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Lecture 4

POLS 2200 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Solitary Confinement, Arms Control, Thomas Schelling

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 2200
Cindy Clarke

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POLS2200 International Relations 09/20/16
Strategic Realism and Game Theory
Strategic Realism
Strategic realism is most commonly associated with Thomas Schelling
“tategi ealists ague that lassial ealis’s oatie aalysis of old politis is too
subjective and unscientific
While values lie in the background of strategic realism, they are assumed and not explored
Schelling does not discuss what actions are moral or immoral and does not discuss what foreign
policymakers ought to do
o Rather, he discusses effectiveness, leaving aside morality
o More about what is logically going to happen
For Schelling, IR is about logical, rational decisions that can therefore be predicted
o He is concerned with foreign policy and the idea of threat
o How can we influence the foreign policy of other states?
Coercion over brute force (threat of harm rather than actual harm)
Game Theory
A form of logical analysis
An approach to determining rational choice or optimum strategy in a competitive situation
Strategic realism focuses on foreign policy decision making
Game theory is felt to be highly relevant to understanding IR due to the conditions of anarchy
and the distribution of capabilities or power among states
Decision-makers must operate within the constraints of anarchy and of the distribution of
Game theory tries to capture the security dilemma that arises as a result of these system-level
or structural attributes (anarchy and distribution of power)
o What do we mean by security dilemma?
Security Dilemma
The more one state arms to protect itself from other states, the more threatened these states
become and the more prone they are to resort to arming themselves to protect their own
national security interests
Even if a state is arming purely for defensive purposes, it is rational in a self-help system to
assue the ost i oe’s adesay’s itetios ad keep pae i ay as uildup
An anarchical self-help system thus makes cooperation between states very difficult to achieve
So how do leaders know when they can and should cooperate?
How do they know if their adversary is rising above self-interests and seeking the common
o Game theory is used to answer these questions
Stag Hunt
Five individuals in the state of nature
All five are hungry, all five want to hunt, kill and eat the stag
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POLS2200 International Relations 09/20/16
Each has to decide whether:
1. To collaborate in the hunting of the stag necessary to meet the hunger needs of all
five OR
2. To defet fo the goup of fie to aptue a hae (ad thus puttig oe’s o self-
interest at the expense of the group)
What is the dilemma?
Individual Interests: Pursue the
Group/Collective Interests:
Pursue the stag
Short Run
Serve immediate self-interest
May provide basis for possible
future collaboration
Long Run
No apparent basis for
collaborative behaviour
Serve long-term common
Which choice would you make? Why?
Self-interest might not always be the best bet (think states and alliances)
When is it beneficial to work with the alliance and hunt the stag?
o Ee if you do’t ath it the fist tie, the ollaoatio ade o a help you later
o Interactions with other states are not always a one-shot deal IR has ongoing
o You’ll see these othe states oe ad oe agai, thus hagig the euatio
o Break from classical realists not always a question of pursuing self-interests
o Knowing when to invest and walk away from alliances
How do the concepts of absolute gains and relative gains alter the game?
o What are absolute gains and why does the concept of absolute gains make the game
If a state is concerned with individual, absolute gains, it is indifferent to the
gains of others
It is only concerned with the gains it achieved
o What are the relative gains and how does this concept make the game more difficult?
If a state is concerned with relative gains, it is not satisfied with simply
increasing its own power or wealth, rather it is concerned with how much those
capabilities have kept pace with, increased, or decreased relative to other states
It is harder to get the alliance when thinking in relative terms because they are
never satisfied
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