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Game Theory and The Cuban Missile Crisis

Background On The Cuban Missile Crisis
In October of 1962, it was confirmed that the Soviet Union was building nuclear missile bases in Cuba, well within striking range of most of the United States.  This was unacceptable to the US.  They considered the following actions:

Enact a naval blockade of Cuba, not to be lifted until the missiles were removed. This option was much less likely to result in a Soviet attack on the US, but it was not known if it would result in a withdrawal of the missiles.

Destroy the missiles with a quick and thorough US air strike. If the strike was successful, it is possible that the crisis could have ended in that the missiles were no longer a threat. A threat of a nuclear war between the US and the USSR erupting was a very real possibility if this option were used.

So you could say there were four possible outcomes. Blockade resulting in withdrawal of missiles, blockade resulting in no removal, attack resulting in destruction of missiles that the Soviets intended to remove, and attack and destruction in missiles the Soviets intended to keep in place.  This assumes that the USAF would be successful in destroying the missiles - this was estimated at being 90% probable.

Applying Game Theory To This Situation
Game theory is a branch of mathematics concerned with decision-making in social interactions. It applies to situations (games) where there are two or more people (called players) each attempting to choose between two more more ways of acting (called strategies).

In the article Game theory and the Cuban missile crisis by Steven J. Brams, the four possible outcomes are addressed.  The conclusion, applying the theory, is that by waiting for the Soviet Union to "make the first move", a peaceful compromise was far more feasible.







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