Which, if any, constituencies in the United States have a particular interest in or especially strong views about this issue? What do these factors suggest about 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 are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the principal dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship? What factors account for the competition and cooperation between the two countries? What does the current state of the relationship suggest about the potential effect of various U.S. actions in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis—in the U.S. relationship with China, the disputes in the South China Sea, and the evolution of behavior in cyberspace? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? How should they be prioritized?
  • Where does cybersecurity fit into the broader context of U.S. national security concerns? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on cybersecurity and internet governance, particularly in the context of U.S.-China relations? How might these attitudes influence the U.S. response to the crisis?
  • How do the media and public opinion affect U.S. policy toward China, especially regarding cybersecurity and internet governance? Which, if any, constituencies in the United States have a particular interest in or especially strong views about this issue? What do these factors suggest about 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 are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the principal dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship? What factors account for the competition and cooperation between the two countries? What does the current state of the relationship suggest about the potential effect of various U.S. actions in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis—in the U.S. relationship with China, the disputes in the South China Sea, and the evolution of behavior in cyberspace? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? How should they be prioritized?
  • Where does cybersecurity fit into the broader context of U.S. national security concerns? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What are the most important factors for the president to balance when making a decision? What types of analyses would be 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?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the principal dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship? What factors account for the competition and cooperation between the two countries? What does the current state of the relationship suggest about the potential effect of various U.S. actions in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis—in the U.S. relationship with China, the disputes in the South China Sea, and the evolution of behavior in cyberspace? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? How should they be prioritized?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in both the evolving norms in cyberspace and the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea? How, if at all, might they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?
  • What is the state of U.S. relations with the countries competing with China for territorial and jurisdictional control over islands in the South China Sea? How, if at all, should these relationships affect the policy decision in this case?
  • What is the status of international norms for state behavior in cyberspace? How might the policy options in this case adhere to or defy these norms, to the extent that they exist?
  • In what way do the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea affect U.S. national security? What interest does the United States have in the sovereignty of the islands there and in the stability of the South China Sea?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the immediate security risks of the policy options being considered in this case? For example, what might be the implications or consequences of sending more U.S. military forces near Chinese forces in the South China Sea? What might be the implications of any Chinese retaliation for a U.S. cyberattack on Chinese networks?
  • Does the current situation as presented in this case mandate consideration of military action by the United States? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  • If the United States were to respond militarily in this case, what should its goals be? How should it determine when the military mission has been completed?
  • What are China’s general military capabilities? How have they evolved in recent years, especially in the western Pacific Ocean? What do these circumstances suggest about the U.S. policy response in this case, particularly about situations that might bring U.S. forces into contact with Chinese ones?
  • What are the military capabilities of countries with competing claims in the South China Sea?
  • What are the similarities and differences between cyber weapons and kinetic (physical) weapons? How might the use of each type of weapon by the United States be perceived in this case?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks of using a military response in this case?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • How does the situation as presented in this case affect the U.S. economy? How might the economic effects evolve should the crisis endure, intensify, or abate?
  • What is the nature and scope of the U.S. economic relationship (including trade and investment) with China? What are the possible effects of a continued crisis on the U.S. and Chinese economies?
  • What is the role of sanctions in responding to cyberattacks and in past and present U.S.-China relations? What are the potential implications of using sanctions in response to the current crisis?
  • What are the economic costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks of imposing sanctions in this case?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options 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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the immediate security risks of the policy options being considered in this case? For example, what might be the implications or consequences of sending more U.S. military forces near Chinese forces in the South China Sea? What might be the implications of any Chinese retaliation for a U.S. cyberattack on Chinese networks?
  • Does the current situation as presented in this case mandate consideration of U.S. military action? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  • If the United States were to respond militarily in this case, what should its goals be? How should it determine when the military mission has been completed?
  • What are China’s general military capabilities? How have they evolved in recent years, especially in the western Pacific Ocean? What do these circumstances suggest about the U.S. policy response in this case, particularly about situations that might bring U.S. forces into contact with Chinese ones?
  • What are the military capabilities of countries with competing claims in the South China Sea?
  • What are the similarities and differences between cyber weapons and kinetic (physical) weapons? How might the use of each type of weapon by the United States be perceived in this case?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks of using a military response in this case?

