Farsightedness in Games: Stabilizing Cooperation in International Conflict

36 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2019

See all articles by Steven J. Brams

Steven J. Brams

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Mehmet Ismail

King's College London, Department of Political Economy

Date Written: January 2019

Abstract

We show that a cooperative outcome — one that is at least next-best for the players — is not a Nash equilibrium (NE) in 19 of the 57 2 x 2 strict ordinal conflict games (33%), including Prisoners’ Dilemma and Chicken. Auspiciously, in 16 of these games (84%), cooperative outcomes are nonmyopic equilibria (NMEs) when the players make farsighted calculations, based on backward induction; in the other three games, credible threats induce cooperation. More generally, in all finite normal-form games, if players’ preferences are strict, farsighted calculations stabilize at least one Pareto-optimal NME. We illustrate the choice of NMEs that are not NEs by two cases in international relations: (i) no first use of nuclear weapons, chosen by the protagonists in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and since adopted by some nuclear powers; and (ii) the 2015 agreement between Iran, and a coalition of the United States and other countries, that has been abrogated by the United States but has forestalled Iran’s possible development of nuclear weapons.

Keywords: farsiightedness, nonmyopic equilibrium, cooperation, game theory, international conflict

JEL Classification: C72, F51

Suggested Citation

Brams, Steven and Ismail, Mehmet, Farsightedness in Games: Stabilizing Cooperation in International Conflict (January 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3313025 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3313025

Steven Brams (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

Dept. of Politics
19 West 4th St., 2nd Fl.
New York, NY 10012
United States
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HOME PAGE: http://politics.as.nyu.edu/object/stevenbrams.html

Mehmet Ismail

King's College London, Department of Political Economy ( email )

Strand
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/mehmetsismail/

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