Interpreting the Enemy: A Game Theoretic Model of Conflict with Applications to the Korean and Iraq Wars
Thompson, Stephen W.
- Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Abstract: This report presents a game theoretic model of conflict and applies it to the Korean and Iraq Wars. The model segments international conflict into impasse, event, interpretation, challenge, and counterinterpretation phases. If a nation's leaders are frustrated i... read moren their efforts to mobilize resources against a perceived security menace, they will interpret an unexpected security event to resolve the impasse in their favor, even if the evidence linking the menace with the agent causing the event is weak. The leaders are likely to challenge the menace in an effort to validate their interpretation. The challenge will be widely counterinterpreted as a belligerent act, mobilizing support against the challenging nation. The agent should provoke the security event if it believes that the leaders will issue the challenge, and if it stands to gain enough from the mobilization of support. In Korea, the Truman administration was frustrated in its efforts to obtain resources to rearm the United States against the Soviet menace. When North Korea invaded South Korea, the administration linked the event to the Soviets, effectively resolving the impasse in its favor. It then went on to challenge the Soviets, protecting the Chinese Nationalists on Taiwan from attack by the Soviet-allied Communist Chinese, and leading a multinational force that drove the North Koreans out of South Korea and invaded North Korea itself. The intervention and invasion were seen as belligerent acts, and the Communist Chinese mobilized to North Korea's support, driving the U.S.-led forces essentially back to the original border between North and South Korea, where the war stagnated. The Truman administration managed to triple the defense budget, while the North Koreans won a crucial ally, gains that arguably outweighed the costs of carnage. In Iraq, the Bush administration desired to simultaneously cut taxes and increase military spending. When the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred, the administration was quick to impute a linkage between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and to argue that the Iraqis had advanced in a program to produce weapons of mass destruction, which might slip into the terrorists hands. The Bush administration challenged Saddam Hussein to either disarm or be invaded. The ultimatum was partially supported by the United Nations Security Council, but the U.S. and a coalition of the willing eventually invaded Iraq without a U.N. mandate. The decision, compounded by the subsequent failure to find weapons of mass destruction or al Qaeda linkage, has caused much of the world to counterinterpret the U.S. as a belligerent power, eroding its international legitimacy and increasing sympathy for bin Laden among Muslims. The Bush administration had its cake and ate it too, a tax cut and a massive increase in defense spending while from bin Laden's perspective, Muslims fighters have engaged U.S. troops in bloody and prolonged insurgencies, particularly in Iraq, and al Qaeda's support base among networked, radical Muslims has broadened and deepened.read less