by Nour Fadol
So you’re probably reading this thinking “Model NATO? Sounds like a less cool rip off of Model UN.” If you are – that’s exactly what I thought before doing it myself. If that wasn’t what you were thinking, you’ve clearly been deprived of the wonders of being a die-hard MUN-er. I have done Model UN since the age of 14. It has truly been quite central to the formation of my identity. It was in some way, shape or form, connected to the highlights of each year of my life from from age 14 to 20. MUN conferences took me all over the place- from Cairo and Berlin, to Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, to The Hague and Boston. Because of MUN, I can say I have friends around the world. Anyways, I diverge, but this is all to show how much I love Model UN. UN… not NATO. In fact, let’s talk about my experience with NATO before participating in the Model NATO 2013 conference as the Head Delegate of the NPSIA delegations.
Yeah… Not much to note. I should probably be more embarrassed, as an MA Candidate at an institution like NPSIA, to say my knowledge of NATO only covered its relevance to post-World War II and Cold War history. You know… NATO vs. Warsaw Pact and such. You think knowing that stuff means you know NATO, right? WRONG.
Here’s where we get into the cool things that came out of my participating in Model NATO. Representing the USA necessitated thorough research of not only US policy regarding NATO but discovering WHY this alliance still exists even though its sole reason for existing has long since disappeared. I won’t lie, there was the tedious research that had to be done and the 8-10 page position paper that I had to write (while trying to navigate myself onto a flight to Calgary–during a snowstorm which had cancelled the flight I needed to attend my cousin’s bridal shower -_-). But there was also really interesting research, like learning about the curent vision for NATO and their new strategy and role on the international stage. I had previously thought debating as a group of NATO would be super boring. I mean, what’s there to debate in an ALLIANCE. Isn’t the whole point of one of those that states are on the same page and adhere to the same ideologies? Yes, and no. Model NATO was a real eye-opener to the nuances of the policies of predominantly European nations plus Canada and the USA. The different priorities, the various contradicting red-lines regarding weapons and conflict in Europe and the MENA region, and the realities of how the financial crisis has effected NATO, defence spending and the security alliance as a whole. It’s a lot to process, believe me, I KNOW. But if you’re going to learn it and be involved in simulating NATO committees, what better position to have than the representative of the United States of America? Being the US was glorious, as I was able to point out that it really was my way or the highway, in a diplomatic, non-aggressive but matter-of-fact way of course! I even got to reverse procedure and insist on a re-vote that my sneaky committee members had initiated while I was out of the room consulting with my home government. I mean really, WHY they would vote on something so substantive without first consulting the US is beyond me, especially when it’s as huge a decision as infuriating Russia with American military capabilities, but they learned their lesson 😉 Hearing the Chair tell the committee that despite the majority not wanting a re-vote, they were going to re-vote whether they liked it or not since if they didn’t the USA would just withdraw its funding and capabilities (which mind you leaves…well…NOT MUCH) I couldn’t help the smug smirk forming across my face. I know it sounds arrogant, but really, it was epic. And so proceedings over the weekend went.
Stepping out of my comfort zone was not easy. Believe me, there were many moments where I cursed myself for being so easily convinced to take on the extra project. But in retrospect I am very happy I agreed, and happy I managed to drag 9 other unsuspecting NPSIAns into it with me. It was a challenging but fantastic weekend, and we came out with 6 individual awards, best delegation as the USA, and great performances across the board. I was so proud of my team members for excelling with so many other things on their plates and on such unfamiliar ground. I’ll end off by saying, it’s often assumed that such success is not only easy but expected, given that the conference was predominantly undergrads. In reality, many of the delegates at the conference, as is seen at MUN, were intense and excellent debaters who were much more familiar with NATO structure, policy and interests than any of us were going in. So yes, we had a much more refined tool-box to go in with, but I’m still proud to have been part of the NPSIA delegation, who proved that we were up to the challenge!