CIA Head of Desk: “Director, we have a problem.”
CIA Director: “Yes?”
CIA Head of Desk: “South Sudanese ground troops are rapidly mobilizing on the North Sudan border.”
CIA Director: “Oh. Well. Let me see. Maybe, before you head out to procure that second thin crust pizza with extra pepperoni, olives and non-salty sardines, perhaps you’d better send a message to control.”
CIA Head of Desk: “Umm…I guess so huh…”
This is an insight into the 5 hour dialogue that occurred this past Saturday (30th Jan.) within the confines of the Rome-Phillip building at George Washington University. Up to 100 students from not only GWU’s elite Elliot School of International Affairs, but also military colleges such as the Navy School at Annapolis, who were dressed smartly in cadet uniforms, I might add, gathered to participate in an exciting crisis simulation. Code name operation ‘shadowed operation’, the goal was to create effective solutions to humanitarian building issues in Central East Africa.
I was given the position of ‘Head of Desk of the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) in Nairobi, Kenya’. Apart from running for extra pizza and soft drinks to keep our weary minds alert, I was responsible for ensuring human and satellite intelligence was being kept up to date for our operatives and to HQ back in Langley, Virginia. It was a fascinating experience for all involved, without a doubt one of the highlights of my time at GW so far. This was especially the case when I was given permission to order the dropping of some several thousand propaganda leaflets over south western Somalia to help counter radical Islam, namely the group Al-Shabaab.
Disappointingly we didn’t get the opportunity to do something extra-ordinary such as sending in the 101st air borne paratroopers, or signaling superman to descend majestically to save the day. The simulation was a great experience for me nonetheless because in its ordinary-ness it was believable. It mirrored reality, down to the bureaucratic headache which is the American Administration. For students who thought that they could quickly end poverty and bring about world peace, the simulation very successfully conveyed the complexity of the issue to all involved. This was a sobering experience for international affairs students from this “get it now” generation. We all realized that solutions to serious problems such as poverty and state building take longer than expected and we were reminded of that old adage: patience is a virtue.
(All that said, one of the neatly dressed navy college students “Casey 16” convinced us, the CIA, to lend her a secret operative to assassinate South Sudan’s president. The attempt failed miserably and our operative was allegedly tortured. Well, it was our first day on the job after all… )
Apart from Saturday’s fling with an Independence Day style mission, this past week was just a regular week, really. On Thursday about 10 of us went to one of DC’s best Spanish restaurant “Jaleo”. This was apart of Food Week, where you could get a three course meal for only $35.00. The chili shrimp was particularly delicioso with its stirring marinade and subtle sting. I’m not sure about the others-and I’m not game to ask honestly- but for me Jaleo’s spicy chili shrimp was the unexpected legacy of Food Week. The subtle sting lasted longer than the hour of fine dining, I can well assure you. Oh, and I almost called our waiter Manuel at one point; he was short and from Barcelona, just like that notorious Spaniard out of Fawlty Towers.”¿Qué?”
Marie Jolly, an eighteen year old French exchange student who hails from Troyes, invited some of us exchange students over for a crepe party Saturday night. For someone who Majors in International Business boy can she fry up a mean crepe. The divine smell of French cooking took me back to our family vacation in Paris in the Summer of ’13. O la la! It was an altogether pleasant evening, especially when Marie shared the exciting news that she had been ranked number one in economics at the prestigious business school she attends in Paris. I assured her that some day she would be France’s first female President. With her in this important position and me as the head of desk for the CIA in Nairobi, Kenya, running around getting pepperoni pizzas for the Mission Director, collectively, alumni of the George Washington Spring exchange ’16 would rule the world. Suddenly, our dreaming was distracted and there was a return to our college student manifestation: le tour de crepe-plate-washing-up had begun…