Friday 30 June 2023

The Katechon of Thou fucking You


Anything said or done or appearing worthy of reward
Being but Death's tableau vivant Dream of God
Is to the Katechon of Thou fucking You
Buber's Schizophrenic- Vishnu.

Sindon's Midons! To save the face of Thy but Prosopon
 Self-widowed, Christ's brides are Amazon

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Nehru & inter-caste marriage

Nehru writes of his youngest sister's marriage to a Jain-
The marriage was between two different castes, a Brahman and a non-Brahman, and under present British Indian Law no religious ceremony had validity for such a marriage.

Was this true? No. Any form of marriage may be judged by a Court, on the basis of a law suit brought by an affected party, to be invalid for some particular reason- e.g. the insanity of the groom, the fact that the officiating priest was an impostor bribed for the purpose, or, as in my case, the bride had a reasonable belief that she was actually purchasing a donkey of some type. 

As far as the British were concerned, a Hindu religious ceremony was valid if Hindus, by and large, considered it valid, irrespective of the caste or lack of it of either party. Sadly, orthodox Hindus and Muslims vigorously opposed Civil Marriage which, in 1872 became available only to Brahmos or those willing to abjure their own religion at birth. Later, in 1909, the Sikhs were able to secure the Anand Marriage Act for themselves as a way to protect, inter-alia, their own inter-caste marriages from vexatious litigation at the time of inheritance.  

 British Courts were willing to concede that though any type of religious marriage was valid in the absence of any interested party's objection, it was a different matter that a marriage between people of different castes might lead to their becoming outcaste or their issue being outcaste. But this followed from the fact that a caste was a voluntary association such that caste membership was decided by the caste itself. A judgment by members of a particular caste that such and such product of an inter-caste marriage - or the persons who had engaged in it- was to be considered outcaste could stand but judicial recourse was available, more particularly if any substantive matter- e.g. damage to reputation, claims to property or other inheritance rights- was involved. The principle of audi alteram partem applied- i.e. no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.  In a case where a prominent lawyer himself conducted the marriage of a daughter or younger sister, it is obvious that inheritance rights or other substantive matters could be dealt with through properly made Wills or Trust documents. 

I suppose that Nehrus, as luminaries of the Allahabad bar, were painfully conscious of the Allahabad High Court's decision that no marriage between a Brahmin girl and a non-Brahmin could be valid, and thus, as a matter of abundant caution, utilized the device of Civil Marriage. Incidentally, the older daughter had gone through 'a form of marriage' with a Muslim. This was not valid precisely because of the restrictive nature of the relevant Act. Thankfully, Gandhi's secretary, Mahadev Desai, was able to supply a Brahmin groom for Vijaylaxmi. 

Around this time , the Mahatma's son married a Brahmin girl. They had a Hindu ceremony and that was that. Nobody suggested that the marriage was invalid by reason of being 'pratiloma' though High Courts had ruled otherwise (e.g. Lakshmi vs Kaliansing 1900). But this handicap placed on Brahmin girls was the handiwork of Brahmin barristocrats, not the British. 

Fortunately a recently passed Civil Marriage Act came to our rescue.

I suppose this is the 1923 act brought in by Dr. Harisingh Gour.  

There were two such Acts, the second one, under which my sister’s marriage took place, being confined to Hindus and those belonging to allied faiths — Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs. But if either party does not belong to one of these faiths, by birth or conversion, then this second Act does not apply and the first Civil Marriage Act has to be resorted to.

That was the Brahmo Act of 1872.  

This first Act requires from both the parties a denunciation of all the leading religions, or at any rate a statement that they do not belong to them. This wholly unnecessary denunciation is a great nuisance. Many people, even though they are not religiously inclined, object to this statement and thus cannot take advantage of the Act. The orthodox of various faiths oppose all changes which would facilitate inter-marriages. The result is that they drive people either to make that statement of denunciation or to a patently superficial conversion to get within the law. Personally 1 should like to encourage inter-marriages, but whether they are encouraged or not, it is very necessary to have a permissive general civil marriage Act, applicable to persons of all religions, permitting them to marry without any denunciation or change of faith.

There was no bar on marriage of any religious or customary sort. What obtained was the danger that the validity of a marriage being called into question with a view to disinheriting the issue of a particular marriage. But, for Hindus, this could happen even if the marriage was between people of the same caste. This was because it could be claimed that the parties were 'sagotra' (though for certain communities, 'sagotra' was held to be customary). This was quite foolish because it invariably happened that in such cases the bride was notionally adopted into the presiding priest's family and thus her gotra became different. Still, lawyers could get rich engaging in this type of litigation. 

It is interesting that Nehru conducted the marriage of his own daughter, Indira, according to neo-Vedic rituals concocted by a Kashmiri Pandit who was a Professor of Sanskrit at St. Stephens. Some Zoroastrians who opposed the marriage pointed out that legally speaking, Indira was Feroze's concubine. As a Brahmin she could not be his wife. But there's another way of looking at it. Feroze was merely a boy-friend. Nehru's daughter could not marry within her caste because that caste was now superior to all others and contained only her Daddy, her self, and her sons. Once a widow, Indira would be the Empress of India and her heirs by primogeniture, however incompetent, would inherit the Indian National Congress and its colossal corruption. 

Tuesday 27 June 2023

Joseph Shieber's septic skepticism.


Joseph Shieber, a Philosophy Professor, writes in 3 Quarks
there is a difference between saying that scientific CLAIMS should stand and fall on their merits and that scientists’ success should be determined by their merits.

No. Both statements are imperative not alethic- i.e. are value judgments.  

The former statement has to do with standards of evidence and objective truth.

No. It says some particular thing should be done. It has no truth value. Some supplementary alethic claims would be needed for it to be interpreted in the manner Schieber prescribes.

One may say that 'merit' in a Scientific Claim has to do with 'elegance' not anything empirical or objective. String Theory research should be pursued even if it seems useless or is unable to generate a 'crucial experiment' to decide if it accords with what is observable.  

The latter statement, in contrast, has to do with qualities of scientific researchers correlated with advancing science, as well as with our confidence in our abilities accurately to assess those qualities.

Not necessarily. We may say 'Prof. X must be given the top job- i.e. he should gain more personal success and acclamation- because he was the most meritorious student in his batch. True, he may have accomplished nothing since, but at least the signal will be sent that if you study hard and get top marks then your success will be guaranteed'. The counter argument may be 'appoint Y to the top post. He is a lazy drunkard and didn't even pass High School. True, by some fluke, he stumbled into a field where he was able to make very useful discoveries. Still, we should reward people whose work has the merit of being useful rather than those we thought of as meritorious because they got higher marks in examinations.'  

It shouldn’t need stressing, but perhaps it does. What makes a statement or claim meritorious – its originality, interest, truth-likelihood, etc. – is different than what makes a PERSON meritorious.

No. The criteria is exactly the same. The same guys who judge an idea to be meritorious consider the person who came up with that idea to have merit. If they think if 'elegant' theories are more meritorious then they think people whose theoretical work is elegant to possess more of that quality.  

One obvious difference, of particular importance given Jussim’s own focus on objective truth, is that PERSONS aren’t truth-evaluable.

Yes they are. George Washington could not tell a lie. Donald Trump can do nothing else. Washington was truthful. Trump is not.  

Since there seems to be a great deal of confusion about this on the part of Jussim and his colleagues, I’ll state it once more: persons aren’t claims,

Claims may be about persons or things or ideas. A claim about Physics is not itself part of Physics. Thus if I say- as I frequently do, when drinking- 'Quarks are notorious for cheating on their wives' it is unlikely that anybody would mistake me for a Physicist. 

and therefore the standards for evaluating persons have to be different than the standards for evaluating claims.

We don't evaluate persons. We may attach predicates to them, for some particular purpose, on the basis of some evaluative scheme. You may say 'surely we do evaluate people? We say 'x is good' or 'y is a lazy good-for-nothing'. The problem here is that we ask 'why do you say x is good and y is lazy?' the answer turns out to be context dependent- e.g. 'I say x is good because I know he always helps the poor. I know y is lazy because he sleeps in his office and does no work whatsoever.' 

Clearly neither x nor y have been evaluated in a context independent manner. A predicate has been applied to them in a particular context. X is good when it comes to helping the poor. Y is lazy when it comes to doing his job. X may be bad because of some inherent vice which will only become apparent later on. Y may be extremely hard working when it comes to some patriotic endeavour- it just so happens he hates his job because it is boring and does nobody any good. 

 We have no general method of evaluating a person though for some particular purpose we may usefully apply a particular predicate to them. Suppose a snob says 'x is good in himself'. We are likely to suspect that the snob means that x is from an upper class background. The snob thinks the aristocrats can do no wrong. This is because the snob has a 'Structural Causal Model' such that certain predicates are intrinsic or 'necessary' with respect to a particular person. Thus a member of the nobility must be good even if all her actions appear bad. The problem is that such Models can easily be shown to be nonsense. I may say 'Washington could never tell a lie. Truthfulness was intrinsic to him'. You could easily controvert this by pointing out that there are certain scenarios or perhaps techniques of  mind control which would cause Washington to tell a lie.  

Am I unfairly reading this obvious misunderstanding INTO the paper?

Yes. The paper in question was an illiterate appeal for 'Merit in the Sciences'- i.e. please don't appoint disabled nutters who claim to be practicing ancient Voodoo Science which was cruelly repressed by Dead White Males.  

I understand that you might think I am. It might seem implausible to suppose that Jussim really would be mistaken about a paper on which he himself is a co-author. Perhaps I’m the one who’s mistaken, and the “Merit” paper itself is just a defense of scientific merit — and objective truth — against its postmodern critics. Let’s turn once more to the paper.

That would be the charitable reading. What Schieber has done is babble nonsense.  

Before we do, let’s make explicit the two different senses of “merit” that I’m accusing the authors of the “Merit” paper of conflating.

Merit has only one sense. It is a predicate which signifies excellence. Predicates can be used in all sorts of ways. I personally use 'Merit' as a mantra the repetition of which, I fondly believe, will enable me to emit more powerful farts.  

Sense 1 is the sense of “merit” that applies to CLAIMS.

Merit can be the predicate of a claim. It need not be just a mantra I use in in the hope of gaining vertical take off thanks to the propulsive power of my farts.  

More generally, we might say that a claim has merit if it’s well-constructed, interesting, supported by evidence, original, or likely to be true.

We may say that the predicate 'merit' is properly applied if the above criteria are met. But this is an arbitrary assertion. However, it may be useful enough in a particular context.  

Focusing on SCIENTIFIC merit for claims, we might be most concerned with a subset of these qualities, perhaps most particularly evidential support and truth-likelihood, among others.

No. My claims about my farts may have evidential support and have high truth-likelihood but they are not Scientific claims, or, at the very least, they have no great Scientific merit which is why my research should not attract public funding.  

Sense 2 of “merit” is the sense that applies to PERSONS.

A predicate can be applied to anything at all. One might also say pseudo-philosophical stuff like 'Only Nothingness has Merit for the Being must always be its lack of its own Becoming and is therefore devoid of Merit.' 

Since persons aren’t claims, this sense of merit is obviously different.

It is exactly the same. 'Einstein is totes cool' is obviously identical to 'The Theory of General Relativity is totes cool'.  

Nor can we simply say that persons in science have merit due to the merit of the scientific claims that they make.

Yes we can. Einstein was meritorious because his claims were meritorious.  

This is because personal merit is forward-looking:

it can be backward-looking. We now recognize Hermann Grassmann was a very meritorious mathematician. His contemporaries thought he was merely a meritorious Sanskrit scholar. He remained a High School teacher. 

we use assessments of personal merit to choose who should get accepted into our Ph.D. program, or post-doc, or who should receive this grant, PRIOR to their making the scientific claims our support is intended to underwrite.

This is an assessment of academic potential, not merit.  A friend of mine was the topper in Science Talent and then Physics at both the graduate and post-graduate level. He was rejected for a research position and thus went into the IAS. Later, he asked the man who rejected him why he did so. 'Sahib', the poor fellow replied, 'It was obvious you'd either take IAS or go off to Amrika. We had to choose a fellow who had fewer options in life.'

Of course, at some of these stages we will have earlier scientific claims of theirs that we can evaluate, but anyone who is even glancingly familiar with assessments of personal merit will grant that such assessments – even in science – have less to do with the evaluation of claims and more to do with the evaluation of signals: academic pedigree, venue of publications, previous fellowships and awards, etc.

These signals are also screening devices. Basically, you have to do boring shite to 'signal' that you will do boring shite while sucking up to your boss for the next ten years.  

My claim, then, is that Jussim’s blog post ignores the fact that the “Merit” paper invokes two distinct notions of “merit” and that Jussim collapses those two distinct notions into just what I’m calling the first sense of “merit”: the merit of scientific claims.

This may be true. The paper is utterly illiterate.  

Does the “Merit” paper really invoke two distinct senses?

No. It is stupid shit. It doesn't invoke anything at all.  

Let’s see.

Section 2 of the “Merit” paper is entitled “Merit-Based Science is Effective and Fair.” Note already that the title of the section itself invites confusion.

No. The guy is saying things are fine as they are. Let's not give tenure to woke nutters. Science is useful. It can make our lives better. Confine woke nuttiness to useless University Departments- like the one in which this Professor flourishes.

Is science merit-based because of its focus on objective truth (which Jussim, in his blog post, conflates with “scientific merit”) or is it merit-based because it rewards the efforts of scientists in proportion to the merits OF THOSE SCIENTISTS?

This is a distinction without a difference. Provided Scientists are focused on objective truths of a useful type then rewarding those who are best among them advances a meritorious type of Science.  

We find further evidence for the conflation of the two senses of “merit” in the body of section 2 itself:

On p. 4, the authors write, “merit must also be applied to evaluate research proposals and prospective students and faculty.”

are they objectively good or are they 'diversity hires' who will start babbling about Ancient Voodoo Quantum Gravity? 

On p. 5, the authors trumpet that “[m]erit-based science is truly fair and inclusive. It provides a ladder of opportunity and a fair chance of success for those possessing the necessary skills or talents. Neither socioeconomic privilege nor elite education is necessary.”

What's wrong with that? Merit based science is like merit based employment of plumbers. The fact that few Professors of Philosophy get big bucks for fixing our toilets is perfectly fair. If Philosophers want to be esteemed, they could learn plumbing.  

Finally, also on p. 5, the authors write that “[m]erit is a vehicle for upward mobility. Recruiting, developing, and promoting individuals based on their talent, skills, and achievements has enabled many who started life in disadvantaged conditions to realize their dreams and build better lives.”

Merit-based science can 'grow the pie'. Diversity hires merely corner rents. The danger is that if there are too many of them, then the pie will shrink.  

Note two features of all of these quotes. The first is that they employ the notion of merit in the second sense,

Nonsense! Nobody is saying that some people have an intrinsic quality of doing good Science. If this were the case, why give them any funding? They will produce great discoveries in any case while delivering pizzas.  

that of the qualities of a person that contribute to the advancement of science (and of that person’s career within science). The second is that they seem to imply that merit is not merely an aspirational goal of scientific institutions,

This Professor teaches in a Department which aspires not to merit or excellence but being utterly shit. 

but rather that those institutions are currently “a merit-based system,” if one with “imperfections.”

