Systems: Simulating the
Paris Peace Conference
Michael McIntyre and Patrick Callahan
If a group of second-year students were given the opportunity to create an international system—a structure for peace, stability, and justice—but to do so while being attentive to the real constraints placed on historical statesmen, what would they produce? Would they do better than the diplomats whose roles they played? What would they learn about the nature of international politics?
In this chapter we describe a role-playing simulation based on the last phase of the Paris Peace Conference, which produced the set of treaties that ended World War I. One group of students represents the German peace delegation; the other plays the Allied and Associated Powers (hereafter, Allies) or, more precisely, the French, British, and United States. The simulation follows the structure of the last phase of the Paris Peace Conference. It begins with the Allies presenting the draft treaty to the Germans. The Germans then are given a fixed time to prepare a written response, to which the Allies will respond in a final offer, a definitive draft of the treaty, presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
Following history, the Allies and the Germans do not have faceto-face negotiations. Instead, they separately prepare formal written communications. In addition to researching the positions taken by the principals in Paris, the students have to assess what relative priority should be assigned to the various interests and principles, which demands are likely to be acceptable to the other side and which ones are nonnegotiable, and what the underlying realities of power and bargaining leverage are.