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Keeping It Real: Teaching Middle East Conflicts with Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  [I was most struck by] the plight of the people in the conflict - no one standing [is] up for them. The simulations taught students that right and wrong, truth and falseness, were not always easy to determine, if possible at all. [The most striking thing was] how no single case was correct, no individual position was true and right. All sides had good points and elements of blame. Observations and ideas might change if you really want to think in favor of one side. We can never state a single truth, actually it’s a total conflict of interests. … that there's no real bad guy (lots of them depending on the given moment) and no real good guy (they all have valid complaints).… moderation and/or Realism depends on how it is interpreted.… no single case was correct/right: all sides had good points and elements of blame. … that each side has rational ideas that are not rational to the other sides. The best part was learning the issues from the perspectives of all the various states. Reflecting the changed perception of the conflict and the parties involved, the question on picking a winner was yielded surprising results. Opinions remained divided, but there was a clear plurality in each simulation picked a group not liked by the students themselves, demonstrating that the simulations produced empathy for unpopular groups. A very few picked those with well-articulated positions despite disagreeing with them. Only one at most per class picked the one who holds the power, for example due to the spoils of war, surprising given the population. Many picked their own role-played group - they assumed the persona to great extent. Others picked an obvious loser, or stated that no one had the moral high ground. Some picked the one with the best-argued case solely on the basis of the clear statement of their position. Generally, the winners were those deemed to have a solution to the conflict, be least violent absent provocation, or the most victimized. Many stated that the most striking thing of the simulation was their sympathy for groups previously thought of in wholly negative terms. [The most striking thing was] that the Shi'a may have actually had the best argument and that I may be empathetic to their cause as it related to Lebanon in the 70s and 80s. Theoretical Lessons Learned The role-play demonstrated the complexity of the conflict and the diversity of interests within groups. The pragmatism of actors, contrary to their rhetoric, was a surprise to many. The complexity of the conflict itself was often cited as the most striking thing students learned. Students were surprised at how much of the conflict was domestically generated, not due to regional or superpower dictates. They discussed the divergence of goals between the leadership and the people, which they had not realized previously. [The most striking thing was] the extent to which all parties were willing to be pragmatic short term, often in contradiction to their rhetoric (political, religious, etc). Also the way in which all parties while claiming the moral high ground vis- 8

Authors: Baylouny, Anne.
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[I was most struck by] the plight of the people in the conflict - no one standing
[is] up for them.
The simulations taught students that right and wrong, truth and falseness, were not
always easy to determine, if possible at all.
[The most striking thing was] how no single case was correct, no individual
position was true and right. All sides had good points and elements of blame.
Observations and ideas might change if you really want to think in favor of one
side. We can never state a single truth, actually it’s a total conflict of interests.
… that there's no real bad guy (lots of them depending on the given moment) and
no real good guy (they all have valid complaints).
… moderation and/or Realism depends on how it is interpreted.
… no single case was correct/right: all sides had good points and elements of
blame.
… that each side has rational ideas that are not rational to the other sides.
The best part was learning the issues from the perspectives of all the various
states.
Reflecting the changed perception of the conflict and the parties involved, the
question on picking a winner was yielded surprising results. Opinions remained divided,
but there was a clear plurality in each simulation picked a group not liked by the students
themselves, demonstrating that the simulations produced empathy for unpopular groups.
A very few picked those with well-articulated positions despite disagreeing with them.
Only one at most per class picked the one who holds the power, for example due to the
spoils of war, surprising given the population. Many picked their own role-played group -
they assumed the persona to great extent. Others picked an obvious loser, or stated that
no one had the moral high ground. Some picked the one with the best-argued case solely
on the basis of the clear statement of their position. Generally, the winners were those
deemed to have a solution to the conflict, be least violent absent provocation, or the most
victimized. Many stated that the most striking thing of the simulation was their sympathy
for groups previously thought of in wholly negative terms.
[The most striking thing was] that the Shi'a may have actually had the best
argument and that I may be empathetic to their cause as it related to Lebanon in
the 70s and 80s.
Theoretical Lessons Learned
The role-play demonstrated the complexity of the conflict and the diversity of
interests within groups. The pragmatism of actors, contrary to their rhetoric, was a
surprise to many. The complexity of the conflict itself was often cited as the most striking
thing students learned. Students were surprised at how much of the conflict was
domestically generated, not due to regional or superpower dictates. They discussed the
divergence of goals between the leadership and the people, which they had not realized
previously.
[The most striking thing was] the extent to which all parties were willing to be
pragmatic short term, often in contradiction to their rhetoric (political, religious,
etc). Also the way in which all parties while claiming the moral high ground vis-
8


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