Why the scare quotes? The fact is some institutions do have very smart people who are getting valuable Scientific patents.  

In a previous essay, I’ve addressed the way in which the equivocations on the two senses of “merit” in the “Merit” paper render the argument in that paper fallacious.

Equivocation can't render an argument fallacious because a type theory can be applied- i.e. the ambiguity can be removed easily enough. If the argument is imperative, fallacies don't matter save in a protocol bound context- i.e. there is a specific regulative deontic logic.  

To put it simply, the authors of the “Merit” paper respond to criticisms that science isn’t a merit-based system in the second sense (in which practitioners’ success isn’t determined by their group characteristics)

But no practitioner's success is determined by group characteristics. This is because success or failure is determined by one's ranking within sub-groups with the same initial endowment. Thus, Scientists may explain the greater success of one of their peers by saying 'the man is a poet. He can think in a different way from the rest of us mere plodders'. 

by expressing shock that ANYONE would deny that science is a domain in which objective truth is paramount

It is shocking that some nutters say stuff like 'White Man Science is causing Physical Reality to be very naughty. Take Newton's Law of Gravity. But for it, Mummy wouldn't have gone splat on the ground that time she dropped acid and jumped out of the window. It was my tenth birthday party. There and then I decided to dedicate myself to becoming the first tenured Professor of Voodoo Quantum Gravity at Princeton.'  

— the FIRST sense of merit, as you’ll recall. (This is pretty much Jussim’s go-to move in his blog post.)

His go-to move is to appeal to common sense. Everybody knows that woke nutters are fucking over Academia. Vivek Ramaswamy is right. The West needs to pull its socks up otherwise the Chinese will eat our lunch.  

In a second essay, I addressed the question of whether defenses of merit in science, more broadly, fail to distinguish between descriptive and aspirational senses of the role of merit in science.

There is no such failure. The role of merit in Science is the same as the role of 'the pursuit of excellence' or the role of 'being the best goddam Scientist it is possible for us to be' or the role of 'not wanting the Chinese to eat our collective lunch.' This role is an aspiration. It is a reasonable aspiration to have because a good description of Scientific progress to date shows that the role of merit in Science has indeed worked in this way. 

No country advanced in Science through wokeness or by going in for 'diversity hires'. On the other hand, getting in a lot of smart darkies from Africa or Asia or wherever proved highly efficacious.  

To put it briefly, I suggested that believing science in fact to be a merit-based system (in the second sense of “merit”) is likely problematic,

How? Even if it isn't so, this belief militates to making it so.  

while I nevertheless held out the hope that embracing merit as an aspirational goal of science might contribute to making science — as the authors of the “Merit” paper put it — “truly fair and inclusive.”

Fuck being fair and inclusive and sensitive to the needs of kids who get triggered by the mention of 'homework' due to the fact that trillions of American citizens are literally homeless. What's more, they are constantly being raped and shot by the Police. How can any Society which claims to be civilized inflict 'homework' on kids? Also, how come Biden hasn't undergone gender reassignment surgery like he promised?  

In what remains of this essay – hopefully the last on the “Merit” paper – I want to extend the discussion of the descriptive vs. aspirational readings of merit,

this is just the distinction between actual and potential merit. There is no confusion here. It is obvious that a person with potential merit may never actually do anything meritorious because the Professor of Voodoo Quantum Gravity rapes the fellow to death as part of a ritual sacrifice to Baron Samedi. 

considering a further way in which the confusion of these two readings provides fallacious support for the arguments in the “Merit” paper.

The argument this fool is providing support for is that teaching Philosophy makes you stoooooopid. 

The problem I want to address here is that the “Merit” paper plays on the confusion of descriptive vs. aspirational readings of merit. Here is a one-sentence summary of the paper, by an ethicist at Merck who Jussim approvingly cites in his blog post:

The central assertion of “In Defense…” is that merit should serve as the primary criterion for evaluating and assessing scientific claims,

reject Voodoo Quantum Gravity because it is useless shit. Don't reject mathsy theories of Quantum Gravity which can be tested by a 'crucial experiment' in the not too distant future.  

rejecting the notion of substituting it with social engineering or identity-based policies.

Don't hire an ex-con to be Professor of Voodoo Quantum Gravity just because he is disabled, trans, and ticks various other affirmative action boxes in between raping his colleagues to death. 

Note that this gloss of the central assertion of the “Merit” paper involves the ASPIRATIONAL reading: “merit SHOULD serve as the primary criterion.”

Why? Because, where it served such a criterion in the Past, Scientific research proved to be highly utile.  

The quotes from section 2 of the paper itself, however, suggest the DESCRIPTIVE reading: “[m]erit-based science IS truly fair and inclusive. It PROVIDES a ladder of opportunity … Neither socioeconomic privilege nor elite education IS necessary,” or “[m]erit IS a vehicle for upward mobility. Recruiting, developing, and promoting individuals based on their talent, skills, and achievements HAS enabled many …”

This is reasonable. There may have been a time when very few women or dark skinned people had STEM subject Nobel prizes. But now every community has role models of this type.  

The problem with this confusion, of course, is that it invites fallacious defenses of the argument in the “Merit” paper. When someone criticizes what the “Merit” paper actually says – that science IS a meritocracy – the defenders of the “Merit” paper reply that they’re only saying that science SHOULD be a meritocracy.

That may be the case if this is an argument between illiterate fools. However, one can always build a 'steel-man' (as opposed to 'straw-man')  version of the argument and see if it can be demolished. Is it  true that American Science from the Thirties onward was more successful than German Science? Yes. The Americans would hire Jews and darkies like Chandrashekhar. The Nazis chased them out of the Academy regardless of their great merit. Einstein had to run away from Berlin to Princeton. Many others, including non-Jews, followed him. By the mid Fifties you had Chinese origin American Physics Nobel Laureates. Sadly, Madam Wu- who lacked a penis- was denied this accolade. It is a fact that many women don't have testicles. How the fuck can they hope to be balls to the wall Scientists? 

The protestations in the “Merit” paper about the meritocracy that is contemporary science – and the conflations of the descriptive and aspirational understandings of merit in science – are strikingly similar to related protestations by political conservatives that the United States is now a “post-racial” democracy, as described in Ronald Brownstein’s recent Atlantic essay, “The Post-Racial Republicans.”

Guys like Vivek Ramaswamy. Nothing wrong with that.  

In that essay, Brownstein writes – alluding to a quote from Barack Obama – that “If political leaders ‘pretend as if everything’s equal and fair,’ Obama said, ‘then I think people are rightly skeptical’ of their commitment to ensuring equal opportunity.”

Obama, a Law Professor familiar with the Coase Posner 'Law & Econ' tradition, knew the work of African-American economists which enabled charges of statistical discrimination to be proved. This meant- e.g. Pigford v Glickman- big damages for discriminated against communities and, also, successful 'pattern and practice' investigation followed by 'consent decree' based reform. 

Sadly, Obama did too little to safeguard Black Lives and thus contributed to the virus of  'wokeness' which he criticized albeit in a timid manner. 

Despite the occasional nods to the fact that contemporary science isn’t perfectly equal and fair, it certainly seems that the authors of the “Merit” paper, with their insistence on the supremacy of merit in science, seem equally deserving of our skepticism.

Who gives a fuck about the skepticism of a Philosophy Professor? We are content if they don't masturbate in public.  

The authors of the “Merit” paper are a mixed group. Some of them are prominent scientists – including Nobel prize winners. Others of them are, at this point, basically professional “anti-woke” trolls. Given the fallacious reasoning and equivocations shot through the “Merit” paper, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that, in writing the paper, the “anti-woke” trolls had the upper hand.

This shit may be intended to be anti-anti-woke, but it merely exhibits the Professor's stupidity and inability to reason.  

Nehru's belief in Brahmin supremacy

In his Autobiography, Nehru- giving vent to his frustration that the businessmen who had financed Congress had done very well for themselves while leaving people like him to rot in jail-  sets out his own, caste based, claim to the leadership of Hindu India. This is still the ideology of the Dynasty which owns the INC.

Consider the following-

To-day (the old culture of India) is fighting silently and desperately against a new and all-powerful opponent— the bania civilisation of the capitalist West.

But Western Capitalism was genealogically related to the Calvinist reformation which was priestly, not mercantile, in origin. The new commercial creed had its roots in a purely religious movement which had come to the conclusion that worldly prosperity was an ' outward and visible sign' of Grace and Election. This was embraced by some Aristocrats as well as working class, Puritanical, dissenters of various types some of whom rose, generation by generation, into the plutocracy. 

In Edwardian England- more particularly at places like Harrow & Cambridge- blue blooded noblemen mingled with gilded youth who represented the 'Purple of Commerce'. Small religious groups, like the Jews or Zoroastrians, also contributed to this 'power elite'. The Parsi Baronet and the Jewish Baron might have a belted Earl on their Board of Directors. A clever Jewish barrister rose to become Lord Chief Justice and then Viceroy of India. He was made a Marquis. 

This did not mean that Edwardian England was a brash commercial civilization. On the contrary, it was a place where the grandson of a Baghdadi Jew had become a typical fox-hunting country gentleman. This was also true of the Raj. The descendants of Punjabi Lalas or Bengali compradors were posher than the Queen's tits. Like Nehru, they deplored the vulgarity of commerce. 

It will succumb to this newcomer, for the West brings science, and science brings food for the hungry millions. But the West also brings an antidote to the evils of this cutthroat civilisation— the principles of socialism, of co-operation, and service to the community for the common good.

An American millionaire who was a pal of Lord Curzon gave the money which funded an Agricultural Research Institute at Pusa. A.O Hume, who helped found the INC, had wanted this to be done twenty years previously. Sadly, the Indians in the INC shared no similar concern with the vulgar business of raising agricultural productivity so that India's malnourished millions might be healthier and stronger.

Socialism, according to Marxian theory, was a more evolved form of Capitalism in which science and technology would be better funded and better applied. It had nothing to do with virtue signaling or sulking in jail or complaining about vulgarity or the supposedly coarsening effect of the erosion of caste distinctions.  

This is not so unlike the old Brahman ideal of service,

Religious service. Brahmins were only respected if they were genuinely motivated by the desire to praise and serve God. Hypocritical shebaits and mahants were despised. There were local agitations to displace such hereditary parasites as controlled sacred places so as to gain wealth and power- not to mention illicit sexual gratification. Gandhi's own father had been a follower of a Pushti Marg Mahant whose activities had become notorious because of the 'Maharaj Libel Case' circa 1860.  

but it means the brahmanisation (not in the religious sense, of course) of all classes and groups and the abolition of class distinctions.

Vivekananda (who was Kayastha) spoke of the 'Kshatriyaization' of all classes. The industrial proletariat had this martial quality. He, along with Jamshed Tata, wanted an Indian Institute of Science so that the country could rise economically by gaining better industrial technology. 

It may be that when India puts on her new garment, as she must, for the old is tom and tattered,

and made out of khadi. Congress still insists its member be 'habitual weavers of khadi'.  

she will have it cut in this fashion, so as to make it conform both to present conditions and her old thought. The ideas she adopts must become racy to her soil.

Nehru's ideas involved turning the country into a shithole unable to feed or defend itself. Still, he was for 'brahmanisation'- though this turned out to mean that a guy whose grandfather was Zoroastrian and whose mother was Italian, claims India's throne by reason of being heir, by primogeniture, of Nehru's utterly irreligious and unmeaning Brahmindom.  

Myerson wrong on the Great War

Statistically speaking, crime does not pay. One or two criminals may gain wealth and power but the vast majority are worse off than if they took a minimum wage job and stuck to it. Still, crime has a glamour for those who were brought up to be sober and law abiding. There is the notion that committing a crime is to sell your soul to the Devil who will then grant you great wealth or superhuman powers.

In England, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus is a slightly comic figure. The fellow should have set up as an apothecary and gotten rich.  The less commercially minded Germans became fascinated with Goethe's more philosophical Faust and thought it a fine thing to make a pact with the Devil. But the Devil does not exist. No superhuman powers become available to you if you behave like a retarded sociopath. This was the lesson of the two World Wars. Sadly, it is a lesson lost on Roger Myerson, the Nobel laureate game theorist. He has recently published an article titled 'Game Theory and the First World War' which demonstrates that even the most acclaimed game theorist, if not game theory itself, is as stupid as shit. One reason for this is that the notion of Nash equilibrium is either meaningless or incoherent- a topic for a future post.

Before looking at Myerson's essay, let me mention some facts about a type of regime Americans retain no ancestral memory of. The fact is, Empires often have an elite, hereditary, caste of soldier/administrators. In Russia and China, aristocratic titles derived from service to the state. An aristocratic family which did not serve in the current generation moved down a rung in the table of nobility.  Commoners could become noblemen by rising in the Civil Service. Thus, Lenin was a 'hereditary noblemen' though his sons would not inherit this title because he himself had not become a Government employee.

 Prussia, of course, had the Junker class which assumed great importance in the German Empire. The French had a more meritocratic  military establishment- one reason why Jewish officers like Dreyfus could advance- but the traditional officer class tended to be Catholic and monarchist. In the United Kingdom, one might speak of the Ascendancy Irishman or Ulsterman as being more likely to rise high in the Army. Otherwise, the 'officer class' was supposed to derive from the landed gentry who were pictured as taking a paternal interest in the affairs of their tenants and laborers. They were 'natural leaders' and the lower orders had an instinctive liking for their style of command. 

The new middle class in the towns and cities, which had risen a little through commerce or the professions, saw War as a chance to become 'temporary gentlemen' (i.e. Army officers) and to alter the status of their identity class. The Catholic Rhinelander saw the war as an opportunity to prove their loyalty and martial spirit. But, it must also be said, German 'Zabernism' (i.e. a situation where the soldier could tyrannize over the civilian with total legal immunity) made Army service more, not less, desirable. 

All in all, mobilization of reserves and the extension of conscription represented a tremendous transfer of power and authority to the traditional officer class- more particularly if it was actually a caste or had a particular political orientation. This meant that there was an urban/rural divide with militarism being seen as favored by more religious, more conservative, more hierarchical rural areas whereas the urban, industrial proletariat's interests might be better served by an irenic type of 'internationalist' Socialism. 

The old Europe of Crowned heads and aristocratic landlords was under siege by the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Could the traditional elites co-opt the urban bourgeoisie in such a manner that the new proletarian class too was conciliated? What of the peasant's land hunger- in Russia and Catholic Ireland? Could they be bought off and, if so, where was the money to come from.

Another question in some Western European countries there some way to reconcile the urban intelligentsia and the boorish anti-Semite? Perhaps Imperial conquest could square the circle. But colonies in Africa weren't really a paying proposition. The other problem was that the older industrialized countries risked losing economies of scope and scale to the newer entrants. But the new entrants resented the financial power of the older Capital exporting nations.

 Britain was declining relative to Germany and the US. Germany was worried that French financial might would finance rapid industrialization in Russia. The Hapsburgs saw their German alliance as a remedy for their Hungarian headache. Perhaps, they could grow the economy fast enough to conciliate different linguistic groups. In any case, a war meant their bear-garden of a Parliament lost salience as members of the officer caste took charge. 

