2020 MOR Journal

  2020 Vol. 25, #1 - Leveraging Behavioral Game Theory to Inform Military Operations Planning

Since Thomas Schelling published The Strategy of Conflict (1960), the study of game theory and international relations have been closely linked. Developments in the former often trigger analytical changes in the latter, as evidenced by the recent behavioral and psychological focus among some international relations and defense economics scholars. Despite this connection, decisions regarding military operations have rarely been influenced by game theoretic analysis, a fact often attributed to standard game theory’s normative nature. Therefore, this research applies selected behavioral game theoretic solution techniques to classical interstate conflict games, demonstrating their utility to inform the planning of military operations. By reexamining classic Cold War deterrence models and other interstate conflict games, the authors demonstrate how modern game theoretic techniques based upon agent psychology, as well as the ability of agents to think strategically or learn from past experience, can provide additional insights beyond what can be derived via perfect rationality analysis. These demonstrations illustrate how behaviorally focused methods can incorporate the uncertainty related to human decision makers into analysis and highlight the alternative insights a bounded rationality approach can generate for military operations planning.

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