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A Bargaining Model of Domestic Politics and the Cost of War
Unformatted Document Text:  The strategy one chooses against such an opponent is certainly different from the strategy one chooses against an opponent believed to be fully rational. That “noise” produces errors in bargaining which result in experimental data in deviations from Nash. What is the specific source of states’ or leaders’ inexperience? It lies in the structure of bargaining, and particularly has to do with estimating the costs of conflict, both for themselves and for their opponents. Absent specific and repeated experience with war, it is difficult to imagine how leaders can adequately or precisely estimate or comprehend the costs of war. For themselves, leaders will often suffer some form of organizational instinct to emphasize optimistic assessments and to deemphasize negative reports. Authoritarian leaders might suffer the so-called “autocrat’s dilemma,” unable to assess their own chances in war or costs for war due to their subordinates fears of retribution for reporting bad news, or desire to please the leader (Wintrobe 2000). The same sort of dynamic is widely reported in historical accounts of US decision making in Vietnam. So absent experience in leading the state into war, leaders are not likely able to maximize very effectively, both due to their own inexperience evaluating the problem of war, and because of the information- distorting environment around them. As a stylized illustration, consider the case of the French General Staff’s “Plan 17” at the outset of the First World War. Via observation of German preparations and accounts by French intelligence, the Deuxieme Bureau, from spies behind German lines, the French held solid intelligence that the Germans would employ enormous numbers of reserve troops in fighting on the western front. This information was significant because the French were debating between defensive and offensive strategies. If the Germans were to use their reserves, no offensive strategy could possibly succeed, and would likely divide French forces disastrously. The French General Staff discounted all the evidence and selected an offensive strategy which the Germans easily defeated because of the superior numbers of troops they fielded using their reserves. In contrast to the French military’s disregard of intelligence, the German military acted on its intelligence facilitating its route of the French and, shortly thereafter, its capture of Paris (Tuchman 1962). Both 9

Authors: Clark, David., Holt, Charles., Nordstrom, Timothy., Reed, William. and Sieberg, Katri.
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The strategy one chooses against such an opponent is certainly different from the strategy
one chooses against an opponent believed to be fully rational. That “noise” produces errors
in bargaining which result in experimental data in deviations from Nash.
What is the specific source of states’ or leaders’ inexperience? It lies in the structure
of bargaining, and particularly has to do with estimating the costs of conflict, both for
themselves and for their opponents. Absent specific and repeated experience with war, it
is difficult to imagine how leaders can adequately or precisely estimate or comprehend the
costs of war. For themselves, leaders will often suffer some form of organizational instinct
to emphasize optimistic assessments and to deemphasize negative reports. Authoritarian
leaders might suffer the so-called “autocrat’s dilemma,” unable to assess their own chances
in war or costs for war due to their subordinates fears of retribution for reporting bad
news, or desire to please the leader (Wintrobe 2000). The same sort of dynamic is widely
reported in historical accounts of US decision making in Vietnam. So absent experience in
leading the state into war, leaders are not likely able to maximize very effectively, both due
to their own inexperience evaluating the problem of war, and because of the information-
distorting environment around them. As a stylized illustration, consider the case of the
French General Staff’s “Plan 17” at the outset of the First World War. Via observation of
German preparations and accounts by French intelligence, the Deuxieme Bureau, from spies
behind German lines, the French held solid intelligence that the Germans would employ
enormous numbers of reserve troops in fighting on the western front. This information was
significant because the French were debating between defensive and offensive strategies. If
the Germans were to use their reserves, no offensive strategy could possibly succeed, and
would likely divide French forces disastrously. The French General Staff discounted all the
evidence and selected an offensive strategy which the Germans easily defeated because of
the superior numbers of troops they fielded using their reserves. In contrast to the French
military’s disregard of intelligence, the German military acted on its intelligence facilitating
its route of the French and, shortly thereafter, its capture of Paris (Tuchman 1962). Both
9


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