This brings me to the question, why was there a big war in 1914? The answer is that multi-ethnic Empires had a last chance to restore power to their militarized aristocratic class. The path of 'bourgeois reform' was proving sticky. The Left might consolidate itself before an effective 'Liberal' administration materialized. 

Germany, which started the War, planned to conquer territory both to its West and its East and to crush France with reparation payments. In other words, it wanted to use its supposed superiority to gain wealth and power and hegemony over the continent. This was the 'September program' of the German Chancellor.

Britain and France were in a separate category. They knew that if they could halt the German onslaught, then they would eventually prevail. France would get its revenge and take back territory and gain reparations, while Britain would destroy the German fleet and maintain its naval hegemony. 

Furthermore, both countries were big capital exporters and would dominate a post-war Europe where Money, not munitions, would determine outcomes. 

Can game-theory add anything to the above analysis?

Perhaps. Sadly, game-theorists are as stupid as shit. 

Noble laureate Roger Myerson is a case in point. He doesn't understand that Germany wanted to 'lock in' its supposed superiority through conquest and bullying. France wanted to destroy Germany militarily and economically. Britain would have been content if Germany gave up its Navy. Britain & France were used to getting their way. A united Germany was a relatively recent phenomenon. 

The reason there was a war in 1914 was because Emperors were as stupid as shit. They and their courtiers gambled on going out in a blaze of glory rather than slowly turning into eunuchs, like the British King, or seeing their countries turn into Republics. 

 Myerson writes- 

To review the history of World War I is to be reminded that leaders of great nations can make disastrous decisions that shatter civilization.

But the war was started by a silly man from a small nation- Gavrillo Princip of Serbia. The 'Great Nations' had a common enemy- International Socialism. Three multi-ethnic Empires- that of the Hapsburgs, Romanovs and Ottomans- were also menaced by Nationalism. They gambled on War because they would lose everything sooner or later. Ottoman and Tzarist Courtly Culture were certainly shattered but Turkish and Russian civilization developed, it may be, on better lines. More importantly, the Great War ended Imperialism and many different Civilizations- some very ancient, such as that of the Arabs- began to, if not thrive, then develop along their own lines. 

Whatever their received wisdom had taught the leaders of 1914 about managing a global political system, it was not enough.

Imperialism was dead. That Vampire just needed a stake through the heart. The Agadir crisis had highlighted the importance of Finance- the Germans thought that the French were using their vast financial wealth to try to force Germany off the gold standard- and the Great War was, in a sense, as much a last stand against Globalized financial markets as it was the unintentional father of the Communist International. 

A century after its end, their Great War still demands deeper understanding from us, if we are to have any hope of avoiding such disasters in the future.

It was only a disaster from the point of view of White Supremacists.  

If we had a general conceptual framework

we do. It Is 'regret minimization' which, in this case, featured 'FOMO'- fear of missing out. Going to War means the guys running things get much more power. Not going to war may mean having to give up power. In any case, being a leader at a time of War endows mere cogs in a political machine with heroic qualities. A solicitor who has climbed the greasy pole is suddenly transformed into an embodiment of the National Spirit. Mars has set a halo to his head and Valkyries take wing at his word. 

What precipitated the 'guns of August' was FOMO. France thought this was the one chance of being sure of Russian support in case of war. If it could avoid an early defeat, it would win a war of attrition and regain Alsace & Lorraine. The alternative was an accommodation, which must occur sooner or later between Kaiser and Tzar at the expense of the Hapsburg with Italy joining in enthusiastically. 

For Britain, FOMO had to do with the German Naval threat. It wanted to curb a ruinous race to see who could build Dreadnoughts faster. Moreover, Russia might grow rapidly and seek vengeance on Japan which was a naval ally of Britain.

Russia's FOMO arose from the fact that it could beat the Hapsburgs and, moreover, the Serbian cause had appeal for the Pan Slav Narodnik element. Perhaps the Kaiser would keep out of the business and Vienna would back down. Better yet, the French would line everybody's pockets in return for an invasion of East Prussia which would permit the French to take back Alsace-Lorraine.

This leaves us with Austria-Hungary. Like France, which feared to miss out on the Russian blank check, Austrian was in a hurry to cash in on German support. The Germans thought this was their last chance to deal with France before turning to face a Russia which was believed to be in the process of getting much more powerful. The Brits, thanks to Haldane- a great admirer of German philosophy- and Mackinder whose geopolitical theory of the 'World Island' and History's 'geographical pivot' led him to conclude that '"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World."

Haldane and Mackinder were 'Imperialists' who thought War would marginalize the Irish and Indian and Egyptian and other rebels, enthuse the British working class, and solder together the White settler colonies in a common enterprise. 

that could explain why powerful national leaders

Imperial functionaries who were losing power because nationalities in Europe were concerned with socio-economic reform which would increasingly undercut the political power of the Aristocracy and landed gentry.  

made such ruinous choices in the summer of 1914,

France and Britain prevailed. Germany got a second chance. It could have settled for a greater Germany including Austria and the Sudeten and an arrangement with Poland (which, in 1938, would not scruple to take a bite out of Czechoslovakia) while maintaining a pragmatic accommodation with Russia. 

My point is that Nations- one way or another- gained from the Great War. It was the graveyard for Empires and the 'beamtenliberalismus' Liberalism of the upper, haut bourgeois, tier of their bureaucracies or class of public officials. 

then perhaps we could face the new challenges of our own time with greater confidence.

That challenge has come and gone. There has been a 'populist' rebellion against the 'epistocracy' of the experts. Nations- Ukraine is the best example- are reasserting themselves. But one great Nation- China- may gain control of 'the World Island'. Mackinder may have been a true prophet. 

So when we want to assess the power of economic theory

stupid shit. Geography is ideographic. Mackinder was a geographer. Economic theory is nomothetic- i.e. nonsense.  

to offer valuable insights into problems of the modern world, a re-examination of fateful decisions in the First World War may be an appropriate place to start. This approach has been fruitfully probed in two noteworthy recent books. Gambling on War, by Roger Ransom (2018), reviews the history of World War I as a series of situations where decision-makers repeatedly manifested a preference for risk-seeking against losses, consistent with common patterns that have been identified in behavioral economics.

This was merely regret-minimization under conditions of radical Knightian Uncertainty- viz. 'the fog of war'.  Essentially, you do what you must to stay in office. Once you lose it, you may never get it back. People will think you are a loser. Your wife might leave you for another man. Mum will suggest you should have gone into Accountancy like that cousin of yours who collects match boxes.

The Politics of the First World War, by Scott Wolford (2019), is a game theory textbook where each chapter introduces a basic concept in game theory and then applies it to help analyze an event in World War I.

In other words, this is an exercise in revisionism. 

This approach is particularly rewarding in Wolford's book, where he shows both that game theory can offer valuable insights into the enigmas of World War I, and that World War I is a valuable case for demonstrating how game theory can be applied.

The opposite is the case. The War was a 'meta-game' where the rules were re-written and the nature of the pay-off was changed. It marked the end of the rule of the Aristocracy or even the 'National Bourgeoisie'. It doomed White Supremacy and Eurocentricity. It turned Marx, from being a Hegelian foot-note to Ricardo or pedantic precursor to Henry George, into an Prophet equal to Moses or Muhammad to whom Jew and Gentile might both bow down. 

 Ransom (2018) approaches the First World War as an economic historian. The war effort in each country depended on vast production of war materials, and the demand to sustain this war production for years was a supreme test of each country's economic development. In this cruel test, the capabilities in Russia and Austria proved to be substantially less than in the other great powers, Germany, Britain, and France.

Austria-Hungary was, quite literally, a house divided against itself. The Hungarians feared that a Hapsburg victory would reduce their own sovereignty.  Russia too would have a 'scissors crisis'. Essentially, the agricultural regions didn't want to release food stocks in return for pieces of paper. 

In his section on economies at war, Ransom notes that Russia and Austria had much higher war-time price inflation than the other three major combatants,

that's a 'scissors crisis'.  

and government spending as a fraction of national income actually declined during the later war years in Russia and Austria, while this fraction was steadily increasing in Germany, Britain, and France. This difference in economic capacity was a significant determinant of military outcomes in the later years of the war.

But economic capacity was a function of political cohesiveness. Britain did have a problem with a rebellion in Catholic Ireland but, otherwise, the rest of the United Kingdom remained cohesive. French and German and Italian Nationalism were all on a firm footing. It was the Multi Ethnic Empires which had come to the end of their road.  

We may readily attribute this difference to the 3 less advanced level of economic development in Russia and Austria, compared to Germany, Britain, and France in 1914. But then we should try to understand which specific aspects of economic development made the most difference to the way that these countries performed in the crucible of war.

This was a war which was about forestalling the inevitable consequences of differential rates of economic growth changing the strategic picture. Germany wanted to strike before Russia's economy grew. 

Ransom remarks that the war economies in Germany, Britain, and France all relied on private production,

as did Russia and Austria-Hungary.  

and the presence of well-developed markets was a key element for successful economic mobilization. But only some aspects of their "well-developed markets" would continue to apply after the massive transition from production of consumer goods to military goods. Presumably the crucial aspects might include those customs and institutions that enabled a broad group of entrepreneurial individuals to form new trade relations with trust and reliability, and those that enabled the government to effectively tax and regulate such private enterprise. Certainly Russia and Austria had significantly less ability to finance their war effort by selling public debt,

Like Turkey, Russia was a big net capital importer. Austria-Hungary was a marginal net capital exporter but Germany was its biggest source of f.d.i.

and this financial constraint may have contributed to the collapse of both empires by the end of the war.

It wasn't just Empires, there was a serious risk of Capitalism collapsing in post-War Europe.  

But were people less willing to buy Russian and Austrian debt simply because they foresaw the potential collapse of these states, or were deeper structural factors limiting these states' ability to sell public debt?

Collapsing structures are difficult to mortgage.  

Russia's war effort was also weakened by its limited ability to tax its peasants, as the conversion of Russian industry from consumer goods to military production reduced peasants' incentives to bring their crops to market. When we examine such issues as they became significant in World War I, we find that the war can provide an alternative perspective on the fundamental meaning of economic development.

How? The fact is the more industrialized combatants did better than the agricultural ones unless munitions could be shipped to them.  Subsidies, too,- for example British money for the Arab Revolt- could play a role. Wall Street, it must be said, was an important player. In England it was believed that Rufus Isaacs, as head of the Anglo-French Loan Commission and, a little later, Special Ambassador, had done some sort of a deal with JP Morgan. 

Ransom's main focus throughout his book is on the prevalence of risk-seeking behavior in major decisions throughout the war, as political leaders and military commanders regularly chose to gamble on warfare rather than pursue options that might have led to peace.

But there were other political leaders and military commanders around at that time which didn't gamble on warfare. They preferred to sit things out. Denmark whose neutrality during the War favoured Germany nevertheless managed to get back Northern Schleswig

Such riskseeking seems clearly identifiable in the decisions to mobilize forces

which couldn't have been mobilized if there hadn't been a prior decision to have military forces. 

that could provoke a world war, the decision to launch the vast offensive of the Schlieffen Plan in August 1914, the decisions to continue the war after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, the decisions to send waves of troops into fruitless offenses from the Somme to Gallipoli, and the decision to launch unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917.

There were plenty of peace initiatives but the 'Expected value' of the military outcome did not change over the course of the conflict. The Central Powers were bound to lose.  It was the socio-political outcome which was unanticipated. 

Our problem is to identify what theoretical framework should be used to explain such risk-seeking in war.

Regret minimization including FOMO 

To be useful, a theory of "animal spirits" must go beyond generalities to say something about when this force applies and when it does not, since people do not always choose to gamble on war.

They may be obliged to if they face an existential threat of a military sort. 

Ransom offers some suggestions of how the condition of being at war could promote risk-seeking behavior

Combatants thought they were reducing existential threats by fighting now rather than waiting.  

which then drives the continuation of war.

More war extinguishes war. Peace is what happens after one side has won. That peace may involve Treaty obligations not to rearm. The problem with such precautions to perpetuate peace is that they may themselves trigger war. What seems to work is mutually assured destruction or, at the very least, the ability to 'frontload' pain. But that may be an illusion in the same manner that the 'Concert of Europe'- which we now see as 'chain-ganging'- created the illusion that Imperial Cousins would keep the peace. 

The problem was that both the Kaiser & the Tzar were nincompoops. Their Treaty of Björkö was disavowed by both their Foreign Offices. The truth is neither Emperor had a kick-ass Chancellor. The odd thing was that Britain, thanks to Haldane, went into the War above par thus causing a stalemate on the Marne. 

Once the war started, the technical complexity of warfare compelled political leaders to leave the decisions of military strategy to generals, but generals who lacked a strong will to win were less likely to be promoted to high command in the war.

Von Kluck had too much will to win. That's why he disobeyed Moltke and gave the French an opportunity to attack the German flank forcing it to withdraw to a defensive position.  

There can also be rational political explanations for gambling on war when the top political leaders would expect to lose their high positions under any outcome other than a decisive victory. (George Downs and David Rocke 1994 have shown how such a political incentive system could be optimal for promoting the interests of the electorate when they have less information than their leaders.)

This is foolish. Electorates want a different type of leader during wartime. Once the war is over, you need sensible people who will do deals, make compromises, and focus on restoring standards of living.  

Such conditions seem more likely to apply in a nation once it has committed itself to a major war. A different class of explanations may be needed to understand what could cause the original onset of a war.

Germany thought it would get reparations from France- as it had in 1870- and secure territory to its East. Austria-Hapsburg wanted to cash in Germany's blank check. The Russians were actually rather quick to mobilize. But their performance against the Germans was extraordinarily inept.  

But one point which applied at the start of World War I is particularly worth mentioning here. The Chief of the German General Staff in 1914 was Helmuth von Moltke, the nephew and namesake of the commander who had engineered the great German victory in the Franco-Prussian war. Having attained this high position, what further aspirations could motivate the younger Moltke, other than the possibility of matching or exceeding the victorious achievements of his famous uncle? His personal situation could be a textbook case for when risk-seeking behavior may be expected.

But it was Von Kluck who took the big risks. Moltke had suffered a stroke just before the war and had been cautious in his approach. Ludendorff, it must be said, was Schlieffen's true heir just as Hindenburg was Schlieffen's own choice of successor. Ludendorff was unusual in that he had himself lobbied the Reichstag for more men to make the plan viable though this was not liked by his superiors. With hindsight, the Kaiser's desire for a big Navy was, like his liking for Moltke, a factor in the misfire of the Schlieffen Plan. On the other hand, it must be admitted that Schlieffen's actual plan was to win on the counter-offensive. That's what worked against the Russians. 

We should not be surprised that he would focus all his professional efforts on developing a military plan that offered the highest probability of achieving a glorious victory, even if it also entailed extraordinary risks of widening the scope of war.

I suppose this could be said about Ludendorff's decision to go for unrestricted submarine warfare which brought America into the War.  

