Conflict and Cooperation
in the Arms Race
He was, so to speak, both my partner and my adversary.
speaking about John F. Kennedy,
in Khrushchev Remembers:
The Last Testament
We now must do some rather complex analytical work to understand how nuclear politics can create dilemmas from which there may be no satisfactory exit. Our analysis will use a perspective on arms races that comes from the theory of games and is especially popular in the form called "the prisoners' dilemma." It shows how people (including the leaders of nations) can become trapped in self-defeating acts. It stresses interdependent choice in the combination of conflict and cooperation found in many social situations. Game theory, if used carefully, can allow us to think essentially in terms of equivalence of roles: "How would my behavior look if I were in the other person's shoes?" It may help us avoid the perspective that simply says: "We can only be provoked; he must be deterred."
We begin by thinking about conflict and cooperation situations as mixed-motive, or non-zero-sum, games—meaning sit