Partnered Armed Conflicts — Cooperation Simulation


Students play the role of one of six entities engaged in a partnered military operation with the primary goal of protecting the civilian population under tight time constraints. Students must cooperate with each other to share intelligence that will help meet military objectives and protect civilians, all in line with international law.

Introduction: This is an introductory class to international law pertaining to armed conflict. The first two-thirds of the class establishes the key legal doctrine, and the final third explores contemporary challenges. This case study, which came near the end of the semester, provides a basis to explore a key set of contemporary challenges, including information sharing, cooperation among military partners, and legal interoperability. Thus, this simulation provides a basis for students to consolidate and use concepts that they have learned throughout the course.

Goals: Learning goals:

  • To understand key issues and tensions concerning protection of civilians and military effectiveness in contemporary partnered operations, with a focus on State responsibility for internationally wrongful acts and individual responsibility for international crimes
  • To develop and implement sound approaches to addressing those concerns when deciding, under tight time pressure, whether to share intelligence and, if so, under what conditions and among which partners.

Procedure – Before Class:

Students were sent three preparatory documents one week before class. These included a general background document, information about the hypothetical simulation environment, and their specific team’s instructions and guidance. It is essential to the success of the activity that students come to class prepared.

Procedure – During Class:

The class started with an overview of the simulation environment and simulation rules. The students convened in groups according to roles, then discussed with other groups playing roles in the simulation as to whether to share intelligence units that each team had been pre-assigned. Under tight time constraints, students were put in the shoes of one of six military partners seeking to undertake an operation aimed at protecting a civilian population from an encroaching insurgent group. Students had to overcome information-sharing impediments among members in order to launch an operation that had a better chance of meeting their objectives. Students undertook two rounds of engagements. After each round, they were presented with outcomes and consequences of their action (or non-action). Keeping strict time during both rounds of the simulation is critical to fostering a more realistic simulation.

Procedure – After Class:

After the two rounds of the simulation were completed, the instructor led the class in a debrief discussion. Students learned the key aspects of the legal framework, central elements of partnered military operations, and concerns regarding evaluations as to whether to share intelligence in such environments. This case study provides students an opportunity to apply legal doctrine in practice in a format that mimics real-world time limits, cooperation constraints, and legal- and ethical decision-making.