Risk-seeking behavior could be driven, not only by a utility function that is relatively insensitive to large losses, but also by a perceptual bias toward overestimating favorable probabilities.

Military commanders are well compensated. Though on the losing side, they may become the idols of the masses like Hindenburg.  

In this regard, Ransom cites Dominic Johnson's (2004) book on Overconfidence and War, which in turn relied heavily on Irving Janis's (1973) general theory of "groupthink." Janis (1973) explicitly recognized that groups which encourage critical debate can help people to improve their thinking.

Very true. Gangsters who engage in critical debate can become better gangsters. War is a nuisance good. Critical debate should be about how to curb wasteful competition in producing nuisances.  But critical debate is itself a nuisance.

Indeed, anyone who has worked in an academic institution (or has seen Michael Frayn's brilliant play Copenhagen) should know that discussions with colleagues can be essential for catching and correcting subtle errors in our analysis.

The opposite is more likely. Your colleagues convince you to stick with a dead-in-the-water Research Program.  

But when a group values internal cohesion and loyalty over debate, the group's social dynamics may inhibit critical judgment, instead of enhancing it.

If it values survival, it may stop debating stupid shit and do sensible stuff.  

Such problems are particularly likely when a group faces conflict with external rivals. Then, according to Janis (1973), a basic human propensity to groupthink can involve (1) a fundamental belief in our group's inherent morality and our ability to prevail in conflict, (2) stereotypical views of our rivals as too evil for us to negotiate with or too weak or too stupid to counter our efforts against them, and (3) group norms to deter or punish any questioning of these shared beliefs by group members.

This isn't a group. It is a cult or a gang of some type.  

Johnson (2004) suggested that a tendency to such groupthink or overconfidence in conflict may be an adaptive human trait which could have had advantages for survival in our evolutionary past.

The reverse is more likely. Cretins flock together and get stomped.  

For millions of years, our ancestors have been social animals living in groups which would regularly have to defend their territory against rivals, and a group's ability to prevail in such contests would depend on its members accepting severe individual risks in fighting for the good of the group.

Fuck off. The vast mass of us are descended from  'self-domesticated' agricultural serfs or tribal populations which expanded very quickly thanks to new technology or the fact that once endemic predators or parasites had been removed. 

So groups would be more likely to survive if their members had some inherited social instincts that could help them to override or re-direct their individual instincts for self-protection when their identified social group is in serious conflict against rivals.

Fuck social instincts. You need better tech or just more money to hire killers.  

Socially-defined perceptual biases could serve such a function.

So could plain old fashioned lying  

But for this mobilizing purpose, an ideal bias would heighten both fear of what our enemy could do if not countered and confidence in our group's ability to counter the threat by working together.

That's not how Al Qaeda or ISIS works. If our gang can make money with a protection racket we might want to expand our territory & be a bigger 'stationary bandit'. 

On the other hand, early modern humans did have a mathematical economics instinct which caused them to form groups and award each other Nobel prizes. That shit definitely happened.  

The perceptual biases of groupthink, as described by Janis (1973), can improve a group's prospects in conflict in several ways.

It can make them immune to bullets.  

 Of course, overconfidence can also harm a group by causing it to take ill-considered gambles. One noteworthy example may be the German decision to launch unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917, in spite of warnings from America that it would enter the war to defend freedom of the seas against such German attacks. Ransom (2018 p159-161) suggests that this decision largely resulted from Germans' overconfidence in the unproven ability of their submarines to prevent American assistance from reaching Europe. But Wolford (2019 chapter 13) uses game-theoretic models to suggest that Germans might have rationally figured that America would probably enter the war against them no matter what their submarines did, because Britain and France had borrowed so much from America that Americans would want to prevent a German victory which could make these loans uncollectible.

This is foolish. Britain and France had substantial investments around the world as well as valuable colonies. Germany was almost at the end of its tether. It was a case of now or never. Submarine warfare helped morale by enabling the Germans to picture Brits starving in the same pathetic manner that many of their own people were. Stephen Leacock, the Canadian economist/humorist, has some rather nasty pieces gloating over 'the Turnip winter' and the plight of his famished Teutonic counterparts.  

Game-theoretic models of war from its onset Game theory provides an analytical framework for generalizing lessons learned from one instance of conflict to others, and so lessons from World War I can be usefully formulated in terms of game-theoretic models.

If this were the case, a bright guy like Von Neumann would have spotted this.  

Game theory requires us to consider all sides of the conflict and does not require us to put the blame on any one side. It would be too easy to explain destructive wars by blaming them all on monstrous leaders

Violating Belgian neutrality was stoooopid. So was unrestricted submarine warfare. The right tactic for the Central powers was to rely on the counter-offensive. Still, the prospect of getting to Paris and grabbing all the lovely gold the thrifty French had squirreled away, was too tempting. 

. As Wolford sagely observes, a game-theoretic analysis of World War I obliges us to view its leading participants as persons to be understood and to rationalize their decisions in terms of natural human goals, which is indeed to humanize them.

Human beings are social and political beings. They have beliefs, ideologies, egos and particular positions within social and economic hierarchies. War is a continuation of politics by other means 

The first chapters of Wolford's book introduce game models in strategic form, with Nash equilibrium as the basic solution concept. The pre-war Anglo-German arms race is modelled as a Prisoners' Dilemma game

It was nothing of the sort. Naval rivalry was bad for Germany. It was good for Britain. Why? It made the bogey of a German invasion more believable. This meant a richer country started spending more on its Navy and Expeditionary Force and thus was better prepared for war. Germany sacrificed scarce resources for a white elephant navy while solidifying the Entente. 

Americans may not understand that Britain prevailed in two World Wars. The House of Windsor is now the pre-eminent European Royal House. The Hapsburgs and the Tzars and Kaisers and Caliphs have gone never to return. The British Commonwealth, meanwhile, is the largest voluntary association of countries in the world.  

where each player has two possible actions, and switching to the more aggressive action would increase the player's own payoff but would cause a larger decrease in the other's payoff.

This was a winner take all game. The British King Emperor prevailed over every other type of Monarch. That's why Britain has a permanent seat on the Security Council. Its Aristocracy, unlike the Russian Nobility, never had to take jobs as waiters or body-guards. They remained rich- if that's what they wanted to be. Britain and America have imposed English as the language of the globe. It is Anglo-Saxon ideas in politics and economics which have prevailed. Germany tried twice to reverse the outcome but, precisely because it used military means, it ended up weak, partitioned and with an Army which drills with broom handles painted black. 

Thus, warlike behavior can be understood as a Nash equilibrium

No it can't. One side loses. The moment you surrender, you have stopped playing the game. Essentially, you have pissed your pants and your Mommy has to come to Skool and drive you home. That's not a fucking Nash equilibrium. It is a very fucking traumatic personal memory is what it is. Not mine though. It happened to some other guy I used to know. 

Germany didn't play its optimal strategy which was not to start wars it was bound to lose. Japan made the same mistake in the Second World War.  A Nash equilibrium would exist if both Germany and Japan continue to have an offensive doctrine. They don't. They simply miscalculated the pay-off matrix and learnt their lesson. 

that is Pareto-dominated by another feasible outcome in the game, because both players could be better off if they both switched to their less aggressive actions.

Wars are about fucking up the other guy till he is fucking dead. Britain obliterated the Kaiser who had dared challenge its Naval supremacy. That was a good outcome for Britain. It was a shitty outcome for Germany.  

This basic modeling point deserves more emphasis for students who are just beginning to learn the art of game-theoretic modeling. In the realities that we are modeling, people may choose among a myriad of strategic options, but a good model should strip away most of this complexity so that we can focus on the key essentials.

War is a discovery process. The payoff matrix is not known.  

Students often need to be told to simplify their model, but they must learn how to make the right simplifications. It would certainly be too simple to use a model of war where fighting was the only strategic option for each player, because an interesting explanation of war must explain why people would go to war instead of doing something else that we might have thought that they should do instead. More specifically, as war is costly and destructive, the primary question about war is why would people choose it when some peaceful alternative could be better for everyone.

Wars turn Generals into very very important people. It is in their interest for there to be a conflict. Even if the War is lost, like Hindenburg or Horthy, they may get to be Head of State. Equally, a people may choose war because civilian leaders are fucking horrible.  

Thus, a good model of war should include an outcome that represents war and at least one peaceful outcome that is Pareto-superior to war, so that showing how war is a Nash equilibrium in this model would then be an explanation of why people might choose war instead of better peaceful alternatives.

The only way to get reliable data about total war is to actually have a total war. Europe had two total wars because the discovery process was profitable to those in charge of armies. Once Mutually Assured Destruction was an option, the discovery process was dropped in favor of limited conflicts- e.g. Ukraine. The outcome of that war may determine the fate of Taiwan.  

1 The logic of preventive war is an important early topic in Wolford's book. In 1914, Germany's army was clearly the strongest in Europe, 

but, if the Kaiser continued to favor a Naval buildup then the General Staff would take a back seat. The Junkers from the agricultural East would be eclipsed as the center of gravity moved towards the Rhineland. You can't tell me this isn't part of a Jewish-Catholic-Homosexual plot orchestrated by the fucking Illuminati. 

but a Russian military modernization had some potential to make its huge army superior to Germany's by 1917. Fearing this possibility, Germany's leaders considered the potential advantages of a preventive war to weaken Russia before it became too strong to stop. Russia's alliance with France could be balanced by Germany's alliance with Austria, but Austria had refused to support Germany in a previous international crisis.

Germany had made a complete fool of itself over Agadir. It was desperate to have at least one grown-up in its corner. But that grown-up was utterly senile.  

Thus, Germany's best hope to eliminate the growing Russian threat would be in a preventive war over some issue that Austria would be bound to support.

This is school-yard stuff.  

For this purpose, a perfect issue seemed available when Austria demanded retaliation against Serbia, an ally of Russia, after Serbian agents conspired to assassinate the heir to the Austrian throne.

Germany's bluff had been called. It was hoping to call somebody else's bluff. Then the Imperial cousins could get down to the serious business of comparing dick sizes.  

Wolford develops a series of game models to analyze the intricate logic of these international relations.

Whereas what we are actually dealing with is childishness and stupidity.  

Game models with more than two players can become useful when we are analyzing such situations where the rational strategic decisions of one nation depend on the anticipated incentives and decisions of several other nations.

Game models are useless if you are playing chess and the other guy is playing checkers while trying to shoot you.  

Modeling decisions to go to war as a Nash equilibrium in a strategic-form game can show how, under some circumstances, national leaders might each find costly warfare to be their best available option, given the expected strategic behavior of others.

The Allies crushed Germany for a generation. What enabled it to rise back was the evil genie of Bolshevism which the Germans had sent to St. Petersburg in a sealed train.  

But if the international game also had some alternative equilibrium that would be Pareto-superior to war then, one could ask, what would prevent responsible leaders from coordinating their expectations on such a peaceful equilibrium that they all prefer to war? Thus, James Fearon (1995) has argued persuasively that a rationalist explanation for war must also explain why nations are unable to coordinate on some peaceful outcome that would be better for everyone than a costly and destructive war. That is, for Fearon (1995), a rationalist explanation of war should convincingly show why the international game has no other Nash equilibria that would be better than war for all the players; it is not enough to show merely that war can occur in one Nash equilibrium of the international game. 

This is foolish. It is obvious that both World Wars involved the belligerent power attacking a neutral or weaker country in the hope that their opponent's bluff would be called. The other point is that there was a Marxian, class conflict, background to both Wars. In other words, wars changed the social geography just as much as they redraw lines on the map. 

In chapter 4 Wolford considers a model of war where the "war" outcome is actually Pareto-efficient,

sadly, this is only the case where all hostilities take the form of tickle fights. True, one can have 'rules of war' which are 'Pareto improvements' but- as with any nuisance good- war is never on the Pareto frontier.  

but a few numbers could easily be changed to make one of the peaceful outcomes Pareto-superior.  Unfortunately, while it may be easy to verify that one particular outcome is a Nash equilibrium in a strategic-form game, proving that a game has no other Nash equilibria can be much more difficult.

More particularly if it isn't actually a game.  

But incentive constraints from agency theory provide a way of bounding the set of equilibrium outcomes, even when the players' procedures for communicating and negotiating are not fully specified. Economic theorists regularly work with two kinds of incentive constraints: moral-hazard incentive constraints that apply when a player cannot commit to abstain from some problematic form of opportunistic behavior, and informational incentive constraints that apply when a player cannot be trusted to honestly share some private information. Fearon (1995) applies both kinds of incentive constraints to develop a powerful theory of rationalist explanations for war. One of the triumphs of Fearon's approach is his demonstration that a preventive war by a currently dominant nation against a rising nation, such as Germany contemplated against Russia in 1914, can be understood in terms of moral-hazard commitment problems in a dynamic game.

Nonsense! Russia had a shitty Tzar but that could change. The fact is, even if you knock the Russians out today, five years later they are back on their feet and ten years later they are marching into your Capital. That's what happened to Napoleon. Ludendorff & Co started dreaming of big estates in Poland and Ukraine but it was Rooskis who ended up occupying half of Berlin. 

The currently dominant nation cannot be expected to accept any long-term agreement that would be worse for it than what it could get by launching a war now, while it has military superiority.

One can win a war but winning the peace may be too costly. There's a reason buffer states exist more specially if they have 'zomia' type characteristics.  

On the other hand, the rising nation cannot be expected to fulfill any long-term agreement that would give it less than what it could get by launching a war in the future, after it gets military superiority.

War is a nuisance good. Assuming it has an opportunity cost in terms of tradable stuff, why should the non-coercive solution not be preferable? Violence is essentially technological and knowledge based. If you are better at destruction, chances are you could also be good at high value adding constructive stuff. What matters is whether you can bend the terms of trade in your favor. That's what determines who monopolizes the gains of trade.  In this sense, an imbalance of Financial power can make war more tempting for the poorer party. But this is also true of mugging. It is tempting to mug an elderly lady who is wearing a diamond tiara. It it not tempting to mug a homeless dude more particularly because guys who live on the streets have to be pretty tough.

Under some circumstances, it may be impossible to find any long-term peaceful agreement that would satisfy both of these moral-hazard peace-keeping constraints, and then preventive war cannot be deterred. The key to this analysis is that the rising nation cannot credibly commit itself now to refrain from using its ability to threaten war in the future after power has shifted in its favor, but the currently dominant nation could prevent this shift of power by launching a costly war now.

This is not a realistic assumption. Inflicting the costly war now may speed up the rise of the challenger more particularly if it has a lower material standard of living and thus a lower opportunity cost for militarism.  

Conditions for such moral-hazard commitment problems to jointly eliminate any possibility of a peaceful agreement have been analyzed by Robert Powell (2006). Fearon (1995) also showed that moral-hazard commitment problems can provide a theory of preemptive wars, which are driven by an expectation that whoever attacks first would gain a decisive advantage in war.

Only if they secure strategic objectives or can do regime change. Sadly, that last is problematic. 

