Nash’s Law of Iraq

What is ironic about the situation in Iraq is that the mound of reasonable, conflicting suggestions is more plentiful than snow on the Great Lawn. Anyone with an absolute answer does not truly grasp the situation. Thus, amidst this pandemonium, how can we separate valid opinions from spurious ones? The theory of Nash equilibrium seems to be pertinent in analyzing our best course of action; yes, it seems John Nash may have provided us with more than a Saturday night’s entertainment. It is important to note that I do not suggest infallibility to the application of his theories, but offer simply one possible method of analyzing the international dilemma. According to the Nash Equilibrium, each party or player involved in a situation is doing his best given his outside knowledge. The most famous example is when two suspects are taken prisoner and offered a mitigated sentence in return for a confession. If neither confesses, the two may be found innocent and not serve any time. If one confesses, but the other does not, the confessor receives the lighter sentence. Thus, to be performing Nash Equilibrium, each party should confess, as each prisoner is totally ignorant as to his companion’s actions. England, Spain, Italy, and a few other countries will most likely support our cannonade, but for how long? Will they have the stomach for a lengthy invasion and an even lengthier period of reconstruction? We can ascertain nothing, except that their indefatigable support will be dubious. France, Germany, and others are anti-war, pro-inspection, and staunchly opposed to the seemingly arrogant American government. They feel no trepidation at the fact that much of the world’s oil is controlled by totalitarian Arab nations. Support for the US in the neighborhood itself is dubious. Many factors raise a doubt in the minds of all players regarding war. After all, Saddam Hussein, at his age, may croak of natural causes or be assassinated by the numerous enemies he has built up over the years. Thus, we know we will have some support at the beginning of an invasion of Iraq, but that support will most likely ebb after we encounter the dark days of war – unless the war is very short and tidy. More likely than not, John Nash would tell us that there are too many uncertainties inherent in an upcoming war. Who would support us, and for how long? Will Saddam retaliate? Would our money be better invested elsewhere? Would the safety that we would feel as a result of an Iraq bulldozed and rebuilt by a G.W.B. Construction Company be adequate enough? After we understand the marginal benefits and costs of the attack, we must answer these questions for ourselves through the ongoing debate in our democratic forums. Nash Equilibrium teaches us that as much as we wish to act multilaterally, we can think only about our choices unilaterally. Thus, attacking as part of a herd or stampede of nations may result in a swift, clean conquest, but as a lone cowboy, times will be more difficult, and we need to prepare for that in our attack. In conclusion, neither John Nash nor I could outline the best course of action; that task is to be given to us as a nation. Yet, whatever we resolve, we cannot make our decision based on the decisions of other countries, because the actions of other players are terribly unpredictable. If the American citizenry is united, the disunity of other nations will matter less. We must avoid smelling napalm in the morning yet again.