Game theory

Pitfalls and opportunities in applying it to international relations

Steven Brams

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Four problems plague game-theoretic models in international relations (IR): (1) misspecifying the rules, (2) confusing goals and rational choice, (3) arbitrarily reducing the multiplicity of equilibria, and (4) forsaking backward induction. An alternative approach, theory of moves (TOM), is discussed and applied to Prisoners' Dilemma and then, more prescriptively, to the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80. TOM incorporates into the framework of game theory an initial state in a payoff matrix, the moves and countermoves required to reach a "nonmyopic equilibrium," and threat, moving, and order power that reflect asymmetries in the capabilities of the players. It also allows for incomplete information, which in the Iran hostage crisis led to misperceptions and flawed play. Two general lessons come out of the U.S. foreign-policy failure in the Iran hostage crisis: (1) know the game you are playing, and (2) make threats only if they are likely to be credible. In specific games, TOM provides detailed prescriptions for optimal play, depending on where play starts and the powers of the players, that could aid foreign-policy makers, especially in crises.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)221-232
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Studies Perspectives
    Volume1
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Dec 2000

    Fingerprint

    game theory
    international relations
    foreign policy
    prisoner dilemma
    Iran
    asymmetry
    threat
    matrix
    induction
    prisoner
    medication
    prescription

    Keywords

    • Game theory
    • Iran hostage crisis
    • Theory of moves

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Political Science and International Relations

    Cite this

    Game theory : Pitfalls and opportunities in applying it to international relations. / Brams, Steven.

    In: International Studies Perspectives, Vol. 1, No. 3, 12.2000, p. 221-232.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    @article{8954e3abbc8443ce9b8d6a7498090c6f,
    title = "Game theory: Pitfalls and opportunities in applying it to international relations",
    abstract = "Four problems plague game-theoretic models in international relations (IR): (1) misspecifying the rules, (2) confusing goals and rational choice, (3) arbitrarily reducing the multiplicity of equilibria, and (4) forsaking backward induction. An alternative approach, theory of moves (TOM), is discussed and applied to Prisoners' Dilemma and then, more prescriptively, to the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80. TOM incorporates into the framework of game theory an initial state in a payoff matrix, the moves and countermoves required to reach a {"}nonmyopic equilibrium,{"} and threat, moving, and order power that reflect asymmetries in the capabilities of the players. It also allows for incomplete information, which in the Iran hostage crisis led to misperceptions and flawed play. Two general lessons come out of the U.S. foreign-policy failure in the Iran hostage crisis: (1) know the game you are playing, and (2) make threats only if they are likely to be credible. In specific games, TOM provides detailed prescriptions for optimal play, depending on where play starts and the powers of the players, that could aid foreign-policy makers, especially in crises.",
    keywords = "Game theory, Iran hostage crisis, Theory of moves",
    author = "Steven Brams",
    year = "2000",
    month = "12",
    language = "English (US)",
    volume = "1",
    pages = "221--232",
    journal = "International Studies Perspectives",
    issn = "1528-3577",
    publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",
    number = "3",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Game theory

    T2 - Pitfalls and opportunities in applying it to international relations

    AU - Brams, Steven

    PY - 2000/12

    Y1 - 2000/12

    N2 - Four problems plague game-theoretic models in international relations (IR): (1) misspecifying the rules, (2) confusing goals and rational choice, (3) arbitrarily reducing the multiplicity of equilibria, and (4) forsaking backward induction. An alternative approach, theory of moves (TOM), is discussed and applied to Prisoners' Dilemma and then, more prescriptively, to the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80. TOM incorporates into the framework of game theory an initial state in a payoff matrix, the moves and countermoves required to reach a "nonmyopic equilibrium," and threat, moving, and order power that reflect asymmetries in the capabilities of the players. It also allows for incomplete information, which in the Iran hostage crisis led to misperceptions and flawed play. Two general lessons come out of the U.S. foreign-policy failure in the Iran hostage crisis: (1) know the game you are playing, and (2) make threats only if they are likely to be credible. In specific games, TOM provides detailed prescriptions for optimal play, depending on where play starts and the powers of the players, that could aid foreign-policy makers, especially in crises.

    AB - Four problems plague game-theoretic models in international relations (IR): (1) misspecifying the rules, (2) confusing goals and rational choice, (3) arbitrarily reducing the multiplicity of equilibria, and (4) forsaking backward induction. An alternative approach, theory of moves (TOM), is discussed and applied to Prisoners' Dilemma and then, more prescriptively, to the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80. TOM incorporates into the framework of game theory an initial state in a payoff matrix, the moves and countermoves required to reach a "nonmyopic equilibrium," and threat, moving, and order power that reflect asymmetries in the capabilities of the players. It also allows for incomplete information, which in the Iran hostage crisis led to misperceptions and flawed play. Two general lessons come out of the U.S. foreign-policy failure in the Iran hostage crisis: (1) know the game you are playing, and (2) make threats only if they are likely to be credible. In specific games, TOM provides detailed prescriptions for optimal play, depending on where play starts and the powers of the players, that could aid foreign-policy makers, especially in crises.

    KW - Game theory

    KW - Iran hostage crisis

    KW - Theory of moves

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0007072541&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0007072541&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    M3 - Article

    VL - 1

    SP - 221

    EP - 232

    JO - International Studies Perspectives

    JF - International Studies Perspectives

    SN - 1528-3577

    IS - 3

    ER -