As Stephen Van Evera (1984, 1998) has argued, changes in military technology can affect the comparative advantages of offense and defense in war,

But such changes increase the salience of relative economic and scientific development. Comparative advantage is about opportunity cost ratios. Bu the absolute advantage of having a rich, highly educated, entrepreneurial population enables a country to have both more butter and better guns.  But this also means that, if land is scarce, the richer country may occupy the territory of 'backward' peoples and enslave or exterminate them.

and this shifting balance between offense and defense can be a fundamental factor in determining the risk of war.

No. The risk of war arises from conflicting territorial claims or the likelihood of belligerent actions. 

For an international agreement to keep the peace,

it must be enforced. 

the agreement must not give any nation less than what it could get by starting a war,

in which case there would be no international agreement 

where it would have the advantage of initiating the first offensive moves.

 it can't have that advantage if the international agreement is enforceable. 

These minimum peace-keeping payoffs for all nations would tend to increase when the advantage from the first offensive becomes greater. So if the initial offensive advantage becomes large enough, it could become impossible for any feasible agreement to keep the peace. Then the only hope for maintaining peace might be for nations to accept substantial constraints on their peacetime deployment of forces, to eliminate any potential for an advantageous surprise attack. Such a model was implicit in German arguments that Russia's mobilization in 1914 created a situation where it was impossible to expect peace.

No. Germany said it was impossible to expect peace because the Serbs were crazy. Russia said it couldn't demobilize because Austria had mobilized. At that time, there was no 'international agreement' that war should be avoided. On the contrary, the hope was that everything 'would be over by Christmas'. Each side thought it would secure its war aims and take the other side down a peg or two. More importantly, power elites hoped that the spirit of patriotism- or loyalty to the Emperor- would reassert itself and purge the body politic of the dangerous ideas being put forward by female, homosexual, Jewish, Socialistic, Freemasons who were all secretly worshipping Baphomet as members of the Illuminati. 

My point is that the only way we can defeat the evil of sodomy is by getting young men to shower together and spend a lot of time in trenches far far away from women.

Many statements by military and political leaders in 1914 appear to express beliefs consistent with the logic of preventive war or preemptive war applying in their situation (Jannen 1996), but we can also find good reasons for doubting whether the conditions of these theories actually applied then (see also Zagare 2011).

What 'leaders' were saying back then was what the country needed was a good, clean, war. The people would reject the intellectuals and the agitators and rally to throne and altar. 

Although nobody could be sure in 1914 about what would be the result of a Great War, the actual result in 1918 shows that a costly defeat for Germany should have been recognized as a realistic possibility, which could significantly relax the moral-hazard constraint for Germany to avoid war. And while military planners may have talked about advantages for offensive forces in early 1914, the military technology of that time (with machine guns and barbed wire but before the development of offensive air power) was actually quite favorable to defensive forces, as was proven by years of trench warfare.

Europe had plenty of defensive fortifications. The German plan was to go around them. Perhaps if the Belgians had not opposed the invasion and the British hadn't sent an Expeditionary Force, the Germans could have encircled Paris and extorted some reparations. Perhaps they hoped for a Communard uprising.  

Indeed, evidence of substantial advantages for entrenched defenders had been available at least since the American Civil War. Given this disjunction between leaders' statements and historical evidence about military realities, we should be open to the possibility that, in the crisis of July 1914, intelligent observers could be uncertain about how some key national leaders actually perceived the situation.

No. Intelligent observers thought the Germans were crazy. Britain had made it crystal clear it would enter the war. There was no possibility that Russia would demobilize. The Serbs had pretty much capitulated so there was no casus foederis for Romania and Italy to aid Austria. The Germans wanted a war and that's what they got. But others had their own reasons to fight.  

Wolford introduces Bayesian games to model such uncertainty and show the possible role of informational incentive constraints in the failure of diplomacy to avoid the start of World War I.

How very foolish! You have a bunch of guys who want to go to war. You need a model which explains why this was so. That model is Sociological. War meant that the officer class/caste would gain supremacy. The hope was that young people, whether from urban slums or the traditional yeomanry, would worship their officers and turn away from the Feminists and Socialists and Jews and such like, all of whom, let me tell you, are totes into sodomy. You need to get young men far away from women otherwise they turn homo.  

In July 1914, Germany warned that it would have to fight to defend itself if Russia mobilized its larger army, but Russia mobilized anyway, and Germany's response was indeed to initiate the hostilities which started the Great War.

Because it wanted war. 

Why did Germany's explicit warnings fail to deter Russian mobilization?

Witte was out of office. Still, this was a chance to go to war with very wealthy allies. The Pan-Slav cause was popular and, it may be, French gold had been spread around. 

The problem was that Russia's leaders considered it very unlikely that Germany's leaders would actually feel compelled to initiate a great European war just because Russia mobilized its army within its own territory.

The French alliance meant that Russia was committed to invading Germany which it actually did very much more quickly than expected. 

We could model Russian doubts

We are speaking of a country which mobilized with the intention of invading Germany within a couple of weeks unless it abandoned its Austrian ally. Nobody doubted that Germany could start a war. But, it was also possible that France and Russia might attack it with British complaisance.  

by a game where Germany could be one of two possible types: a preemptive type which believes that Russia's mobilization would create conditions for a surprise attack to overwhelm Germany unless Germany attacked first,

But Germany did not attack first. Russia invaded Germany. There was a surprise attack in the Great War- the invasion of Belgium- but everything else went according to the rules of war and diplomacy.  

or a safe type which believes in its defensive ability to withstand any attack on its territory. The preemptive type would feel compelled to launch its own preemptive attacks in order to defend Germany against a Russian mobilization, but the morelikely safe type would prefer to mobilize defensively rather than launch such a destructive war.

European Royalty didn't learn the lesson of the American Civil War. They thought wars would be like those of 1867 or 1870. You go off on campaign for three months and then the diplomats arrange things so that you can get together for a nice Christmas dinner with your Uncle, the King Emperor, & cousin, the Tzar.

Obviously the Russian leaders would prefer not to mobilize if they knew that Germany's leaders were the preemptive type, but the safe type of Germany's leaders would also have reasons for preferring that Russia should not mobilize its forces in July 1914.

The problem here is that the Russians may have known of the plan to assassinate the Archduke. The French, too, were keen for war. 

If the Russians did not mobilize, then Russia would have no effective threat to deter Austria from going too far in its punishment of Serbia. There was a broad consensus in Europe that Austria could justify some limited punishment of Serbia, but a complete Austrian conquest of Serbia then would be a significant change in the European balance of power. So the Russians could rationally believe that the German leadership was probably the safe type and was just trying to sound like the preemptive type in order to give its Austrian ally an opportunity to reorganize the Balkans and severely reduce Russia's future influence in the region.

Nobody has ever suggested anything so stupid. It was impossible to rationally believe that the Kaiser or Hitler or Saddam Hussein were actually pussy-cats who would never go to war. 

Thus, the necessity of war could be derived from an informational incentive constraint that prevented Germany from credibly signaling its preemptive type without starting World War I.

Very true. Hitler could not credibly signal his dislike of Jews. That's why the Shoah had to happen. Indeed, Jack the Ripper was only obliged to keep slicing up women because everybody kept mistaking him for some sort of Suffragette.  

Wolford also uses a Bayesian game to explain how Germany's invasion of Belgium, which was the first step in the Schlieffen plan for a war against Russia and France, could cause Britain's leaders to join the war against Germany.

This is crazy. Britain had a treaty obligation. In any case, it couldn't let an expanding naval power establish itself in the Low Countries.  

In this model, the German invasion of Belgium was a shock that convinced the leaders of Britain that Germany's leaders were driven to achieve an unlimited military hegemony over Europe, which Britain had to resist.

This model is shit. The Brits had been reading novels about a German invasion and occupation of their islands. William Le Quex's 'the invasion of England in 1910' was serialized by the Daily Mail and sold a million copies in 1905. Ten years previously, he'd written a book in which the French were the bad guys.  

International treaties had guaranteed Belgian neutrality, and any nation that violates international norms should expect some punitive response from other nations. So people in Britain could infer that the German leaders would not have invaded Belgium unless they had wide ambitions for hegemony in Europe that would be too dangerous for Britain not to resist.

Britain tends to respect its treaty obligations. There is a reputational benefit. Also, it is better to fight on foreign soil than your own.  

That is, a violation of an international treaty could elicit a costly punitive response because, in equilibrium, others would interpret the violation as evidence that the violator had an aggressive expansionist type that had seemed unlikely before the violation.

No. Sanctions under a Treaty arise even if there is no 'aggressive expansionist' behavior. Moreover, such behavior does not attract sanctions unless there is an explicit violation. This is a matter of law, not stupid shite ignorant game theorists pull out of their arse.  

This is a Bayesian version of Thomas Schelling's (1960) general argument that even a small violation of international boundary can incite costly punitive responses when others expect that the unpunished violation would lead to more serious aggression in the future.

But, equally, the thing could be ignored completely. On the other hand, changes in access to strategic resources or the ability to block 'critical paths' can trigger conflict.

A peaceful international regime, such as the one that the Europeans had enjoyed for most  of the century before 1914,

England had experienced peace for almost a century. France, Germany, Italy and the Dual Monarchy had almost 50 years of peace.  

depends on nations respecting international norms and responding adversely against anyone that violated them.

No. It depends on nations not having shitty leadership. Still, if Europe went up in flames in 1914, the reason was ultimately sociological. The era of Emperors and Kings and Lords and Ladies was ending. The descendants of tribal warriors from the Dark Ages had arranged a Viking funeral for themselves. 

From the folk theorem of repeated games, we should understand that international relations are a dynamic game with multiple equilibria, where each equilibrium is supported by expectations that any deviation from prescribed behavior could provoke punitive responses by others, who would understand that such responses were essential for maintaining their own long-term benefits from the equilibrium.

The folk theorem does not apply because of agent principal hazard. Come to think of it, under autocracy, the Tzar was the principal. The job of the Russian people was to die for his greater glory. 

In this way, any advantage that a nation might expect militarily from initiating the first offensive in a war could be countered diplomatically by other nations' adverse response against the nation that broke the peace.

This was the idea behind the League of Nations. It didn't exist under the Concert of Europe. It was considered totes cool to invade a country which had killed its monarch and was being nasty to the clergy and the gentry and so forth.  

But this equilibrium requires a broad consensus about which forceful actions are provocations, and which are justified punitive responses.

The League of Nations was useless. Even if there is a consensus, sanctions don't work and nobody is going to put boots on the ground to save the Manchurians or Ethiopians or whatever.  

Formal international agreements and diplomatic conferences can serve a vital function in maintaining a general consensus on these questions. Before July 1914, peace had been largely maintained by a regular process of diplomacy among a group of nations with mutually recognized "great power" status.

No. The regular process of diplomacy among the 'great powers' involved working very diligently to solve the coordination problem of getting them all to join one side or the other of a war which, for one reason or another, everybody wanted at that particular time.

When responses to global events enabled any member of this group to increase its power, their diplomats could negotiate compensating gains for other members, so as to preserve the general balance of power.

No. The balance of power was shifting. The type of deals that were struck had to do with X recognizing Y's claim on Z in return for Y offering X something juicy. The problem with all this was that the people who lived in the territories being parceled had their own ideas. Why couldn't those damn Moroccans or Bulgars or whatever just obey whoever we decide should rule them?

Liebniz's plan for perpetual European peace was premised on France taking Egypt instead of seeking to expand in Europe. One reason Europe had to go to war was because it had run out of Egypts. The good news is that decolonization could then proceed with relatively little bloodshed. The Fascist, Oswald Moseley, sought to relaunch is career after the Second War by appealing for European Unity so the White Man could fuck over darkies and steal their natural resources. The problem was that the darkies had become cohesive and proved to be very good at shooting people. 

Imperial colonies abroad could provide a useful currency for distributing such gains, and so global colonial expansion could help to support European peace in the late 19th century (as noted by Ransom 2018 p9).

Bismarck understood that France would be revanchist and so kept Russia on side.  

But in July 1914, Germany's leaders did not want Russia to get any compensation for Austria's gains from punishing Serbia, and an effective diplomatic conference for the Serbian crisis was impossible without active German support (Jannen 1996 chapter 19).

Germany had been getting very cozy with the Turks. This meant that only France and Britain could give Russia Constantinople.  

Then in August 1914, when Germany invaded Belgium under the Schlieffen plan, Europe's diplomatic consensus was utterly destroyed.

The consensus was that the Kaiser be kray kray. That did mean the Hapsburg's could get German support but that turned out to be a bad idea. 

The Great War began on all sides with enthusiastic predictions of a short victorious war, apparent evidence of an inconsistent mutual optimism about military superiority, and many have considered such mutual optimism to be a basic causal condition for war (Blainey 1988, Debs 2020). But in fact it was the beginning of a long war of attrition that devastated Europe for over four years. So beyond the question of why the great powers of Europe descended into war in 1914, it is also vital for us to understand what game-theoretic analysis can contribute to understanding why the warring parties could not escape this destructive conflict until late 1918.

It is indeed important to understand that game-theorists have shit for brains. They can't contribute to our understanding of anything.  

Modeling the duration of a war of attrition Theories about the causes of war may suggest corresponding theories about how wars can end,

The cause of war is that killing feels good. The reason wars end is that killing stops feeling good if you don't get paid to do so and there's a chance you yourself could be killed.  

as the end of a war would require the resolution of at least some of the issues that caused the war.

e.g. having the money to fight a war. When that runs out, active hostilities subside into simmering resentment.  

So one can argue that, if a war has been caused by informational incentive constraints,

no war has been caused by anything so silly 

then the war cannot end until these problematic uncertainties have been resolved, perhaps by information that is revealed in military combat.

Knowing you will lose doesn't cause you to lose. Not being able to feed and pay your soldiers is what causes you to surrender or run away- i.e. lose.  

Alternatively, if a war has been caused by moral-hazard commitment problems, then the war cannot end until some of these moral-hazard constraints have been relaxed, perhaps by the military destruction of capabilities for at least one side in the conflict.

i.e. killing lots of the enemy while the rest starve.  Death tends to reduce military capability. It takes a Nobel Prize winning game theorist to realize this. 

These ideas have been considered by Wolford (2019, chapters 11 and 12) and have been developed in an extensive literature (including Slantchev 2003, Powell 2002, Powell 2004, Smith and Stam 2004, Goemans 2000, Levantoglu and Slantchev 2007, Fearon 2004, Wolford, Reiter, and Carrubba 2011, and Jackson and Morelli 2011). However, the problems of asymmetric information and moral hazard that we have identified as potential causes of World War I seem less relevant to explaining the war's duration.

The simplest explanation is best. The Kaiser was kray kray. Look at German peace offers in 1915 and 1916. These guys thought they could hang on to naval bases in Belgium! There was only one deal they could make- viz give up Alsace & Lorraine and lets Austria-Hungary be dismembered. Turkey, too, would have to be abandoned.  But the Kaiser would have had to abdicate and the Left S.Ds would have won elections. The British reception of the 'Landsdowne letter'- which urged a return to the status quo ante in order to prevent 'the collapse of civilization'- was extremely hostile. 

