Maps, Guns and Games of Risk: How To Succeed In A Military Crisis Committee

by Marta on February 4, 2013

You’re sitting there, in committee – be it NATO, a civil war crisis, or a historical WWI crisis – excelling at every move you make. Your crisis notes are flawless, your speeches are rousing, and it finally looks like you have the rest of committee on your side — until a military conflict breaks out. You sit, paralyzed, unable to do anything, as your fellow delegates scramble to write out damage control operations and offensive strategies. You’ve missed a brilliant opportunity.

Two crisis staffers examine a map of military operations.

It’s easy for delegates to overlook the military aspect of certain committees, especially if they come from Political Science, History or Economics backgrounds. It’s not unusual to see star delegates freeze in the throes of a military-oriented committee as soon as they’re asked to develop a military plan of attack or respond to an airstrike. This is where delegates lose a valuable opportunity to show their skills, and are often upstaged by delegates who know what they’re talking about. Hopefully, these six basic tips will help  delegates excel in the military aspects of these committees, regardless of any gaps in military knowledge (we can’t all be West Point delegates, after all…).

1. Know your committee. 

Not all military committees share the same format, structure and topics. An assignment as the US in NATO needs to be approached quite differently than, say, one as the leader of a rebel group in a civil war. These two committees will operate quite differently, and this will change what you can do as a delegate. It also affects issues of legitimacy, military wherewithal, and relations to other countries. Your committee type will also steer your research in one direction over the other, so your first step to success is identifying your committee format and tailoring your approach accordingly. The difference between committees often has to do with the type of international law or regulations they are bound by (if any), so make this your jumping-off point.

Joint Crisis – Civil WarCivil War committees (popular ones include the Syrian and Libyan conflicts) are often operated as joint crisis committees, which means that your committee will be interacting with another body of delegates rather than just crisis staff. As a delegate, you’ll be operating in a much more chaotic atmosphere than usual.  Civil War committees are less about the “bigger picture” and will focus more on territorial exchanges and guerilla warfare. It’s also important to keep in mind what side of the crisis you’re on: as a “rebel” delegate, you’ll will have to deal less with issues of legitimacy and more with issues of resources and support; as a “government” delegate, legitimacy and relations with other countries will be crucial.

Joint Crisis – Inter-state War:  With a variety of conflicts to choose from, from historical to contemporary, this is a popular crisis committee that forces delegates to operate at several different levels. Any military action will most likely have to be agreed upon by the rest of the committee, and must also be taken while keeping in mind the domestic situation. You will have to deal with crises on two fronts – international and domestic – which will complicate every action you take. When handling these two fronts, remember to place a lot of importance on domestic welfare: weaker delegates tend to forget about the home front, which always ends up hurting them on the war front.

Alliances: While the most obvious one here is NATO, others to keep in mind are historical Warsaw Pact committees, World War alliances, and other large alliances during military conflicts. These alliances are usually high-profile international institutions made up of powerful countries, which means that every action you take as a country will be seen by the eyes of the world. These committees will also tend to have considerable international recognition and resources at the delegates’ disposal, as well as a mission that will be wide in scope. This kind of committee will ask delegates to take a step back and look at the “bigger picture” of international security and the institution’s role and obligations in world affairs. Any type of intervention will most likely have to be multilateral, so cooperation is a necessity.

2. Do your research.

The key to succeeding in a military committee is, of course, to come prepared. Direct your research according to your committee type. Make sure to include a good balance of topic-related research and more general military-related research.

Maps. Military Committees will typically make great use of maps, especially military and topographic ones. Learn how to read these, and keep multiple variations of them in your research binder. Helpful resources include:

Technology and EquipmentAlthough memorizing lists of weapons, tanks and aircrafts would be a waste of time, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basics of ones that come up over and over again. Keep in mind where your committee is going to be operating, and the kinds of military resources associated with that location and time period. Don’t, for example, send a crisis note as the Russian Federation asking for the KGB to find some information for you – in a modern-day Security Council committee. True story.

Operations. Knowing military tactics and strategy, however, is where you can truly shine as a delegate. I always find it helpful to keep a list of possible moves or tactics in my research binder, to which I can refer to at a moment’s notice. Customize this list to both your committee type and delegate assignment: if you’re a rebel general in a civil war, focus on tactics that require few men and resources, such as guerilla warfare; in contrast, if you’re the leader of a P5 nation, you will have considerably more resources and leeway at your disposal, and therefore an entire array of possible strategies.

3. Know your resources.

In my experience as both a delegate and staffer in military committees, the Crisis Gods often likes to start the first couple of committee sessions off with preliminary debate and discussion, with few actual military actions. This is the perfect time to consolidate and organize your resources. Most delegates will start off committee with a portfolio and resources at their disposal, but some may start off with few or no resources at all; in this case, you must make it your goal to acquire them – in any way you can. And remember, you can never have too many resources: devise strategies to get ahold of more, such as arms deals with powerful countries or warehouse raids.

Once you have your resources – be they an arsenal of weapons, a hangar filled with elite aircraft or thousands of infantry at your disposal – it’s important to keep them organized, especially as you start to make use of them. Start off committee with a list of everything you have available to you. Make note as you begin to deploy troops and use your resources, and as more resources come in. You’ll thank yourself when the real action starts happening, and everything begins to deteriorate into chaos.

4. Consider the consequences. 

While this goes for any committee, the actions you take in military-oriented committees can have potentially drastic consequences. Any action you or your committee takes will have a result, and you need to consider how this result will impact your future actions. If you’re a rebel group of insurgents in a civil war, bombing the city where the current government resides will be effective; but it may also turn the rest of the country against you. Perform a cost/benefit analysis for every military action you take, and be prepared to face repercussions.

5. Be creative.

While being able to rattle off lists of weapons and memorizing maps can always be an asset, the delegates who will truly succeed in military-based committees will be the ones who can think on their feet, come up with creative plans and solutions, and adapt to crazy situations. Military crises in particular are where Crisis really has the opportunity to throw anything your way: don’t be surprised if your (relatively) innocent drone strike leads to, for example, a nuclear wasteland. While it may be tempting to react with laughter and disbelief, try to deal with these crises as realistically as possible. Within such a dynamic and unpredictable environment, the ideal delegate will be the one that can “think outside the box” and respond to unpredictable situations as professionally as possible. In the same vein, try to consistently make useful and unique contributions to the initiatives of other delegates. All this will come easier as you gain experience and participate in more and more crisis committees.

6. Keep things in perspective.

While simulating Risk games and directing thousands of troops is always fun, it’s important to realize that as a delegate, you are simulating something very real and very serious that is happening in the world today. Model United Nations is a reflective activity that should prompt you to consider underlying causes for conflict and international issues within a highly engaging framework. I recall participating in one Somali Civil War joint crisis in high school where, after three days of conflict, tit-for-tat battle and military espionage, we were interrupted in committee by crisis staffers, disguised as Somali citizens and protesting that we had “forgotten about the people”. As hilarious as it was to see our very own “Occupy Somalia” movement, this served as a valuable lesson: at the end of the day, military conflict affects ordinary citizens, and should thus not be taken lightly.

Hopefully, these tips will both supplement existing knowledge and encourage interest in military crisis committees. Don’t be intimidated by what looks like a daunting committee — military committees offer unparalleled excitement, challenges and rewards.

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