Mutual Optimism and First Strike Advantages Open Access

Shuman, Tyler (2014)

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This paper uses a game theoretic model to answer the question of whether first strike advantages can be a mechanism that causes war due to mutual optimism, and whether that may be a reason why a weaker state might launch a surprise first strike against a stronger state. The motivation behind this paper is the case of the 1973 Arab- Israeli War, in which Egypt instigated war by launching a surprise attack on Israel, which had previously defeated Egypt in 1967. I theorize that war due to mutual optimism from a first strike might account for this attack.

I find that belief in a first strike advantage can be a mechanism for war due to mutual optimism, in which one state believes it will win the war because of its first strike advantage, and the other believes it will win because it has greater strength and information. The model rejects the hypothesis that war due to mutual optimism causes weaker countries to attack stronger ones, since by definition if one country is the victim of a surprise attack, it is not sufficiently optimistic to attack. However, a sufficiently high belief in a first strike advantage can cause a rational actor to attack a stronger opponent.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Literature 2

Power Parity 2

First Strike Advantages 5

Mutual Optimism 8

The Arab-Israeli Conflicts 11

Concepts 15

Model Setup 16

Results 18

Alternate Hypotheses 26

Conclusion 27

Figure 1 29

Appendix 30

Works Cited 38

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