Max Rysztak: Looking Back on Missed Opportunities, Challenge Journal

I worked on a Political Science essay for an International Security course on the topic of Game Theory and the logic of effective threats. As game theory is my favorite subject in political science, I felt that I wrote a strong and interesting essay as it relates to the United States frequent use of threatening sanctions.

Had the opportunity presented itself, however, to take a deep dive on the subject of game theory in political science (using the examples I chose in the original essay), I think I could’ve easily turned this 10 page essay into a 30-40 page dive into logic of international politics – through the lens of game theory. I also think presenting this in the mode of a website would’ve allowed me to demonstrate different games in a more interactive way that would the reader understand each game/step/node more intuitively than it was explained on the page through text. If you look at the screen-grab of the graph and explanatory texts below, I hope it’s obvious how hard it was to explain the logic/steps of the game. I think a website and a semester-long dive into the logic would’ve proven to be beneficial for both myself and the reader.

So while I think that a semester would be extremely beneficial in developing this essay, I also think the mode of presentation would’ve been equally as important in creating something worth spending this much time on.


“Firstly, it is important to note the assumption within the structure of this game that there is nothing the Russians can do – at this point in the situation – to deter the United States from threatening a sanction. The game was designed that way to emphasize the fact that the United States needs to take some sort of action (no matter the strength of said action) to satisfy both international and domestic political cries for 
opposition. Additionally, the status quo is unacceptable to the United States because it leads to a potential power-shift in the region, resulting in the overall decision to make the threat of sanctions, as displayed by Figure 2.

Now that the United States has actually made the threat, Russia now has the decision to acquiesce or defy the threat. Should Russia defy the threat, they know that it can be carried about the United States, as it is credible. The United States, additionally, will not back down from the threat as that decision results in both minimal payoffs in the game and real-world situation consequences. Backing down by the United States, for example, results in negative punishment such as potential political backlash and demonstrating weakness. These decisions are demonstrated in Figure 3 and Figure 4.”



One thought to “Max Rysztak: Looking Back on Missed Opportunities, Challenge Journal”

  1. Hi Max!
    I’m in a game theory class now, and I find it super interesting. We haven’t done much relating to politics (it’s an economics class), but we have seen a few examples that have applied the theory to real situations.
    My biggest gripe about the class is that it’s done all on the chalkboard and paper, and drawing different game trees and moving through reduced games to get to solutions is tedious and can lead to silly errors. So your comment about putting the game trees on a site to make it more interactive is smart.
    We’re on a section now about empty threats and the assumptions that lead players to succumb to them, and I would be really interested to see the theories applied to current or past political events. This would be a great capstone project, as game theory is a fascinating lens.

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