Friday, January 22, 2021

The Power of One Think Tank's War Game

A war game designed at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) could be the most influential war game ever developed.  Here is more from the New York Times Magazine:


For John Podesta, the profound geopolitical challenges posed by climate change first became clear in July 2008, not long before he took charge of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. That month, he took part in a war game hosted by the Center for New American Security, a Washington-based research group. The room was full of people who were, like him, awaiting their chance to re-enter influential positions in the American government. Around the table in a private conference room at the Newseum in Washington, were former U.S. military officials, a former E.P.A. administrator, advisers to Chinese intelligence officials, analysts from McKinsey and the Brookings Institution and at least one European diplomat. “Let me be very clear,” Podesta told the gathering, in his assigned role as the United Nations secretary general. “Our time is running out.”

The exercise was set in 2015, with the climate crisis becoming violently apparent. A Category 5 hurricane had struck Miami shortly after a cyclone killed 200,000 people in Bangladesh. The scenario was designed by a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security named Sharon Burke, who would later become an assistant U.S. secretary of defense; her game plan suggested that a wave of climate migrants would be driven from their homes, part of the climate-caused displacement of as many as a billion people by 2050.

The game marked a turning point of sorts in how some U.S. officials viewed the security threats posed by climate change.


John Podesta is the former president and now Chair and Counselor at the think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).  He served as White House Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and as Counselor to President Barack Obama.

Sharon Burke is now a Senior Advisor to the International Security Program and Resource Security Program at New America.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on war games at think tanks.