The Enemy Votes: Weapons Improvisation and Bargaining Failure

31 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2018

Date Written: October 25, 2017


Belligerents could in principle avoid the ex post costs of conflict by revealing all private information about their violent capabilities and then calculating odds of success ex ante. Incentives to misrepresent private information for strategic gain, however, can cause miscalculations that lead to war. I argue some private information can lead to miscalculation not because it is purposefully misrepresented for strategic gain but because it is too decentralized to be easily revealed. The decentralized private information that produces improvised weapons requires a process of discovering suitable local resources and battlefield testing driven by local military entrepreneurs which frustrates information revelation. Decentralized private information used to improvise new weapons and capabilities like those which emerged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria show that it can take many years, decades, or even an indeterminate amount of time for fighting to reveal relevant information about violent capabilities.

Keywords: Bargaining failure, Improvised weapons, Improvise Explosive Devices, Private information, Decentralized information, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Discovery, Learning

JEL Classification: D74, D82, D83, F51, H56, N40

Suggested Citation

Wood, Garrett, The Enemy Votes: Weapons Improvisation and Bargaining Failure (October 25, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Garrett Wood (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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