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Digital Currency Wars: How Harvard Faculty Recreated the Situation Room

December 21, 2019


Professor R. Nicholas Burns:
We’re in real jeopardy here. The President’s gonna have
to approach Xi Jinping. What are Situation Room meetings
really like in the White House? Students at Harvard Kennedy
School wanted to find out. So they gathered a group of HKS faculty many of whom have served on the
U.S>National Security Council and simulated a Situation Room
meeting in front of a live audience. Sakina Haider, Event Organizer: There
were a couple of goals at the event. One was showing that there is a real link between economics and national security. Those two things shouldn’t be
thought about in siloed ways. The second aim, I think, was giving students and the audience an opportunity to see how
these kinds of conversations actually take place in government. Students with the Economic Diplomacy
Initiative at HKS developed a
fictional national security crisis complete with breaking news reports. Jane Perlez, New York Times: We
are following the breaking news coming in from North Korea, where an alarming new
round of missile tests suggests that Kim Jong Un has
advanced his nuclear program further than Washington has understood. Professor Meghan O’Sullivan:
How do we wield American power in a world where we are
not financially dominant? We’re behind the curve on
that and I look to you, as National Security Advisor, to really get our government
thinking about that. Greg Honan, Event Organizer:
The plan went just about as well as we could have expected. We were definitely surprised and impressed by the list of policy
options they came up with. The fictional crisis involved North Korea
using digital currency to evade sanctions and obtain the technology needed
to detonate a nuclear warhead Aditi Kumar: In this space in
particular, there’s a huge divide between technologists and policy people. So we thought this was a real opportunity to put people on the stage together and have them have a conversation that they’re not really
having in other forums. Eric Rosenbach: When it comes down to it, it really was a very heavily
student-driven project. Aditi had recruited a really
smart group of students to do all the research,
help develop the scenario, do all of the products necessary to prepare the people
who are at the table; much like you would do for a real meeting of the
National Security Council. The event was produced by the
Student Working Group of the
Economic Diplomacy Initiative The EDI is housed at the Belfer
Center for Science and International
Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. It took place in the John F. Kennedy
Jr. Forum at the Institute of
Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. You can watch the event at
ken.sc/crisis-simulation.

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