If you are in or near Washington, DC at 12:15 pm on Friday, you should come to the New America Foundation and spend some time absorbing the way Nobel Laureate in Economics Thomas Schelling thinks about states with nuclear weapons — and potentially a nuclear-armed Iran.
Here is the event info.
If you are NOT in Washington, you should watch the live streaming here on The Washington Note or at the New America Foundation site (or YouTube after the fact). It’s must watch stuff.
Thomas Schelling is one of the world’s great thinkers, someone whose explications of game theoretic framing of nuclear competition and possibly war may have helped save the world from a Cold War era thermonuclear nightmare.
I first heard Schelling in 1982 at a forum organized by nuclear arms control giant Herbert York at UC San Diego and have been addicted to his work and thinking since. He was a thesis adviser to my colleague, the well known ArmsControlWonk blogger Jeffrey Lewis who will also make comments at Friday’s noon time session.
The Nobel Prize Committee had this to say about Schelling’s selection in 2005:
Against the backdrop of the nuclear arms race in the late 1950s, Thomas Schelling’s book The Strategy of Conflict set forth his vision of game theory as a unifying framework for the social sciences. Schelling showed that a party can strengthen its position by overtly worsening its own options, that the capability to retaliate can be more useful than the ability to resist an attack, and that uncertain retaliation is more credible and more efficient than certain retaliation. These insights have proven to be of great relevance for conflict resolution and efforts to avoid war.
Schelling’s work prompted new developments in game theory and accelerated its use and application throughout the social sciences. Notably, his analysis of strategic commitments has explained a wide range of phenomena, from the competitive strategies of firms to the delegation of political decision power.
Jeffrey Lewis and I have asked Schelling to talk to us about the portals through which he looks at nuclear powers, nuclear arms competition and escalation, nuclear caution, nuclear war and what the world looks like if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.
Would a nuclear-armed Iran automatically create a nuclear arms race in the region? What would be the likely impact of a nuclear weapon on Iran’s international behavior? Does it matter that Israel has the bomb? What do game theory and the lessons of the Cold War tell us if we end up with a breakout of nuclear weapons proliferation in and around the Middle East?
— Steve Clemons