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Student Instructor

Humanitarian Intervention in South Sudan

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:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in South Sudan 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 major components of U.S. humanitarian assistance to and diplomatic involvement in South Sudan? What have been the effects of this assistance and involvement?
  • How is the United States perceived in South Sudan and elsewhere in the region? What would be the likely reaction to various policy options?
  • 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 South Sudan?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in South Sudan 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?
  • How is the United States perceived in South Sudan and elsewhere in the region, and what would be the likely reaction to various policy options?
  • What are the attitudes of Congress and the general public toward the situation in South Sudan, and the prospects of military intervention in particular? What might be the domestic political consequences of the various policy options?
  • What role do the media and private activism play in the U.S. policy debate over South Sudan?
  • 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 South Sudan?

 

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 Colombia 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.-South Sudan relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with South Sudan, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What are the major components of U.S. humanitarian assistance to and diplomatic involvement in South Sudan? What have been the effects of this assistance and involvement?
  • What are the positions and interests of other countries in the region, such as Sudan and Uganda, in the situation in South Sudan? How might these countries contribute to the crisis and how might they help resolve it?

 

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 South Sudan 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 South Sudan?
  • How and how effectively have U.S. armed forces responded to large-scale humanitarian crises in the past?
  • In what ways might the U.S. military work with foreign militaries or multinational military forces to respond to the crisis in South Sudan?

 

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 South Sudan 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 South Sudan?
  • How is the United States perceived in South Sudan and elsewhere in the region, and what would be the likely reaction to various policy options?
  • What are the most important factors for the president to consider when making a decision? What types of analysis would be most useful for other members of the NSC to present?

 

Research Leads:

Description of Role:

The 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, if at all, does the situation in South Sudan threaten U.S. national security?
  • What steps would be required by the U.S. government, including the executive branch and Congress, to implement various policy options in this case?
  • 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 attitudes of Congress and the general public toward the situation in South Sudan, and the prospects of military intervention in particular? What might be the domestic political consequences of the various policy options?
  • What role do the media and private activism play in the U.S. policy debate over South Sudan?

 

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 South Sudan 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 legal considerations surrounding the use of U.S. military force? What are the roles of the president and Congress on this issue?
  • What is the range of opinion among governments and international institutions about humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect?
  • What kind of legal steps, such as domestic legislation or UN Security Council resolutions, might be useful or necessary for any U.S. intervention in South Sudan?

 

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 South Sudan 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 South Sudan?
  • In what ways might the U.S. military work with foreign militaries to lessen the effects of a famine and a broader humanitarian crisis in South Sudan?
  • How and how effectively have U.S. armed forces responded to large-scale humanitarian crises in the past?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in Colombia 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 overall role of the United Nations and its agencies in the crisis in South Sudan? In particular, what are the roles and status of peacekeeping and humanitarian relief efforts?
  • What actions aimed at reducing tensions and advancing possible resolutions of the dispute are available to the United States at the United Nations?
  • Which of the proposed military options might require or benefit from a UN Security Council resolution?

 

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:

  • What is the nature of the U.S.-South Sudan relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with South Sudan, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What are the major components of U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to South Sudan? What has been the effect of this assistance?
  • What is the number and status of South Sudanese refugees and internally displaced persons and what kinds of assistance is USAID best suited to provide them?
  • What kinds of obstacles and challenges might aid workers encounter in South Sudan or neighboring states under various policy options, and how does this shape calculations over these options?
  • How might military action assist or undermine USAID’s efforts to provide aid in the region? For instance, could coordination with military forces allow aid workers to reach areas they could not previously access because of security risks? Alternatively, what type of military action might exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and how?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in South Sudan as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security? 
  • What economic tools, whether punishments or inducements, might be effective in advancing U.S. policy goals in South Sudan?
  • What would the financial costs to the United States be if it undertook a military humanitarian intervention in South Sudan or its neighbors?
  • What role does oil play in South Sudan’s economy and in the current civil war? What might be the consequences of a potential U.S. intervention on oil production and transportation in South Sudan and the surrounding region?
  • How has the current conflict in South Sudan disrupted the country’s economy and citizens’ livelihoods, and what have been the effects?

 

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, if at all, does the situation in South Sudan threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the military capabilities of the SPLM/A and the SPLM/A-IO? What ties reportedly exist between these groups and their external supporters, particularly with regard to weapons?
  • What are the positions, interests, and capabilities of other countries in the region, such as Sudan and Uganda, in the situation in South Sudan? How might these countries be contributing to the crisis and how might they help resolve it? 
  • How is the United States perceived in South Sudan and elsewhere in the region, and what would be the likely reaction to various policy options? What would be their domestic political implications? 
  • In what ways is China important to South Sudan’s economy and infrastructure? How might this relationship influence consideration of various U.S. policy options? Are there other third-party actors operating in the region that could be of concern?

 

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 South Sudan 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?
  • What is the nature of the U.S.-South Sudan relationship? How, if at all, does the United States typically interact with South Sudan, and how does this inform U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the U.S. relationship with other parties relevant to this case? 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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