[FoRK] Ugh. "Don't Feed The Terrorists!"

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Sun Mar 14 21:01:47 PST 2004

On Mar 14, 2004, at 10:41 PM, Christopher Herot wrote:

> It also illustrates the folly of waiting for "international consensus" 
> before taking action,

In response to a terrorist act --- absolutely agreed.

The problem in the large, though, is game theoretic.

Like all strategies, ours should be "nice" (never *start* a defection 
cycle), provokable (respond to defection with defection, as we did in 
Afghanistan), forgiving (return to cooperation after a single round of 
defection, which we did not do cf. Iraq), and --- most importantly --- 
"clear" (Axelrod uses the term "clarity" for this trait) --- i.e., 
predictable, that is the strategy should be recognizable in order to 
enable opportunistic cooperation.  The third principle there was 
slightly violated by our excursion in Iraq, and the last thoroughly 
violated by our bumbling, empty-headed stammer-mouthing, er, attempts 
at "justifying" our little Babylonian adventure.

The problem w/ geopolitics is that each round in the iterated game 
isn't a 2-way game;  it is, in a sense, n * 2-way games.  When we with 
no consensus provocation "defect" in the game against Iraq, we are in a 
sense defecting against each player that was committed to the previous 
non-interventionist strategy of penalties and inspections.  It 
undermines clarity, sacrifices trust, and risks spiraling into a 
never-ending sequence of multilateral defection.

The strategic nature of the conflict w/ Afghanistan --- and any 
strategy in response to a direct terrorist action --- was vastly 
different from the strategic nature of our recent entry into Iraq.

Indeed, looked at through the lens of PD, the preemptive doctrine being 
sold by the neocons is in fact at worst an ALL-D (and at best a MASSIVE 
RETALIATION strategy) --- inferior even to a totally RANDOM strategy.  
It's fine to preserve the prerogative of initiating conflict 
unilaterally --- indeed, it's a given, it goes with the notion of 
sovereignty.  But only a fundamentally neurotic player / nation feels 
the need to randomly exercise this right just to ensure it still 


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