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • Why is it difficult to attribute responsibility for cyberattacks? What are the implications of this difficulty for developing norms of behavior in cyberspace and for a U.S. response to the Nasdaq hack in this case?
  • What issues of U.S. and international law does this case raise? How, if at all, should these legal issues shape consideration of a U.S. policy response?
  • What has been the evolution of official U.S. policy on internet governance and cyber strategy? How does this evolution inform the policy options available in this case?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

 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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • Where does cybersecurity fit into the broader context of U.S. national security concerns? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in both the evolving norms in cyberspace and the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea? How, if at all, might they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?
  • What are the immediate security risks of the policy options being considered in this case? For example, what might be the implications or consequences of sending more U.S. military forces near Chinese forces in the South China Sea? What might be the implications of any Chinese retaliation for a U.S. cyberattack on Chinese networks?
  • What are the primary interests, motivations, and goals of the major actors in this crisis? What factors drive potential responses to it?
  • Why is it difficult to attribute responsibility for cyberattacks? What are the implications of this difficulty for developing norms of behavior in cyberspace and for a U.S. response to the Nasdaq hack in this case?
  • In what way do the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea affect U.S. national security? What interest does the United States have in the sovereignty of the islands there and in the stability of the South China Sea?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the principal dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship? What factors account for the competition and cooperation between the two countries? What does the current state of the relationship suggest about the potential effect of various U.S. actions in this case?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in both the evolving norms in cyberspace and the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea? How, if at all, might they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?
  • What position do UN member states, particularly those on the Security Council, take on cyberattacks and on competing claims in the South China Sea? How are these governments likely to react to various policy responses by the United States? How, if at all, should the United States take these views into account when deliberating its policy options?
  • What has been the role of the United Nations and its component parts in developing norms for state behavior in cyberspace and responding to cyberattacks? What role could or should the United Nations play in addressing the current crisis?
  • What is the status of international norms for state behavior in cyberspace? How might the policy options in this case adhere to or defy these norms, to the extent that they exist?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each U.S. policy option?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator works through the interagency process to manage the development and implementation of the country’s strategy and policies on cybersecurity. Rather than offering specific technical solutions, the special assistant is charged with coordinating policy responses among components of the U.S. government. The special assistant also oversees the relationship between the federal government and foreign governments, state and local governments, businesses, and other organizations on cybersecurity issues. 

The goals of the Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator are to

  • advise the president on matters relating to cybersecurity, including the political, economic, and military dimensions of the issue; and
  • provide guidance on devising and implementing policy responses to cyberattacks or other harmful cyber activity aimed at the United States.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How does the cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • Where does cybersecurity fit into the broader context of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape your consideration of policy options in this case?
  • Why is it difficult to attribute responsibility for cyberattacks? What are the implications of this difficulty for developing norms of behavior in cyberspace, and for a U.S. response to the hack on the NASDAQ in this case?
  • What has been the evolution of official U.S. policy on internet governance and cyber strategy? How does this evolution inform the policy options available in this case?
  • What are some past examples of cyberattacks believed to have been carried out by the United States and other countries or entities? What were the results of these attacks, and what do the results suggest about using a cyber response in this case?
  • What are the similarities and differences between cyber weapons and kinetic (physical) weapons? How might the use of each type of weapon by the United States be perceived in this case?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks of using a cyber response in this case?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

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 cyberattack on Nasdaq, along with the other incidents that have recently occurred in this case, threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the principal dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship? What factors account for the competition and cooperation between the two countries? What does the current state of the relationship suggest about the potential effect of various U.S. actions in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis—in the U.S. relationship with China, the disputes in the South China Sea, and the evolution of behavior in cyberspace? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response? How should they be prioritized?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries and organizations that have a stake in both the evolving norms in cyberspace and the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea? How, if at all, might they help resolve, exacerbate, or otherwise shape the current situation?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on cybersecurity and internet governance, particularly in the context of U.S.-China relations? How might these attitudes influence the U.S. response to the crisis?
  • What is the status of international norms for state behavior in cyberspace? How might the policy options in this case adhere to or defy these norms, to the extent that they exist?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by the potential policy options in this case?

 

 Research Leads:

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