mardi, décembre 07, 2004

Sending messages, my foot

CT's Kieran Healy, while sharing some good posner love, incidentally defines game theory thusly :

That is, you stop thinking of other agents as passive bits of the world and realize that they, like you, are searching for the smartest decision given what they anticipate their opponents will do.

And if you fail to do that, it's an iraqi occupation, yes. I just mention this embarrassingly obvious evidence so it's out of our faces.

What's interesting there is that game theory seems to have been a lost discipline not only to the planners of the iraq fuckup, but to an alarmingly large part of the u.s. public, at least during the critical period of the rush to the irak war.

Pity that no real lexis nexis dissection of the saber rattling leading to iraq 2 has been done already. There's a gem there, deserving for more attention that it gets : "let's send a message".

I suppose it started as a diplomatic euphemism, an usefully fuzzy rethorical tool. Soon, as the storm gathered and all that, it mutated into something like "you're under my dick and there's nothing you can do about it, sonny". Which is, if you take it from the game theory point of view, a rather poor realization of the ability of your ennemies to react strategically.

As the war propaganda progressed, the implied meaning lost its casual fuzzyness, soon to become a codeword for "bombs are going to fall if you don't". The use of the expression mutated parallely, to become a simple assertion of the u.s. power, and of iraq's impotence, at the same time reassuring and threatening.

In this poor man's nexis version, quite a few examples of message sending that go boom.

Power titillation? Check. Wishful ignorance of the ennemy? Check. You'd think that this expression was a trademark of the neocons. It was sadly used eveywhere, and did never raise an eyebrow.

I wonder if the breaking point had, at the vietnam time, the same career.