If many Europeans had doubts

None did. Actually that's not quite true. Monsieur Reynard was all like 'zeee Boche will never attack. Zey are all a bunch of sissies. Anyway, they live far away in Bocheland which is next to Bechuanaland or Botswana. The Zulus will exterminate them if they try anything funny.' Then some other French dude told him that 'Boche' means Germans- the guys who defeated France in 1870. After than even Monsieur Reynard's doubts were removed.  

about the seriousness of German warnings against Russian mobilization, those questions about Germany were convincingly answered by its invasion of Belgium in August 1914.

Similarly, the question, 'what day comes after Tuesday?' was convincingly answered when it turned out to be Wednesday. 

If Germany was driven toward a preventative war by moral-hazard constraints that derived from the anticipated growth in Russian power, that power collapsed with the Russian Revolution in 1917; but the Russia Empire's collapse did not bring an end to World War I, even after the goals of preventative war were apparently achieved in the Treaty of BrestLitovsk.

The Reichstag Peace Resolution was too little too late.  However, Britain and France could still fulfil their war aims. Germany was starving.

In war, even when old incentive problems are resolved, the mobilization of vast military forces can itself create new moral-hazard problems that constrain people's ability to negotiate credible commitments.

Credibility is not an issue if vast military formations are involved.  

Furthermore, effective negotiations require some shared understanding about how a compromise among rival concerns could be arbitrated.

If there is arbitration, there need be no negotiation. Either the arbitrator's decision is accepted or it is rejected. 

In a war to determine the supreme leadership of the world,

the winner would be the supreme leader, till the next war. 

it would be absurd to assume that the combatants could agree on an arbitrator whose judgments would have power over them all.

Either there is war or the arbitrator's decision is accepted.  

As noted by Ransom (2018 p113), if the great powers of Europe had accepted Woodrow Wilson's offers to broker a peace agreement, his proposed "peace without victory" would have conveniently put the United States at the top of the global power structure, setting the terms to govern the postwar world.

Nonsense! The outcome would have been the same whether it was the Pope or the President of Switzerland or the King of Norway or Henry Ford who acted as broker. The Oslo accords did not make Norwegians the boss of Palestinians or Israelis. 

Arbitration could be a face saving device but precious little face would actually be saved.  

Thus, although it has been argued that game-theoretic explanations for the onset of war should be based on models that have no better peaceful equilibria, it might be appropriate to analyze the potential duration of war by models where a prolonged conflict is just one of several possible equilibria. After the war has begun, the existence of even one sequential equilibrium where the parties persist in a long and costly war of attrition may be considered as a potential explanation of how rational decision-makers could become caught in a mutually destructive war.

Such a 'sequential equilibrium' is a description of an outcome, not an explanation of it. A low intensity border conflict can simmer for decades or even centuries. The explanation may be sociological or 'structural'.

The existence of other Pareto-superior equilibria that a mutually accepted arbitrator could recommend becomes irrelevant when the parties are at war in a struggle for supreme power.

This is also true of equilibria suggested by Beauty Queens or Chiropractors. The fact is War isn't about winning Pageants or getting relief from back-ache. 

Still, it is a fact that an independent organization- e.g. Red Cross- can make things better for all parties to the conflict. 

Wolford's analysis of the war of attrition emphasizes the role of cost-minimizing military tactics and mutual understandings for limiting some aspects of the conflict. These are important questions. Schelling's (1960) analysis of bargaining and limited war gave rise to his theory of focal points in games with multiple equilibria, which has become fundamental to our understanding of social order (see also Myerson 2009). But Wolford does not emphasize the classic war-of-attrition model, perhaps because dynamic game models are not developed until quite late in his book. A version of this model can be found in Fearon (1998) (see also Hendricks, Weiss, and Wilson 1988). Let us consider here a simple model of the war of attrition, using a modification of the notation from Fearon (1998). Nations 1 and 2 are contending for shares of a total flow of peacetime benefits with value 1 per unit time. Each nation j has demanded a share wj for itself. Let vj denote the amount that has been offered to nation j by the other nation's demand, so that v1=1-w2 and v2=1-w1.

How does this fit the American Civil War? Did the South offered to let the Slaves be free two days of the week? Getting rid of the Kaiser, destroying the Junker class, demilitarizing Germany were the true war aims of the Entente. One reason this was not implemented is that people thought the Junkers might put down Communist insurrections. The British Army Chief warned that he didn't have enough soldiers to guarantee the failure of a Bolshevik uprising in England itself. 

We assume 1>wj>vj>0 for each j=1,2. Until one nation accepts the other's demand, the nations will be in conflict, which yields a payoff flow of -cj<0 per unit time for each nation j.

No. There can be a hold out problem or 'Mexican standoff' without escalating hostilities. 

Both nations discount future payoff flows at rate r per unit time, so that the present discounted value of j's share when the conflict ends would be wj/r if j wins acceptance of its demand, but it would be vj/r if j concedes to the other's demand. Each nation j can decide at what time tj to concede and end the conflict by accepting the other's demand, if the other has not conceded yet. Nation j could be willing to concede at some point in the conflict only if its payoff from immediate concession (vj/r) would be better than its expected payoff from waiting an additional dt units of time (at least), which depends on the probability of the other nation conceding to j's demand in this time interval. Suppose that, at a point in time when neither side has yet conceded, nation j would believe that the event of a concession by the other nation has probability density qj; that is, the probability of the other nation conceding and accepting j's demand in a short dt units of time would be approximately qjdt (to a first-order linear approximation in dt). Then for nation j to be willing to concede at this 14 point in time, we must have (cj+vj)dt  qjdt(wj-vj)/r. In this inequality, the left side measures j's cost of waiting an additional dt units of time (getting the conflict payoff flow -cj instead of +vj), while the right side measures j's potential expected net gain from winning (wj-vj)/r with probability qjdt in this interval. Thus, at any point in time when the conflict has not ended, j's willingness to concede or wait a bit longer would depend on whether the probability density qj for the acceptance of j's demand is less than or greater than the critical success rate j where j = (cj+vj)r/(wj-vj). This game has an equilibrium where the concession time of each nation i is an independent random variable with an exponential distribution that has mean i, where 1=1/2 and 2=1/1. In this equilibrium, as long as neither nation has conceded, the probability of nation 1 conceding in the next dt units of time would be approximately dt/1 = 2dt, and the probability of nation 2 conceding in the next dt units of time would be approximately dt/2 = 1dt. That is, each side is conceding randomly with a probabilistic rate equal to the critical success rate that makes the other side indifferent between conceding and waiting for a concession by its opponent. In this randomized equilibrium, each nation is willing to wait and let the conflict continue for any length of time, and there is no sure upper bound on how long the conflict might last. But these optimal concession times also include zero. That is, each nation is willing to concede immediately at the start of the game, and so each nation's expected equilibrium payoff must be equal to the amount vj/r that it could get by conceding immediately. Thus, in this equilibrium, the expected cost of conflict for each side completely cancels out all the expected benefits from potentially becoming the ultimate winner. So this equilibrium offers an explanation for how rational actors can become trapped in a conflict like World War I, choosing conflict over concession so long that the war can ultimately cost more than what either side originally hoped to gain from winning.

This is foolish. If Germany won, French and British freedom would have been imperiled. Ludendorff was not then known for certain to be as crazy as a bed bug, but, the fact is, he was nuttier than Hitler. Indeed, that is why Hitler got the job of being Hindenburg's Chancellor after Lude refused to go to prison or cool it with the anti-Catholic rhetoric. The plain fact is, Germany wanted to start a war to gain European hegemony whereas France wanted Germany to start a war so that it could be crushed once and for all. 

Had the Bolsheviks not capitulated in 1917, Germany would have been occupied, partitioned and forced to pay Reparations. There would have been no Second World War which, once again, was won by France and Britain.

However, this basic war-of-attrition model has two difficulties that should be discussed. First, we should recognize that this model has some implausible comparative statics for changes in the costs of conflict (cj).

The thing is garbage. War is about killing people and spreading terror. It isn't about about rubbing each other the wrong way for years and years so as to get a bigger share of something purely notional. Marriage is the name of that sort of arrangement.   

Second, we must address the question of what could deter nations from offering a compromise settlement to end the conflict much sooner.

Nothing stopped any nation sending out feelers of that sort.  

Holding fixed all other parameters in this model, if we increased nation 1's cost of 15 conflict c1, then the equilibrium would change by an increase of 1's critical success rate 1, and thus nation 2's expected concession time 2 = 1/1 would decrease. So in this model, making war costlier for nation 1 apparently would make nation 2 concede sooner and so would increase nation 1's probability of winning the war. If this result seems unrealistic, it may be because something important in warfare is missing from this simple war-of-attrition model.

No kidding!  

The willingness of both sides to continue the costly conflict requires each to have some hope of ultimately winning,

No. Professional soldiers will fight so long as they have the means to do so.  

and so the outcome must involve some random uncertainty. However, the simple war-of-attrition model includes no exogenous random variables, and so the randomization must come from the players' strategic behavior. A rational player makes random decisions only when the player is indifferent among the alternatives, and so in this randomized equilibrium each nation must always be indifferent between conceding and waiting for the other's concession.

Which Diplomat or General or Statesman in the history of humanity 'made random decisions' in the context of war? 

I omit some further mental masturbation by Myerson which permits him to make the great discovery that 

Now consider again the event of an unanticipated public shock that increased nation 1's conflict cost... and so we could reasonably predict that expectations should shift to the equilibrium where nation 1 concedes immediately. That is, the increased cost of conflict could cause nation 1's war effort to collapse. This seems a much more realistic prediction than the comparative statics of the simple model that neglected the randomness of battles.

All this is nonsense. There may be some 'random' event- e.g. Luke Walker firing a proton torpedo into one particular heat vent- which ends a particular War- but only in movies and comic books. Randomness is the reason a particular defeat or victory might be dismissed as 'fluke. 

This game's multiplicity of equilibria

The Great War could only have ended with Germany's defeat. Otherwise, it would have continued one way or another. Anyway, peace in Europe has always been a disequilibrium phenomenon. Even Myerson must understand that its pretty fucking unnatural for American troops to be stationed in Europe. 

also offers a way of explaining how nations could be deterred from making a new offer to settle the conflict sooner.

Why does Myerson not incessantly fudge his own pants? The explanation is that there are multiple equilibria some of which don't involve him making chocolate pudding in his underwear. 

In any equilibrium where the two sides have consistent beliefs and positive expected costs of conflict, there must be a compromise agreement that could be better for both than what they expect to get from fighting. But each nation could fear that, if it publicly expressed any readiness to consider a compromise to end the war, then the result would be to make everyone focus on the equilibrium where this nation would quickly accept the other nation's original demand, as if "we are ready to compromise" would be interpreted as "we are ready to surrender." World War I actually ended when people in Germany lost the will to fight after four years of slaughter.

No. The War ended only when the Entente accepted the surrender of the Germany Government and Army surrendered. 

Although many game-theoretic models of war may treat a whole nation as one player in the game, great nations are actually vast organizations of individuals whose actions can form a coherent purposeful strategy only when they are coordinated by leaders who will have power and resources to reward individuals for their contributions to the general effort. When these millions of individuals lose confidence in their leaders or in each other's ability to persevere in the struggle, then the national war effort must stop, as happened in first Russia in 1917 and then finally in Germany in late 1918. When a nation is on the verge of such a collapse of morale, its political leaders would get serious indications of their population's general exhaustion, but they would conceal this information as long as they could.

Furthermore, they would not incessantly fudge their pants. This is because game theory is very very nice and enables you to find alternatives to incessant pants' fudging.  

So our dynamic model of war could realistically include, in any period of time, some small independent probability that each nation's leadership could change to an exhausted type

not to mention the probability that a nation's leadership's trousers change to a having-been-shitted-in type. 

that has secret evidence of a likely imminent collapse of its ability to fight. Such pessimism would make this type more inclined to accept any compromise for peace before its collapse. In this game model, there could be an equilibrium in which neither side would express any interest in compromise settlements unless it was on the verge of collapse; but then, in response to any such overture, the other side would confidently refuse any settlement that was not close to what it could expect from outright military victory. In this way, warring nations could be rationally deterred from initiating peace talks despite the terrible costs of conflict

This is foolish. There are always third parties around who can act as Post Office- at least, that was the case with the Great War. Then, the word discovered that the Kaiser was actually a little less crazy than his General Staff who, in turn, were less maniacal than a little Corporal with a gift for the gab. 

Modeling the players in international relations Game theory analyzes models of situations that involve decisions by two or more players. In game-theoretic models of international relations, it is commonly assumed that the players are nations.

Not the hereditary Emperors of multi-ethnic territories who had a record of belligerence for purely theological or ideological reasons. 

The fact is, there was a pan-European Aristocracy such that a German Prince might be the Colonel-in-Chief of an English Regiment while a French Duke- like Proust's Guermantes- held territories and titles across the border. Sadly, Queen Victoria's attempt to unite Europe through royal marriages backfired. Firstly, she transmitted hemophilia to the Spanish and Russian thrones and, secondly, her daughter managed to turn the Kaiser into a complete nutcase by actively and imaginatively torturing the deformed little boy. 

In general, game-theoretic analysis relies on two basic assumptions: that each player will make rational decisions to maximize its own expected payoff, and that all players share a consistent understanding of the game and each other's strategies for playing the game.

No. Game theorists aren't completely stupid. The fact is rational people will only make rational decisions when it is rational to do so. One should not be rational when it comes to certain sorts of 'uncorrelated asymmetries' so as to promote eusocial 'bourgeois strategies'. Moreover, a rational general is welcome to be passionately attached to Religion or Honor or some such thing. There is a reputational benefit.

The analytical power of game theory is derived from these basic assumptions.

It has no power whatsoever. Smart people may illustrate aspects of their strategy using game theory but other smart people don't need that crutch to understand what is going on. 

But a modified framework that allows some limited exceptions to these assumptions might retain much of this analytical power while providing a better fit for some applied problems. So we should consider relaxing these basic assumptions about the players, the rationality of their decisions, and the consistency of their beliefs. In this section we reconsider the view of World War I as a game played by nations. Then the next two sections will consider how the rationality and consistency assumptions might be relaxed to better understand the problems of World War I. Nations can often be seen as acting in a rational strategic way, at least approximately, because national leaders have substantial powers to coordinate and direct people's actions into a coherent strategy for advancing broad national interests, and national leaders can use redistributive powers to ensure that national gains will benefit people throughout the nation. So in our model of the war of attrition, for example, it seems reasonable to assume that decisions about the continuation of the war effort are made strategically by national leaders because, although millions of individuals fought in World War I with different personal motivations, they could only be brought together into an effective organized military force by the directives of their national leaders. National leaders may also have their own personal motivations, but they could not maintain their privileged positions of leadership if they did not generally use their powers to promote the broad interests of people throughout their nation. The Westphalian model of international relations assumes that the world is partitioned into nations, and that generally recognized national leaders exercise supreme independent authority within each nation.

Clearly, the Westphalian model (which never actually existed) did not apply. Otherwise there couldn't have been an Arab revolt which featured British officers fighting alongside Arab Muslims against the troops of the Caliph. Nor could there have been a Czechoslovak Legion fighting for the Entente. 

