Column Foreign Affairs and National Security 2009.07.09
We are getting ready for the first policy simulation of PAC Dojo, scheduled on July 4-5. The scenario to be used in the exercise is already complete, and the 50 players to participate in it have been almost finalized. Although we cannot disclose their names, they are either leading professionals or enthusiastic experts in various fields. We are very grateful to them.
This report from PAC Dojo focuses on why we use simulations (war-gaming), rather than lectures, to nurture political appointee candidates. I would like to explain why we have intentionally chosen this tool.
Whether you call it simulation or war-gaming, this type of intellectual exercise used for modern military training is said to date back to the nineteenth-century Prussian army in Germany. For winning future wars, they probably found it highly effective to rehearse actual battles by assuming the same situation as reality and dividing the troops into two sides.
Later, this idea spread over Europe and eventually crossed the Atlantic Ocean to be adopted by the U.S. forces. For its ability to test various strategies in advance without exposing soldiers to risk, war-gaming has found wide application beyond the military domain, extending to foreign policy, risk management and enterprise management.
The policy-making session to be held on July 4-5 is an attempt like these. However, our primary purpose is to train and develop political appointee candidates (PACs). Although the session will simulate an emergency situation in Pakistan, I will not pay much attention to the kind of policy to be proven effective there.
My primary focus will be to ensure that PAC members learn basic skills needed for policy-making at the interface between politicians and bureaucrats in a situation as close as possible to real-life policy-making and diplomatic negotiations, and that they learn unforgettable and valuable lessons from their failures, the lessons that will help them establish a pattern of thinking and behavior in the future.
Traditionally, Japan's policy-making process has been under the almost exclusive control of the ruling party's politicians and senior ministry officials. Few civilian outsiders have participated in the process, and consequently experiences and know-how accumulated there have never been shared with outsiders.
Nevertheless, policy-making is nothing like a process through which special people with special skills create a special product. From my thirty years of experience, I can hardly believe that there is a significant difference in intellectual capability between bureaucrats and non-bureaucrats.
The only difference I can think of lies in experience. The skills that bureaucrats have developed through their experience are not the kind that would take a decade or two to gain. Individuals with reasonable qualification may well be able to acquire equivalent skills after experiencing the process several times.
In fact, I find many in-service government officials falling short of such qualification. This is well evidenced by the fact that even a person like myself was able to serve as a bureaucrat for 27 years. The first thing that I want PAC members to do is manage to wipe out the feeling of inferiority that outsiders tend to have.
I do not want PAC members to act too smart during the exercise. Since there is no real risk, I would rather like them to take bold actions after careful deliberation and make as many mistakes as they can.
Over the past decade or so, I have been teaching classes at Chuo University and Ritsumeikan University, primarily focusing on this kind of gaming activities. "Do not try to play the game well. The more mistakes you make, the more you can learn from the game," I always say to the students. I wish to give exactly the same advice to our PAC members.