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U.S. President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice aboard Marine One en route to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England following the NATO Summit in Wales, Sept. 5, 2014 (Official White House photo by Pete Souza).

As Stakes Rise, Muddling Through No Longer Viable Option for U.S.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This past weekend, I had the privilege of taking part in the Harvard Extension School’s Crisis Game, a Cold War-era nuclear simulation involving some 30 graduate students and led by my colleague Tom Nichols. What was fascinating to observe was how even the prospect of a theoretical nuclear exchange was still capable of forcing a high degree of seriousness and focus among the participants, as various courses of action were debated and evaluated.

Indeed, some of the participants themselves raised the question of whether U.S. national security policy today lacks the gravitas it appeared to have 30 years ago, particularly the understanding of where and when to take risks. In the simulation, the U.S. side was forced to take steps that today would be seen as politically unfeasible—including taking casualties in a limited air campaign, accepting the reality of very high domestic energy prices or watching the stock market take a beating—to defend the long-term security of the United States and head off nuclear conflict. Some participants clearly felt that a contemporary U.S. administration would find it had a lot less maneuvering room to accept such a great deal of short-term pain in response to a foreign policy crisis. ...

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