In reality, however, the organization of humanity has many more levels, both subnational and international, and national leaders are regularly constrained to respect the right of groups at other levels to exercise autonomous authority over certain decisions. Within each nation, people may identify with a variety of subnational groups, each of which may have its own autonomous leadership, and the power of national leaders generally depends on the trust and cooperation of individuals who exercise leadership at lower levels in society. Higher levels of international organization naturally develop out of nations' need for allies in defense and partners in trade. At each level of social organization, individuals may compete for leadership within their group, and different groups may contend for power and resources, and any of these competitive interactions could be the subject of a game-theoretic model. In particular, World War I can be understood as the ultimate contest for international leadership among the great nations of Europe (see Taylor 1954).

Leadership does not necessarily involve military conflict of any type.  What the Great War was about was Germany's bid for supremacy. The Kaiser was the Napoleon, or Hitler, of his time. The mistake made by the Entente was not to occupy, demilitarize and partition Germany. To be fair, they may have lacked the military capacity by reason of the new atmosphere created by the Bolshevik Revolution. Essentially, the Left- along with the nutter Wilson- were telling a fairy story about how Nations were naturally inclined to living together peacefully. 

As Graham Allison (1969) observed about the Cuban missile crisis, some events in the history of World War I may be better understood when we relax the national-actor assumption and recognize the influence of decisions by subnational leaders and individual citizens acting for their own interests. For example, the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 may be better understood, not as an act of the Serbian nation, but as an act of one Serbian political faction, which anticipated that the assassination would create political difficulties for Serbia's prime minister and so could reduce his chances of winning an upcoming election.

If a Muslim had killed the Archduke- as was the original plan- perhaps War would have been avoided...for a month or two.

Then in July 1914, a lack of international clarity about Austria's objectives in punishing Serbia was at least partly caused by the fact that the Hungary was an autonomous component in  the Austrian Empire, and the leaders of Austria had to negotiate with Hungarian leaders who favored more limited objectives (Jannen 1996).

But Croatia was part of the Hungarian Kingdom and thus, it was obvious, the Hungarians- though fearing a Southern Slav entity in the future, nevertheless would want to defend and extend what they already had. 

On the other hand, it is true that some Hungarian leaders did signal that their country might go its own way if sufficiently incentivized. But it was Vienna which could give Hungary most and its leaders  succumbed to greed for territory- more so when Romania entered the war.  

Finally, in the long war of attrition, the conditions under which a nation could collapse can be better understood when we recognize that a nation includes many individuals who may feel compelled to obey their national leaders' commands only when many others are doing so. Thus, a general compliance with government directives and a broad breakdown of national discipline can be two alternative equilibria in a more fundamental game that is played by all the citizens, and a publicly observed defeat in battle could switch people's focal expectations from one equilibrium to the other. 

There already were well organized Nationalist movements like that of the Czechs. Indeed, their diplomats would often boast to the Indians that had their double agents not betrayed the secrets of the Indo-German conspiracy to the Brits and Americans, nobody would have heard of Mahatma Gandhi or Pandit Nehru. India's Garibaldi would have been Bagha Jatin. Its Cavour would have been Tilak acting on behalf of the Gaekwad.  

The possibility of an irrational decision and its consequences When we look for actions in the history of World War I where an assumption of rationality might be problematic, the most important is the German invasion of Belgium under the Schlieffen plan in August 1914. By launching a massive preemptive attack on Belgium and France in response to a potential military threat from Russia, Germany brought all the great powers of Europe into a devastating war, in which Germany was ultimately unable to avoid its share of the catastrophic costs.

Germany showed criminal psychopathy. It acted impulsively because of a desire to kill and loot so as to end up as the tyrant of the entire continent.  Unlike the French, under Napoleon, the Kaiser's Germany were not advancing any constitutional or civilizational agenda. The Hun had returned to the heart of Europe. Europe had to shoulder aside its Gothic or Teutonic or Hunnish or Magyar aristocracies and embrace Social Democracy or else risk slipping back into an Age of Darkness. 

 This is not to say that Germany was the only expansionist power. Austria Hungary, like other multi-ethnic Empires, saw expansion as the way to hold internal fissiparous tendencies at bay. But, if the Ottomans could not hold things together, neither could the Hapsburgs or the Romanovs. The age of multi-ethnic Empires was ending. The Brits were smart enough to turn their vast territories into a Commonwealth thus ensuring that London remained a capital city of Capital. But the Brits were also smart enough to replace 'caste'- with class. Indeed, they now have an Indian origin PM who might be a little more popular if his wife hadn't inherited billions. 

The assumption that this attack was the result of a rational decision by the government of Germany drove many observers to conclude that Germany had a dangerously aggressive type of government; but people in Germany itself generally denied this conclusion. If we are willing to admit that leaders of great nations might have made some irrational decisions in modern history, this one should be the first on our list.

Not really. With hindsight, Germany might have prevailed if it had stuck to the rules. But then, if it had acted like a grown-up it would have been courted by the other powers and thrived more by good will than it could  

However, if we are to work toward an analytical framework that tightly limits any exceptions to the rationality assumption, then we should seek some basic explanation for why Germany's leaders were unable to avoid this mistake in 1914.

Germany could easily have chosen a different course.  I think what was attractive about invading Belgium was the notion that breaking the rules has some magical power. It makes you a different type of person- one who is 'beyond good and evil', a 'Superman', a guy who is bound to win because he thinks 'outside the box' and is untrammeled by conscience or a fear of what other people might say. 

Of course the Schlieffen Plan was a gamble,

it was a crime.  

and the rationality of a decision to gamble cannot be evaluated by its outcome alone.

Crime is its own reward.  

But even given the information available at the time, the Schlieffen Plan should have seemed a bad gamble for Germany. In response to a mobilization of forces by Russia, the Plan stipulated that Germany should attack France through Belgium, and the attack on neutral Belgium would bring Britain into the war against Germany. Germans should have questioned the logic of a Plan that required them to make war against the most powerful nations of Western Europe in order to protect themselves from a potential threat from the East.

Germany was not worried about an invasion from the East. They had thoroughly gamed invasion scenarios and had hit on the strategy which was in fact later implemented. Germany planned to annex territory and gain big reparations from France- enough to pay off the National Debt- before taking its time with Russia. 

Arguments for the Plan were based on an assumption that Germany could not defeat Russia while defending itself against France, which was Russia's ally.

That was the excuse for violating Belgian neutrality. The argument for it had to do with getting lots of loot. 

But Germany did  exactly that after 1916, when Ludendorff and Hindenburg put Germany's western armies into a defensive mode to release forces that then decisively defeated Russia and drove it out of the war.

The Germans thought that the Rooskis and Ukrainians and so on would hand over lots of gold and wheat and so on. After all, France had paid off the whole of its reparation debt in double quick time to get rid of the Germans. Surely, Bolsheviks or the Peasant backed Ukrainian regime could do the same?

Sadly, whereas you can rob the bourgeoisie- who actually have gold- you can't rob the poor. The Germans thought they'd at least get a million tons of grain. Instead they got perhaps 200,000 tons and then nothing. They could not control the territory ceded to them. True, they gained troops to use against France but those troops were not enough and Germany had run out of food and munitions. Ludendorff's gamble had failed. Brest-Litovsk was a Pyrhhic victory.  Worse, it ensured the Entente- which had money and organizational power- could impose a Carthaginian peace on Germany. The East had no such capacity. Germany should have maintained the stalemate on the Western Front while trying to collect grain and other resources from the East. But it would then become vulnerable to guerilla tactics. There would be diminishing returns to coercion. The only way to get bread out of Ukraine would be by actually exchanging manufactured goods for wheat from the peasants. Still, the General Staff began day dreaming about gaining vast feudal Estates in the East. Ludendorff's little Corporal made this the basis of his program. But, it was always delusive. Bourgeois industrial capitalism is the only way to deal with the 'Scissors' problem- i.e. the only way to get primary products is to exchange them for manufactured goods.  

A version of this Ludendorff plan could have been even more promising in 1914, when the neutrality of Belgium would have shortened Germany's defensive lines in the west, and then Britain might not have entered the war against Germany.

But Germany would only have been do one-off requisitions of grain, etc. After that, it would either have to pay for primary products with manufactured goods- which is what it had been doing in peace time- or else it would get negative returns from military action against hundreds and then thousands of peasant guerilla groups. The Central Powers were having increasing difficulty getting a surplus out of their own agricultural areas. That task would be even less possible when it came to hostile peasant populations whose main concern was to expropriate the feudal magnates- not tug the forelock to a new bunch of would-be aristocrats.  

Indeed, Alsace and Lorraine had been annexed in 1871 to give the German army a good defensive line in any future war with France. Certainly Russia's leaders began the mobilization of their forces in July 1914 with a belief that Germany would respond by mobilizing its own forces defensively, without immediately launching attacks on its neighbors to the east or west. The general diplomatic and political surprise when Germany invaded Belgium shows that sophisticated European observers in July 1914 did not believe that Germany's self-interest would require it to launch a European war on the widest scale before anybody had attacked Germany.

The Belgians had been preparing for a German invasion. The Brits and the French, too, had made their arrangements. This really was a case of giving the Hun enough rope. True, there were miscalculations on both sides but Germany's mistakes were fatal. If the worst came to the worst, France could pay reparations and lose some territory. But it would survive to fight another day as a Republic. If Germany lost the Kaiser would have to go, just as Napoleon III had to go after Sedan. 

Belgium's resistance to the Germans was on the pattern of the francs tireurs of 1871. The Germans responded with atrocities which had the effect of stiffening French resistance and increasing British resolve. Belgium had proved gallant. That's why Agatha Christie invented Hercule Poirot. 

We have noted that Moltke, the German Chief of Staff, may have had personal reasons to prefer the aggressive Schlieffen Plan, which offered the best chance of achieving a military triumph that could rival the accomplishments of his famous uncle. But any successful organization should have ways of channeling the actions of many individuals, who have different personal goals, to support common goals that serve the general interests of the organization; and the imperial government of Germany in 1914 was certainly a successful organization. As Janis (1973) observed, groups which encourage critical debate can help people to improve their thinking, but social dynamics may inhibit critical judgment in a group that values internal cohesion and loyalty over debate. By this standard, we may expect rational inference among European diplomats, who could benefit from broad discussions and debates with others in the decentralized multinational network of diplomacy. This prediction seems broadly accurate in the complex diplomatic maneuvering of July 1914 (see Jannen 1996). Although there were a few diplomats whose personal biases seemed to exacerbate the crisis, notably France's ambassador to Russia and Germany's ambassador to Austria, even they might actually illustrate a rational diplomatic strategy of sending militant hardliners to reassure key partners in a military alliance. However, military plans are formulated in secret by small tightly-controlled teams. Military planners may be experts in their profession, but in novel or non-routine tasks, basic mistakes can go uncorrected without independent review. At the key moment of decision on August 1, 1914, Moltke revealed to the political leaders of Germany that the only plan that they  had prepared for responding to Russian mobilization required Germany to attack France through Belgium. When the Kaiser suggested that the bulk of the German armies should be mobilized against the Russian threat in the east, with just limited defensive forces in the west, Moltke told him that it could not be done, because there was no prepared plan for implementing such a strategy, and the deployment of millions of soldiers could not be improvised. The power of the German army depended on its superb logistical planning, but any army could degenerate into a disorganized mob if it were deployed with no plan for its supply. (See Van Evera 1984 p85, Jannen 1996 p298, and Moltke 2021 p25.) Since 1914, military planners have accepted a doctrine that civilian leaders should expect them to prepare several alternative plans for responding to any anticipated crisis.3 But in 1914, complex plans for using railroads to move and supply hundreds of thousands of troops were still a relatively new innovation. In 1870, the Germans defeated France because the elder Moltke had crafted a better logistical plan, which then defined the state of the art for modern military plans that required long and careful preparation (see Howard 1961). A generation later, the younger Moltke invested years in meticulously crafting one incredibly risky plan for German mobilization.

I don't understand this. Moltke had taken over from Schlieffen but the other contenders were equally committed to his plan. Ludendorff was Shlieffen's true successor. He personally lobbied Parliament to raise extra divisions even though this meant a tax on the rich. The narrative pushed by the General Staff after the war was that Schlieffen had given a formula for success.  Moltke ruined it by his timidity which is why he was sacked. Actually, Moltke had created the conditions for Hindenburg & Ludendorff's successes in the East. The problem with those successes is that extracting resources from agricultural areas is not very profitable in the medium to long term. The class of intermediaries appropriates more and more of the surplus.

Other strategies for responding to the dangers of a two-front war against Russia and France had also been considered by Alfred von Schlieffen before 1906, when he was succeeded as Chief of Staff by the younger Moltke, but by 1913 Germany had only one military plan for fighting Russia and France, regardless of which nation started the conflict (see Zuber 1999, and Mombauer 2005 p875). The secrecy of military planning meant that Moltke's failure to prepare any safer alternative mobilization plans could not be known or debated by the wider political leadership of Germany until the moment of crisis came, and then it was too late to formulate any alternatives.

But there was no widespread discussion of British or French or American defense policy in those countries. It really doesn't matter if the political leadership has little grasp of the strategic picture. What matters is if they can answer for the public's willingness to make sacrifices for specific war-objectives. The problem all countries faced was that as the war unfolded, it became apparent that the aristocratic, military, caste was as thick as shit. In England, people spoke of 'lions led by donkeys'. But Moltke too was considered a donkey.  

In that sense, the disastrous decision to implement the Schlieffen Plan could be considered the result of a basic technical mistake,

It was a fucking CRIME! It's one thing to go to war pre-emptively with a guy who can fuck you up- e.g. Israel's 6 day war- it is quite another to invade a neutral country. Prussia was one of the signatories to the 1839 London treaty. 

one that subsequent developments in military doctrine have helped to make less likely. Game theorists know that opportunities to reconsider the provisions of a strategic plan before implementing them can be important for rational decision-making. When strategic plans are formulated ex ante,

the Germans should have seen that entering Belgium meant waving goodbye to any chance of keeping its African colonies- let alone taking over Belgian Congo (which was profitable unlike Tanganika or German Cameroon) - and facing prolonged sanctions till it either surrendered territory and paid reparations or else secured outright victory. But that's what it could not achieve with only Austria as its partner. 

the expected value of a plan might not be significantly reduced by costly mistakes in its responses to unlikely contingencies.

The Expected Value was either negative or else involved the discovery of the scientific fact that Germans were superhuman compared to other Europeans. One may as well go to War because one believes God will send Archangels to exterminate your enemies.  

The emphasis on sequential rationality in game theory reflects an understanding that people may think much more carefully about how to respond to some contingency when it actually occurs than when it is merely a remote possibility.

The Kaiser was kray kray. The Germans thought they were Supermen but weren't really.  

As Wolford rightly argues, we can gain important insights into the problems of war when we try to explain leaders' choices as rational decisions in terms of natural human values. But what would happen if we tried to rationalize a surprising decision that was actually a mistake?

We would look for a mythological explanation- e.g. the notion that the spirit of Fredrick the Great would suddenly descend upon some blinkered Junker and everybody would realize that Germans had achieved Superman status. They had gone beyond Good and Evil. The 'blonde beast' was bound to enslave all lesser races. It was irrational for Slavs or Gauls or Anglo-Saxons to try to resist the Hun.  

