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Countervailing Conflict Interventions as a (Potentially Preventable) Prisoner’s Dilemma Outcome

Dulal, Rajendra (2013): Countervailing Conflict Interventions as a (Potentially Preventable) Prisoner’s Dilemma Outcome. Published in: The Southern Business and Economic Journal , Vol. 35, No. 01 (2012): pp. 1-10.


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Scholars and policymakers have devoted much attention to issues of third party intervention in conflict. The present paper considers a conflict that draws two countervailing outside interveners. As in the realist perspective, the outside parties are drawn to intervene through some economic or geostrategic interest that would be promoted through the victory of an ally. Using a simple game theoretic model, I find conditions under which outside interveners fall prey to a Prisoner’s Dilemma outcome and become worse off through their own intervention. This result brings into question the desirability of escalatory conflict intervention. The paper also studies conditions required for the United Nations, or some such supra-national institution, to prevent a Prisoner’s Dilemma outcome and successfully deter escalatory bilateral intervention. The findings show that the United Nations can alter the game equilibrium, and deter escalatory intervention, by imposing sufficient costs on the intervening parties.

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