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Game Theory, Diplomatic History and Security Studies$
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Frank C. Zagare

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198831587

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198831587.001.0001

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A Game-Theoretic History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

A Game-Theoretic History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

(p.61) 4 A Game-Theoretic History of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Game Theory, Diplomatic History and Security Studies

Frank C. Zagare

Oxford University Press

This chapter surveys and evaluates previous attempts to use game theory to explain the strategic dynamic of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, including, but not limited to, explanations developed in the style of Thomas Schelling, Nigel Howard, and Steven Brams. All of these explanations are judged to be either incomplete or deficient in some way. Schelling’s explanation is both empirically and theoretically inconsistent with the consensus interpretation of the crisis; Howard’s metagame theory is at odds with the contemporary understanding of rational strategic behavior; and Brams’s theory of moves explanation is inconsistent with the full sweep of the events that define the crisis. As game theory has evolved, so have the explanations fashioned by its practitioners. An additional purpose of this chapter is to trace these explanatory refinements, using the Cuban crisis as a mooring.

Keywords:   Cuban missile crisis, metagame theory, theory of moves, Thomas Schelling, Nigel Howard, Steven Brams

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