Gambling and War: Risk, Reward, and Chance in International Conflict brings readers a war college course taught at a Las Vegas casino. To succeed in poker, it is not enough to simply anticipate the actions of other players and try to outsmart them. A successful player must also understand and appreciate the role of randomness. Additionally, players must confront the reality that all human beings are prone to errors in judgment, which cause them to make suboptimal choices under many circumstances. Taken together, these challenges make poker a fascinating and highly unpredictable game, much like the dynamics of international conflict. Any comprehensive analysis of why wars occur and how they are fought must consider a variety of factors including strategy, human error, and dumb luck.
Gambling and War applies lessons learned from poker, blackjack, roulette, and other games of chance to the study of international conflict. Drawing on scholarly insights from a variety of fields, including probability, statistics, political science, psychology, and economics, the book offers thoughts on how we can better manage and prevent international conflict, the costliest game of all.
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Praise for Gambling and War
“Scholars and members of the public alike often refer to war as a gamble, but how and why this is the case and the resemblance between war and games of chance are rarely plumbed as interesting and carefully as they are by Justin Conrad. Whether you are preparing to play poker or to study a war, you can learn a lot from Gambling and War.” —Robert Jervis, author of How Statesmen Think: The Psychology of International Politics
“In this innovative and exciting study, Justin Conrad explores the intersection of strategy and psychology in war through analogy with the game of poker. With careful scholarship and well-selected examples, Conrad shows that international politics is the most dangerous game humans play.”—Stephen Benedict Dyson, author of Otherworldly Politics: The International Relations of Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and Battlestar Galactica
“Justin Conrad has crafted an exceptional work that goes well beyond the familiar comparison of international conflict and games of chance and addresses a fundamental challenge for international relations scholars—bridging the gaps between the academy, the public, and policy makers. The result is an excellent introduction to conflict theory for students, interested observers, and practitioners. At a time when the global conflict environment seems increasingly chaotic and unpredictable, Gambling and War provides an excellent exposition of relevant international relations theories and makes a strong case for the value of information and credibility in navigating a risk-laden world.” —CDR Matthew “Tut” Testerman, U.S. Naval Academy