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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

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Simulation of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

When Oct 22, 2014
from 12:00 PM to 03:00 PM
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Over the past year, The Forum on Geopolitics has organised a series of simulations of the work of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, featuring sitting members of Congress.

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Students from the M.Phil in International Relations and the M.Phil in Public Policy at the University of Cambridge committed themselves to a series of four one-hour role-play simulations in the first half of Lent Term 2015 in which they played a particular individual on the current committee. These meetings featured expert witnesses and sitting Representatives. The purpose was to help students to understand better how the policy-making process of the United States legislature actually works.

The first meeting was held on 22nd October 2014 and featured a briefing on the working of US Congressional Committees by Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI, Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence).

Subsequent simulations took place on 4 successive Wednesdays - 28th January, 4th February, 11th February, 18th February.

The topic under discussion was a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The draft language was based on one proposal by Senator Tim Kaine (D, VA), opposing the use of ground troops and repealing the Iraq resolution that authorizing the use of force during the president of George W. Bush.

The first session covered the situation in Iraq and Syria. It featured expert testimony from Professor George Joffé, Research Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies and formerly the deputy-director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) where he concentrated on security issues connected with the Middle East and North Africa.

The second session provided information from the CIA and the perspective from the British Foreign Office. The witnesses called to testify were Stefan Halper, Life Fellow of the Centre of International Studies, Cambridge, and an Advisor to the US Secretary of Defence on terrorism and international security and Adam Wurr, Senior Conflict and Security Policy Advisor, FCO, London.

The third session featured legal testimony from Thomas D. Grant, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and senior associate of the Lauterpacht Center of International Law, who has served as legal advisor to governments, international organizations, corporate clients, and two U.S. presidential election campaigns. It also involved an update on the situation in the region from Dr. Glen Rangwala, a Lecturer in the Politics of the Modern Middle East in the Department of Politics and International Studies and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

The fourth and final simulation was held in closed session. The goal was to reach a vote on a final resolution with amendments, which was achieved.

The performance of the Simulation participants was critiqued by the convenors:

  • Dr. Emily Charnock (Keasbey Fellow in American Studies, Selwyn College)
  • Prof. Mallory Factor, (Visiting Fellow at POLIS and advisor to the Committee in Washington)
  • Dr. Charlie Laderman (Research Fellow, Peterhouse) 
  • Prof. Brendan Simms (Director of Centre of International Studies, POLIS)


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