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Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3:46 p.m.

Students debate Middle East instability in UN-style simulation

The Bumps Room of the Memorial Union was transformed into a model United Nations conference this Saturday when the International Affairs Association and University of Maine Army ROTC presented “Crisis Simulation: Middle East Instability.”

Thirty-nine student delegates represented about 20 countries and eight international organizations in this simulation that spanned nearly three hours.

The International Affairs Association, which attends a large-scale model UN every year, was hoping that this small-scale simulation could allow participants to practice resolving diplomatic issues. Though the majority of delegates were affiliated with Army ROTC and the IAA, this event was open to all students.

“I have always believed that young people are just as good, if not better, at solving the world’s problems than many of the politicians,” said Justin Lynch, president of the International Affairs Association. Lynch was hopeful that this event would prove his theory correct.

The event was originally planned to center on a nuclear Iran, but due to recent events in Palestine,Lynch felt the need to shift focus to the entire Middle East region.

The delegates role played as assigned countries to try to achieve their respective goals, which were presented to them at the beginning of the simulation. Contenders had full control over their country, including military capabilities.

Represented in this event were countries from the UN’s P5 committee, or the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the U.S., Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China. Top players in the Middle East were also represented, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Iran and Syria. Militant groups, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Syrian Rebels, were also included. Global organizations such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights also partook in the discussion.

In an effort to keep the simulation as close as possible to a real UN format, a Mission Control center and a Secretary General were seated at the head of the council. A frenzy of notes passed between mission control, and the delegates dictated changes and crises in the simulation.

“[Mission Control] keeps all the conversations going, and if something crucial happens it will be the next talking point,” said Evan Richards, Battalion Commander of UMaine Army ROTC. “We dictate what happens in the actual council. If they send us something that’s completely absurd we can deny it because it wouldn’t happen in a real world situation.”

The delegates were forced to think and act quickly to keep up with rapid changes in the simulation. In a few game-changing moves, Palestine was granted statehood, Ron Paul became president of the U.S. and the French representative were accused of accepting bribes from Israel.

It wasn’t hard to see that delegates were learning to play as the simulation went on. Delegate and ROTC member Cody Blackburn said, “It was pretty chaotic at the beginning, but [we’ve reached] a settling down point where it’s coming together.”

Sarah Denslow, the representative delegate for Turkey and member of IAA, agreed.

“I had no idea what to expect. It’s not something you can read up on; you just have to throw yourself into it,” she said, adding that her biggest challenge was distinguishing her own thoughts from the positions of her country, giving her trouble in making decisions that stayed true to Turkey.

Despite moments of chaos and confusion, the event proved beneficial overall to participants and organizers. Kyle Lawson, Executive Commander of Maine Army ROTC and member of Mission Control, said, “People got all dressed up. They had a good time with it, and it’s been a really positive event all the way around”

This event was good practice for participants to partake in diplomatic discussions and submerse themselves in the real world of foreign affairs. “It’s really just good to make sure people are aware of what is globally going on. As terrible and stereotypically true as it is, most Americans aren’t very knowledgeable about what goes on outside of America,” Lawson said.

Though Lynch’s theory of a younger generation dealing with issues more peacefully didn’t comply with the result of this event, he felt that “if [participants] dealt more with human nature, then it may have been more peaceful.”

Another simulation will be held in February, but with a theme that’s a little less serious. Lynch is considering a “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings” topic.