Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 8 > Issue 2

The Calculus of the Security Dilemma

Avidit Acharya, W. Allen Wallis Institute of Political Economy, USA, aachary3@z.rochester.edu , Kristopher W. Ramsay, Department of Politics, Princeton University, USA, kramsay@princeton.edu
Suggested Citation
Avidit Acharya and Kristopher W. Ramsay (2013), "The Calculus of the Security Dilemma", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 8: No. 2, pp 183-203. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00011066

Publication Date: 09 Apr 2013
© 2013 A. Acharya and K. W. Ramsay
Economic Theory,  International conflict,  Game Theory
International conflictCooperationSecurity dilemmaRealismCheap talkIncomplete informationHigher order uncertainty


Download article
In this article:
1 Model 
2 Main Result 
3 Cheap Talk Diplomacy 
4 Final Remarks 


Some scholars known as offensive realists claim that in the uncertainty of world politics, trust and cooperation between states is extremely unlikely. Others, such as defensive realists, claim that rational states are capable of finding ways to counteract the complications created by misperceptions and distrust, and to reduce uncertainty to levels where it no longer inhibits cooperation. In this paper, we construct a formal model to show how in some situations cooperation between states is indeed very unlikely: even in the presence of minor misperceptions, states fail to cooperate. We then ask whether diplomacy (modeled as cheap talk) is able to remedy the failure. We show that in many situations, allowing the countries to communicate prior to taking their actions does not enable them to cooperate.