National security games

Steven J. Brams, D. Marc Kilgour

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Issues that arise in using game theory to model national security problems are discussed, including positing nation-states as players, assuming that their decision makers act rationally and possess complete information, and modeling certain conflicts as two-person games. A generic two-person game called the Conflict Game, which captures strategic features of such variable-sum games as Chicken and Prisoners' Dilemma, is then analyzed. Unlike these classical games, however, the Conflict Game is a two-stage game in which each player can threaten to retaliate - and carry out this threat in the second stage - if its opponent chose noncooperation in the first stage. Conditions for the existence of different pure-strategy Nash equilibria, or stable outcomes, are found, and these results are extended to situations in which the players can select mixed strategies (i.e., make probabilistic threats or choices). Although the Conflict Game sheds light on the rational foundations underlying arms races, nuclear deterrence, and other strategic situations, more detailed assumptions are required to tie this generic game to specific conflicts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)185-200
    Number of pages16
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Aug 1988

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Philosophy
    • General Social Sciences


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