Penn State

Scott D. Bennett - Professor of Political Science, Penn State University Park

Book Title: War and Reason

Author: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman

Book Description:

Over the past two decades, game-theoretic models of strategic interaction have become common in political science. In War and Reason, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman developed what has become perhaps the most general and best-known of these applications in the study of international conflict. Their game-theoretic implementation of rational choice modeling through their "international interaction game" models the give-and-take between two countries in a crisis from the issuance of a demand by one to the other, through the acceptance or rejection of demands and subsequent conflict escalation, through the outcome possibilities of war, negotiation, or capitulation. By building a general game which appears representative of many interactions in international relations, Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman built a foundation for additional explicit strategic theorizing about conflict.

Equally importantly, Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman took the application of strategic choice models to international conflict a step beyond theory to rigorous empirical testing by directly operationalizing key utility and probability concepts. They developed the (thus far) only broad proxy measure for states' utility for conflict with one another, one which is usable across the scope of modern history (from 1816 to the present). They then proceeded to test the applicability of the model to European conflicts during that period, and found that the predictions made by the game when our empirical indicators are "plugged in" do in fact help us better predict the outbreak of international conflict. The coupling of a formal game with direct empirical testing has become a model in the study of international relations.


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