“Give War a Chance”

This weekend I participated in the International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA. For those who didn’t attend, the SCNE is a simulation of a United Nations negotiation round -in this case between six countries regarding the political future of the South Caucasus region. My delegation represented Azerbaijan, and although I could take the rest of this post to describe all the novel things I learned about strategy, negotiation, and the Caucasus, I’d rather examine the nature of lack of resolution that we experienced in our negotiations (in brief).

We started the day with eagerness and excitement in the hopes of “winning” the simulation. As we scheduled meetings with the United States, Russia and Turkey (note: specifically with every party except Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh), we examined our influence and made guesses about what we would have to leverage to the other parties in order to gain the territory our government demanded. We expected that we would have to give up certain parcels of land, and a few other
minor assets and rights, but it seemed as though there was an optimal solution that would make each participating country happy in the end, and that all we needed to do was find it.

In the afternoon, however, Sara and I met with Armenia to discuss our terms, and it quickly became apparent that our delegation’s goals were in direct conflict with those of at least one of the other delegations. As the meeting went on I understood that I had found myself in the middle of a conflict without any “reasonable” or foreseeable solution. It seemed almost as though resolution to the conflict would only come to my country from one of two ways: either by simply yielding our demands and allowing Nagorno-Karabakh the right to self determination (which we weren’t prepared to do), or by continuing the assault until there is no more resistance from Nagorno-Karabak and Armenia. Although neither of these scenarios appealed to my delegation, it seemed after negotiations that we would be stuck with the latter.

As we concluded our simulation, the chairman asked us to reflect on this statement:

“Give War a Chance.”

The idea being that although in most situations war should be avoided at all costs, in the case of the “frozen conflict” it may be the only way for resolve. That is, the only way besides yielding one’s own demands.


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