The Insurgent’s Dilemma

I’ve been trying to understand the Iraq situation recently. Well, me and the pentagon both, but the main question I’ve been thinking about is:

Given that the forces who have liberated your country will leave when the country is peaceful, why are you fighting to get rid of them?

Surely what you need to do is stop fighting them. They will then leave, you have achieved your aims and nobody dies. Simple really.

Except that’s not what happens. I think what we have is a version of the prisoner’s dilemma. I’m sure you are familiar with it but just to recap:

Two people are arrested for a crime in which they were partners. If they both say nothing they have a reasonable chance of getting off but risk a heavy sentence. If one of them elects to give evidence against the other, they will both be convicted but the one giving the evidence will get a light sentence.

So, although they have the most to gain by saying nothing they are taking two big risks of a heavy sentence: the first that they will be convicted anyway and the second that the other person will dump them in it. So, quite often, one of them will crack and turn on the other. And the police know this.

How does this relate to Iraq? Well, the point is not when the liberators leave – they are bound to go sooner or later. The point is that you should be seen to be the one to get rid of them.

Thus, while the best option overall is for both Iraqi factions (I am simplifying here and am also excluding the Kurds who have no interest in Iraq per se and are busily fortifying their little corner of the future country of Kurdistan) is to do nothing, neither side can risk the other attacking the liberators and being seen to be the saviours of their country. So they are forced to fight.

There is no easy solution to this. Perhaps we should all just leave. We’re going to leave anyway. What was the expression – peace with honour?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 31st, 2006 at 10:50 pm and is filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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