The surprising move could be rationalized in a Bayesian game by hypothesizing that the decision-maker has an unusual type with preferences or beliefs that would induce such behavior. This hypothesis could then lead to an expectation that the agent would repeat this behavior in the future, which we might not predict if we understood the surprising move to be the result of a one-time mistake.

Germany did make exactly the same mistake within a quarter of a century. Under Hitler, the doctrine of Germanic racial superiority was made as explicit as possible. The plan was to kill all Slavs, etc, though some blonde and blue eyed boy babies might be sent to SS training camps to be raised as German warriors who would breed with equally blonde baby-making machines. 

Thus, Germany's surprising invasion of Belgium in 1914 could cause people in Britain to infer that Germany had aggressive expansionist leadership, while people in Germany might consider such beliefs to be unjustified British prejudice.

The German people genuinely wanted to treat their neighbors as France had treated Muslim Algerians or America had treated the Red Indians.  

The creation of inconsistent beliefs in war We have seen that Russia's decision to mobilize in spite of German warnings could be analyzed as a Bayesian game with two possible types for Germany, where a preemptive type, from which the warning would be sincere, had difficulty convincing others that it was not the more-likely safe type, from which the warning would be a bluff. In terms of this model, Germany's invasion of Belgium could be seen as a costly signal that would cause others in Europe to update their beliefs about Germany's type, as they realized that the warning was not a bluff.

No. The invasion of Belgium proved that the Huns must be defeated by their own ghastly methods. A Canadian economist, also an excellent humorist, gloated over the starvation of the Germans. Many a Philosophy or Literature Professor's 'war-work' involved showing that every aspect of German intellectual life bore the mark of the beast. Haldane was forced out of the Cabinet because he was partial to German philosophy. He had attempted to broker a deal with the Germans in 1912 but, the truth is, neither the Kaiser nor his Chancellor had the political nous to respond effectively. 

The theory of Bayesian games teaches us that such costly signals can convey information that helps to reduce the asymmetry of information in the game, but this aspect of the theory does not seem to fit the events of August 1914.

Fuck off! There was a 'costly signal' and a 'separating equilibrium' for the Aristos such that they could play at being Nationalists at home while still being Colonel-in-Chiefs of Regiments in their Cousin's domain. 

Thus, the Kaiser was just playing at being anti-British and the Tzarina, in patronising Rasputin, was merely playing at being a Russian Orthodox Slavophile.  

In fact, one can argue that the shocking news of Germany's invasion of Belgium may have significantly increased the asymmetries among Europeans' beliefs about Germany.

Just as the news that Amartya Sen had beaten and sodomized Myerson would have altered perceptions of Sen-tentious shie. 

In August 1914, Europeans became deeply divided about the justice or injustice of the crucial events that started the war.

No. Europe united against Hapsburg & Hohenzollern. German speaking people may have thought it a pity that everybody else didn't want to be ruled by them, but they kept losing territory every time they started a war and thus became reconciled to having an army which does its drills with broom stick handles painted black. 

A peaceful international equilibrium

this is also true of a peaceful international disequilibrium. There can be an equilibrium featuring permanent war.  

may require punitive responses against those who disturb the peace, but in such a dynamic equilibrium there must be some basic agreement about how to distinguish unjustified provocations from justified punitive responses.

No. There just has to be a Muth rational expectation that the punitive response will occur. We may all agree that God is very nice and that it is nice to be nice but we may all also be very naughty because we think we can get away with it.  

In this sense, a shared understanding of international justice was essential to the peace.

It was utterly useless. We understand that we should not get drunk and photocopy our genitals during the office party but we all end up doing it.  

Before the war, the great powers of Europe had maintained a broad consensus about diplomatic norms for managing a wide range of international disputes.

There was a reputational advantage to keeping to the terms of treaties that you had signed.  

But Germany's invasion of Belgium took Europeans outside the manageable range,

because Germany also wanted a chunk of France and the Tzar's domains as well as lots of cash by way of reparations. 

and then Europe's international consensus was shattered. The leaders of different nations offered different interpretations of how the norms of Europe's old equilibrium should apply to the events that started the war, each framing their own forceful actions as justified responses to another's provocations. The leaders of Germany condemned Russia's mobilization and military coordination with France as intolerable provocations, to which the Schlieffen Plan was a justified response (see Germany Auswärtiges Amt, 1915). But in Russia, France, and Britain, Germany's initiation of hostilities and invasion of Belgium were judged to be acts of unjustifiable aggression which demanded forceful resistance. In each nation, people generally accepted their leaders' expressed interpretation of these events, with a sincerity that people on the other side found hard to believe.

No. The Germans thought they could prevail because....urm...some shit about the Superman and the spirit of Fredrick the Great.  

In spite of a common cultural history going back thousands of years, people in neighboring countries were radically divided by starkly inconsistent beliefs about the justice or injustice of major events from the day that the Germany army entered Belgium. Years of warfare did not reduce these differences between beliefs in the contending nations. (For example, compare the postwar perspectives of Poincaré 1925 and Marx 1926.) To people on each side of the conflict, their adversaries' actions were obviously unjustifiable and so had to be interpreted as compelling evidence of their adversaries' fundamentally malicious nature. Thus, patterns of groupthink created a stark asymmetry of beliefs in Europe, where each side felt sure of its own manifest morality and saw only malevolence in the actions of the other side. In Bayesian games, we usually study differences of beliefs that come from players getting different information about some unobserved factors that affect outcomes and payoffs in the game.

This isn't a Bayesian game. We are speaking of wishful or magical thinking. 

But in August 1914, the nations of Europe were divided by inconsistent strategic beliefs

strategic calculations which were based on magical thinking- in the case of Germany.  The multi-ethnic Empires could be said to have acted because failure to act would mean their dissolution in any case. 

about how their old international equilibrium should apply in the subgame where they suddenly found themselves after Germany invaded Belgium. These differences in beliefs were derived from the start of the war itself. Different beliefs about the start of the war could also cause significant changes in people's effective preferences. The German belief that this terrible war had been caused by a rising military threat from Russia and France could cause people in Germany to prefer that Russia and France should be severely weakened, so that they could never again threaten Germany in this way.

They wanted other countries to be as weak as shit in any case. Also, it would be hilarious if all them furriners had incessant diarrhea and their dicks kept shrinking in size.  

Thus, national leaders' justifications for the war could effectively persuade their populations to demand more ambitious war aims, and so the onset of war could itself create new national preference-types, about which others might be uncertain. (See also Fischer 1967.) The fact that people in each warring nation could feel certain that any moral European should agree about the justice of their side's actions at the start of the war shows that these beliefs were game-theoretically inconsistent.

America thought the Muslim countries it invaded should be very grateful and desire to reward American Corporations very handsomely.  

However, this inconsistency was derived from the very factor that makes consistency a good assumption in most applications: the normal imperative for everyone to accept the focal judgments of generally recognized leaders in their society. As Schelling (1960) has emphasized, games with multiple equilibria are a pervasive fact of life in human society, and we can find many games where coordination can help to avoid inefficient equilibria that would be very costly for everyone. So in any society, the coordination that is provided by norms and leaders is essential for people's welfare and security.

There are societies where the smart play is to pretend to love the Glorious Leader while making plans to run the fuck away. 

The power of leaders in society can be fundamentally derived from their role in determining the focal equilibrium

In a dictatorship there is no focal equilibrium. There is merely a high probability of being sent to a Gulag if that will increase the power of the Tyrant.  

that people will play in games that have multiple equilibria (Myerson 2004a, 2006, 2009). But this vital coordination ultimately depends on everyone's willingness to accept authoritative judgments from the highest leaders of their society. So in any successful society, we should expect to find strong social norms against questioning the universal validity of such judgments.

Only in the sense that there is a 'social norm' not to burn off your own dick  

Furthermore, when a society finds itself in Darwinian competition against rival groups, behavioral patterns like Janis's groupthink could be functional adaptations for shielding members of the society against any demoralizing influence from the rivals' leaders.

That shielding is done by official censors. Media outlets controlled by enemy countries are shut down. 

In modern Europe, the principle of national sovereignty has meant that each nation's top political leaders should be accepted as the ultimate coordinating authority within their nation. So when a great war began, people in each nation would generally accept their national leaders' expressed judgments about the events that started the war.

Unless they didn't.  

Within each nation, any questions about the universal validity of their national leaders' judgment in this vital matter could be rejected as a menace to social cohesion. Indeed, this result would be the prediction of Janis's groupthink theory. But from a game-theoretic perspective, it could constitute an inconsistency of national beliefs about international relations, even though it has been induced by the norms of social cohesion that make game-theoretic consistency a good assumption for interactions within each nation.

No. We are speaking of uncorrelated asymmetries- i.e. the fact that you are German not French etc. It is perfectly consistent to want everything for oneself and nothing for the other guy. But we don't get what we want, we get what we can.  

Consistency of international perceptions would require a system of basic agreements among the sovereign national political leaders; but by definition, a state of war means that such agreements have been shattered.

So does a state of peace where resources are devoted to the Armed Forces. Obviously, if there was perfect agreement there would be no need for Armies. To take an example, there is a general agreement that it is a bad idea to burn off your own dick. That is why the Government does not spend money on a Public Information campaign to get the message across that burning your dick off is totes uncool.  

Thus, we must admit a regular possibility of game-theoretic inconsistency among the beliefs of people in different nations when they are at war with each other. An initial consistency  of beliefs could be a good assumption for models to explain the onset of war, where the nations are assumed to start with peaceful international relations, but game-theoretic consistency (like truth) may be among the first casualties of war. Conversely, when we are trying to understand how wars end, we should recognize that a transition from war to peaceful international relations would require the construction (or reconstruction) of a broad international consensus about the vital questions of justice and authority that divided the groups in conflict.

No. Wars don't end because everybody agrees about 'vital questions'. They end because the soldiers of one side or the other won't or can't fight any more. 

On the other hand, it is true that we must first settle vital questions about Justice and Authority before we can persuade people to stop burning off their dicks.  

This consensus could be achieved either by negotiations among the leaders of the two sides, or else by the winning side replacing the leaders of the losing side, where the latter alternative could require the winners' forces to occupy the losers' communities for some period.

This won't achieve consensus. It may achieve the complete demoralization of the occupied countries erstwhile military forces.  

Peace is not just an armistice in which weapons cease firing. Peace is a relationship between nations that have a mutually accepted framework for resolving disputes and maintaining consistent strategic expectations in transactions between them.

Countries at war may still have such 'mutually accepted frameworks' for specific matters- e.g. prisoner exchange or, as happened during the Second World War, trade in strategic materials through neutral Switzerland.  

If the nations retain their separate independent leadership then their national leaders must respect each other

quite unnecessary. Churchill wasn't exactly a fan of Stalin but they were able to rub along well enough.  

and accept a shared framework for negotiations to realize mutual benefits of coordination.

Alternatively, a third party could broker a deal.  

That is why, in gametheoretic analysis of a transition from peace to war, it may be reasonable to start with an assumption that the nations would coordinate on an equilibrium that efficiently avoids costly conflict if one existed.

Why could it not efficiently avoid the 'wasteful competition' involved in maintaining deterrence?  

But for independent nations to make a transition from war to peace,

one side must lose the will to fight before the other otherwise you merely have a pause in hostilities. You don't have peace. 

the existence of Pareto-superior peaceful equilibria is not enough, because someone must take the lead in identifying which one they will implement, which means defining the principles for their new working relationship.

No. Hostile powers may run out of bullets and thus stop armed conflict. But they may refuse to have anything to do with each other.  

The warring nations must develop a shared concept of justice for the postwar world.

This has never happened. Moreover, even if there is a 'shared concept of justice', there still could be war. Everybody may agree that it is wrong to kill and rob, yet there will always be some impulsive sociopaths who will make a career out of that type of crime- unless they are hanged or incarcerated.  

From this perspective, we can see the final failure of World War I. The war was a contest to define a new focal equilibrium for Europe,

No. It was a war to destroy the military capacity of the adversary and to impose a Carthaginian peace upon it.  

and peace would require a new international consensus to be forged either by negotiation or by conquest. At the end of the war, however, Germany was still unconquered, and yet its representatives were excluded from the long peace negotiations in Paris.

Because its military capacity had collapsed. The reason there was no occupation was that America and Russia were not willing to supply occupation forces while Britain and France were exhausted. The Bolshevik Revolution, like Wilsonian idealism, created a new atmosphere. It seemed plausible that a Europe of linguistically cohesive Nations would be peaceful Social Democracies. Alternatively, Communism would establish itself in Germany and Hungary and so forth. The notion was that if the proletariat establishes its Dictatorship, then Imperialism, as the final form of Capitalism, would disappear and thus War itself would become impossible. 

It was understood that some nations had joined the Entente's Alliance during the war so as to get a more influential seat at the winners' table in the peace settlement; but the Allies' negotiations with each other took so many months that, in the end, they effectively excluded the postwar German leadership from any role in defining Europe's new order.

Austria and Hungary and Bulgaria and Turkey were similarly excluded. The Turks, however, with some help from the Bolsheviks, were able to fight off predators from Anatolia. There was also an attempt to unseat the Bolsheviks but the Red Army defeated the Whites.   

The resulting treaty, with the War-Guilt Clause and Reparations, perpetuated Germans' inability to accept the Allies' concept of a just order in Europe, which poisoned politics in Germany and set  Europe on the path to a second world war (Myerson 2004b). 

No. What set Europe on the path to a second world war was the failure to occupy Germany, exact reparations, and prevent re-armament. Again, the complicating factor was the Bolsheviks. The German General Staff did a deal with them so as to get around Treaty restrictions. The other problem was that Eastern European countries which had gained territory with substantial German speaking populations were not able to work with France to create a proper military alliance. They had their own mutual jealousies. Don't forget that Poland helped itself to a slice of Czechoslovakia in 1938. 

The Great War was like the Napoleonic War. The Allies made a mistake in not occupying France after the Emperor's defeat. That's what enabled Napoleon to return to power. After Waterloo, the Allies took no chances. They occupied France till it coughed up reparations. Then Napoleon's nephew took power and started rattling his sabre. Bismarck fucked him up but good. But Bismarck was careful to get Nappy to declare war first. He could show the Hapsburgs and the Romanovs that he was removing the threat of 'Revolutionary' France which had been the great concern of the 'Holy Alliance'. 

Why was Germany not reduced to an agricultural slum as envisaged by the Morgenthau plan? The answer is that it had been partitioned and once the Cold War got off the ground each side wanted its portion of Germany to contribute economically so as to increase its own military potential. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union some stupid academics thought the would had arrived at a consensus re. an American led 'ordoliberalism'. This was an illusion. What the Ukraine war shows is that fine words butter no parsnips. War is politics by other means and if a particular polity feels that a particular territory belongs to it- e.g Russia thinks Eastern Ukraine is Russian, China thinks Taiwan is Chinese- then an authoritarian regime is going to try to secure this 'vital' objective by force more particularly if the rival superpower appears to lack the will to fight.