Uncertainty and Deterrence

In this article the author postulates that the decision to initiate or refrain from war is accompanied by multifarious uncertainty. Uncertainty deters, but deterrence is uncertain. What looks like the better option may be more uncertain than the alternative, so the decision maker may choose the putatively less attractive option. The author develops an analytical framework for studying this reversal of preference. The analysis uses two concepts: the innovation dilemma and robust satisficing (satisfying a critical or essential outcome requirement). Decision makers face an innovation dilemma when they choose between a new, innovative, but poorly understood option and a standard option that is more thoroughly understood. The decision makers want the best possible outcome, but all outcomes are highly uncertain. The robustly satisficing choice is the one that meets critical requirements despite large error or surprise. Professor Ben-Haim discusses a historical example - the Six-Day War - and applies his analysis to a theoretical question: does uncertainty increase the propensity for war?


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