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The Prisoners - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Average: 80.3. The Prisoners’ Dilemma and the Liberal Tragedy. Lecture 9. The Liberal Vision: International Politics as Tragedy. All Countries Lose From War. Therefore, All Countries Would Gain If All Would Prepare Less for and Engage in Fewer Wars.

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The Liberal Vision: International Politics as Tragedy

  • All Countries Lose From War.

  • Therefore, All Countries Would Gain If All Would Prepare Less for and Engage in Fewer Wars.

  • Tragedy: Even Peace-loving Countries Are Forced to Militarize by the Anarchic Structure of the International System.

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The Prisoners’ Dilemma

  • The Liberal Tragedy Arises From Strategic Interaction.

  • The Prisoners’ Dilemma Is the Game We Will Use to Model this Interaction.

  • The Prisoners’ Dilemma is a General Model of Cooperation.

    • Between Individuals

    • Between Governments

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The Elements of a Game

  • The Actors: Who Is Playing?

  • Actors’ Strategies: What Choices Do The Actors Have?

  • Outcomes: What Are the Results of the Interactive Choices Actors Make?

  • Preference Orders: How Do the Actors Rank All of the Possible Outcomes?

  • The Solution: How will Each Actor Play the Game, Given the Strategies, Outcomes, and Preference Orders?

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The India-Pakistan Nuclear Game

  • The Actors: Pakistan and India

  • The Strategies: Two Choices

    • Build Nuclear Weapons

    • Don’t Build Nuclear Weapons

  • The 4 Possible Outcomes:

    • Arms Race: Both Build Nuclear Weapons

    • Stable Military Balance: Neither Builds N. Weapons

    • Pakistan Advantage: Pakistan Builds, India Doesn’t

    • India Advantage: India Builds, Pakistan Doesn’t

  • For Preference Orders….

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Solving the Game: Backwards Induction

2,2 (Arms Race)




don’t build

4,1 (India Advantage)


1,4 (Pakistan Advantage)


don’t build


don’t build

3,3 (Stable Balance)

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The Prisoners’ Dilemma, Again

Dominant Strategy

Pareto Optimal





Nash Equilibrium

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Other Examples of the Logic of the Prisoners’ Dilemma

  • Current Struggle Between Israelis and Palestinians.

    • Strategies: Retaliate; Turn the Other Cheek

  • France and Germany Following WWI.

    • Strategies: Re-Arm; Don’t Re-Arm

  • United States and Iraq

    • Strategies:

      • US: Pursue Objectives Through Inspections Regime OR Use Force to Overthrow Regime

      • IRAQ: Allow Inspections in Compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions OR Refuse to Cooperate

  • Military Force is a “Rational” Strategy for Both Parties In All of These Conflicts.

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Broader Importance of the Prisoners’ Dilemma

  • Tragedy of International Politics: Both Can Be Better Off, but Unable to Realize These Joint Gains.

  • Inability to Realize Joint Gains Arises From Inability to Make Binding Commitments.

  • If Agreements Could Be Concluded and Enforced, Then Joint Gains Could Be Realized.

  • The Absence of an Enforcement Mechanism—Anarchy—Is the Source of Tragedy.

  • Change the Institutional Framework, Change International Politics.

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Iterated PlayRepeated Play of the Game Without a Known End Point.

Tit-For-Tat StrategiesDecentralized Enforcement Mechanism.

Alters Calculation of Payoffs

Single Play: One Time Payoff

Repeated Play: Stream of Payoffs Over Time

Stream of Payoffs > One Time Payoff

Becomes Rational To Play a Cooperative Strategy

International Organizations Help Promote Transformation.

Provide Rule-Based Structure for Interaction.


Provide High Quality and Potentially Unbiased Information About Behavior of Others.

De-Politicize Monitoring

Help Ensure that Retaliation/ Enforcement is Proportional.

Prevent Vicious Cycles

Is There a Way to Escape The Dilemma?