Follow You Down

While we’re sharing guest posts, I have two more for you, both from TAS reader Kristoffer Sargent. This first one is on Fareed Zakaria, who, for the record, is getting a little bit of a bum rap in my view. Zakaria did make a major factual flub, but there’s something to his deeper point, but more on that to come. RS.

Reading the cover of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World, I found myself wondering, “When do power shifts lead to war?” Remembering that this is, in fact, the 21st Century, I thought, hey, why not see if I can find the answer online.

Two minutes later (I know, but I had to go to the bathroom), I found what I was looking for: When Do Power Shifts Lead to War?, by Woosang Kim and James D. Morrow.

Here’s the abstract:

We present and test a choice-theoretic model of war decisions during shifts in power. The model assumes a rising state that overtakes a declining state in capabilities. In equilibrium, the declining state yields at a critical point in the transition. War can occur only before that critical time. Power shifts are more likely to lead to war as the challenger becomes more risk-acceptant, the declining state more risk-averse, the expected costs of war decrease, the rising state’s dissatisfaction with the status quo increases, and during periods of equality between the two sides. The rate of growth of the rising state’s capabilities and the transition point do not affect the probability of war. All these hypotheses are supported by an empirical analysis of all major power dyads since 1815. We also find that expected support from allies must be included in the calculation of a nation’s capabilities. The implications of the model for theories of hegemonic decline and war are discussed.

I would love to read this paper, but I can’t (well, I can’t without paying for a subscription to JSTOR, which will at least have to wait until next month since I already spent this month’s fun fund on three bottles of Margaritaville Tequila and six pounds of London Broil). Further evidence in favor of Reihan’s infosocialism, no?

I found this paper by snooping around Bruce Bueno De Mesquita’s webhaunts over at NYU Department of Politics. And before you stress out wondering why I was there and who is this Bruce guy anyway, I’ll tell you: Bruce Bueno De Mesquita is the future.

At least, what he represents is the future. Read this article at ScienceNews.org: Mathematical Fortune-Telling by Julie J. Rehmeyer:

The New York University political science professor has developed a computerized game theory model that predicts the future of many business and political negotiations and also figures out ways to influence the outcome. Two independent evaluations, one by academics and one by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, have both shown that about 90 percent of his predictions have been accurate. […]

The details of his study of negotiation options with Iran are classified, but Bueno de Mesquita says that the broad outline is that there is nothing the United States can do to prevent Iran from pursuing nuclear energy for civilian power generation. The more aggressively the U.S. responds to Iran, he says, the more likely it is that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. […]

The main reason that the model generates more reliable predictions than experts do is that “the computer doesn’t get bored, it doesn’t get tired, and it doesn’t forget,” he says. In the analysis of nuclear technology development in Iran, for example, experts identified 80 relevant players. Because no individual can keep track of all the possible interactions between so many players, human analysts focus on five or six key players. The lesser players may not have a lot of power, Buena de Mesquita says, but they tend to be knowledgeable enough to influence how key decision-makers understand the issues. His model can keep track of those influences when a human can’t._

I also found another article about Bruce called The New Nostradamus, by Michael A.M. Lerner (and PM Player). Excerpt? Why not:

To verify the accuracy of his model, the CIA set up a kind of forecasting face-off that pit predictions from his model against those of Langley’s more traditional in-house intelligence analysts and area specialists. “We tested Bueno de Mesquita’s model on scores of issues that were conducted in real time—that is, the forecasts were made before the events actually happened,” says Stanley Feder, a former high-level CIA analyst. “We found the model to be accurate 90 percent of the time,” he wrote. Another study evaluating Bueno de Mesquita’s real-time forecasts of 21 policy decisions in the European community concluded that “the probability that the predicted outcome was what indeed occurred was an astounding 97 percent.” What’s more, Bueno de Mesquita’s forecasts were much more detailed than those of the more traditional analysts. “The real issue is the specificity of the accuracy,” says Feder. “We found that DI (Directorate of National Intelligence) analyses, even when they were right, were vague compared to the model’s forecasts.

Be very afraid. All we’re lacking is some kind of portablized version of the formula, a wearable molecular supercomputer, and a remote mind-reader. Once we have those, James’s sideburns will be the least of our problems.