On November 13-14, 2020, 31 students from the Schar School of Policy and Government (21 participants and 10 CSPS volunteers) convened virtually for CSPS’s semi-annual crisis simulation: NATO, Russia, and a Political-Military Crisis in the Baltic States. The players participated on one of six teams: Baltics-Poland, France-Germany, Turkey, U.S., U.K., and Red. Players navigated three progressive “rounds” of the simulation followed by a final debrief and discussion session. Strategic challenges emerged naturally – escalation management, decision making under uncertainty, alliance cohesion, signaling, credibility, and public diplomacy in the age of Twitter.
A Conversation with Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI
With Michael Morell: Former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the CIA
Moderator: Ellen Laipson
Co-sponsored by the Hayden Center
The Coronavirus & its International Ramifications
On Feb 21, 2020 CSPS welcomed Dr. Stephen Morrison, Dr. Ashley Grant, and Dr. Ketian Zhang for a discussion on the security issues coronavirus poses, and the way that states can prepare for an outbreak.
Dr. Morrison, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of its Global Health Policy Center, discussed both China’s response to the crisis and the way the internaitonal community, the World Health Organization in particular, have worked together to combat the virus.
Dr. Grant, a biotechnologist and adjunct at GMU, gave the audience information about the coronavirus in particular, how contagious it is, what the scientific community does and does not know about it, and ways that governments and citizens can prepare for an eventual outbreak.
Dr. Zhang, an Assistant Professor of Intenraitonal Security at GMU, shared her personal experience, visiting Beijing over the holiday break. Zhang was under quarintine for ten days and caught the last flight back to the United States. As a regional expert in East Asia Zhang also shared how the virus has undermined Xi Jinping’s leadership.
The complete discussion is available on YouTube.
Norfolk Staff Ride
On the morning of November 23rd, twenty-seven George Mason graduate and undergraduate students participated in CSPS’s Staff Ride to Norfolk Naval Station for a full day of tours. During the bus ride, former Naval officers Doyle Hodges and Ryan Berry provided background knowledge to the students. Both discussed their personal experiences in the Navy and delved into the technical details of different classes of ships and the intricacies of landing an airplane on a postage stamp, as Ryan referred to the deck of an aircraft carrier. Students engaged in a discussion on the three broad missions of the Navy: power projection, control of the seas, and strategic deterrence. The tours of different ships would serve as manifestations of each mission on different platforms.
After the stage was set for the first tour and students prepared for the rigor of back-to-back tours. Starting with the Nimitz-class USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) for a 90-minute tour, GMU’s students started in the hangar bays and snaked their way through the maze-like interior halls of the Stennis, eventually emerging atop the flight deck. Ryan, a former naval flight officer who served on EA-6B Prowlers during his time in the Navy, went into careful detail to explain the processes and perils of launching and recovering aircraft on the high seas. As an unplanned addition, students were able to look across the pier to a recent arrival to Norfolk – the HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and the F-35 parked onboard. After touring the bridge and a tribute-like room to the ship’s namesake, Senator Stennis, the group disembarked and prepared for the next tour: for half the group, a destroyer; for the other half, a submarine.
The USS Nitze (DDG-94) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer commissioned in 2005. Its missions and corresponding capabilities range from antisurface warfare (ASuW) to antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and from strikes on land with Tomahawk cruise missiles to surface-to-air defenses at sea. The group saw the Nitze’s missile cells, close-in weapons system (CIWS, pronounced SEE-WIZ), 5-inch gun, bridge, and even the mess hall where college football games demanded the attention of off-duty sailors. Doyle’s previous experience commanding the USS Ross (DDG-71) was invaluable as the Nitze’s tour guides showed students the different facilities and components of their ship.
As we got to the final pier for the tour of the Virginia-class USS New Hampshire (SSN-778), we quickly understood this to be a more sensitive area for tourists. Security felt more stringent, and we were asked to relinquish our cell phones as soon as we made it through the gate. As our 15-student groups were cut again by half, we proceeded down the first ladder and into the New Hampshire. Descending at a vertical angle into the sub, students quickly came to appreciate the realities of life aboard a platform designed to conserve maximum amounts of space. The layout was shocking to those of us who had never set foot in a submarine: narrow hallways, small berthing areas, and near vertical sets of stairs. However, we quickly were in awe of many of the features on the New Hampshire which distracted us from the cramped space. Among many other areas, students walked through the “magazine” of the sub where torpedoes are loaded into tubes to be launched and toured the control room or “con” showcased in every submarine movie (including Crimson Tide, which was viewed on our return trip).
CSPS is thankful for all of the military servicemembers who made our day of tours possible. Despite the long hours and a gloomy, rainy afternoon, the enthusiasm of Norfolk’s naval personnel and active engagement of the students made all the travel worth it. We hope to return soon with a new batch of eager GMU students!
Africa’s Security Challenges: Is the Situation Improving?
On October 18, 2019, Dr. Philip Martin – an Assistant Professor of International Security at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, and Eric Schmitt – a senior writer covering terrorism and national security for The New York Times, met to explore the status of Africa’s wars, and efforts to build greater security capacity in this critical region. Dr. Phillip Martin begun the discussion, outlining the fact that Africa accounts for 30% of all Islamic State’s violence. Dr. Martin then discussed intercommunal conflicts, political protests, and long-term conflict resolution. Mr. Schmitt discussed European and American special forces “Operation Flintlock”, the current conflict in Burkina Faso, and the ongoing issue in Libya. Mr. Schmitt then went into a discussion of AFCOMM, and its relations with the current administration. The discussion was concluded with questions on non-military approaches to the security challenge, competition/collaboration between Russia and China in the region, blanket amnesty and the need for security forces, concluding with a significant discussion on the importance of police forces in the region.
Along the US-Mexican Border
October 10, 2019 – The U.S.-Mexico border has been the site of intense scrutiny recently, with attention focused on asylum seekers from Central America and the separation of families while their cases are processed. It was in this context that Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a Schar School Associate Professor, traveled the entire U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year, entering and exiting through all of the more than 40 border crossings between the two countries. Dr. Correa-Cabrera gave a presentation to undergraduate and graduate students about this experience, which covered topics of immigration, security, indigenous people, economics, and culture in the border region.
Many migrants underestimate the difficulty they will encounter once in the country. In response to a question from the audience, Dr. Correa-Cabrera poignantly described how many migrants, upon arriving in the United States, realize that it is not the so-called promised land that they might have been led to believe. But as long as conditions in their home countries persist, migrants will continue making the journey to the border, shaping it in ways that reflect their unique cultural contributions.
Site Visit at Norfolk
On August 23, 2019, Dr. John Gordon, a CSPS affiliate faculty member and adjunct professor at George Mason University, took a group of current and former Schar School/CSPS students on a tour of Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, to see firsthand the inside of an aircraft carrier and attack submarine. As if to emphasize just how much naval history lies within and around the area, Dr. Gordon pointed out the rough site of the famous Civil War Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack as the group approached the City of Norfolk.