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assuming that they will behave "pragmatically" or "reasonably," by which is meant being satisfied with only marginal improvements in their situation.

It is also a profound mistake to believe that adversaries necessarily reason in a way that decision theorists would describe as attempting to maximize expected utility. Exceedingly ambitious, goal-driven people often seek to maximize the likelihood of success, which is quite different psychologically from maximizing expected utility. That is, utility theory is a poor way to represent such reasoning even though one can look at behavior and infer effective utility functions.


The methods described here could be profitably used routinely in a wide variety of national security planning contexts such as studies of plausible contingencies, peacetime crisis gaming, high-level gaming in the presence of strategic warning, and the development of better intelligence assessments. They are particularly good for getting beyond the "tyranny of the best estimate" that has so badly affected prior decision making. They are also very good for structuring discussion and allowing strategists to discriminate among situations that might appear analogous if one were to operate solely on the basis of intuition gained from real-world experience and a few human crisis games. That is, the methods described here can draw heavily on experiential methods such as gaming, but they are substantially more analytic and integrative. A word of caution, however. These methods are no better than those who apply them. Ideally, applications should be guided by strongly analytic people drawing, in an interdisciplinary setting, on the perspectives and expertise of strategists, regional experts, military officers, and others.


Davis, Paul K., ed., "Improving Deterrence in the Post-Cold War Era: Some Theory and Implications for Defense Planning," New Challenges for Defense Planning: Rethinking How Much Is Enough, Rand, Santa Monica, Calif., 1994.

Davis, Paul K., and John Arquilla, Deterring or Coercing Opponents in Crisis: Lessons from the War with Saddam Hussein, Rand, Santa Monica, Calif., 1991.

Thinking About Opponent Behavior in Crisis and Conflict: A Generic Model for Analysis and Group Discussion, Rand, Santa Monica, Calif., 1991.

For an application to proliferation issues see:

Arquilla, John, and Paul K. Davis, Modeling Decisionmaking of Potential Proliferators as Part of Developing Counterproliferation Strategies, MR-467, Rand, Santa Monica, Calif., 1994.

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