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Game theory and the Cuban Missile Crisis

What are the strengths and limitations of game theory approaches for explaining the outcomes of specific events such as the Cuban missile crisis

Sample Paper


Game theory has been used in the explanations of occurrences such as the Cuban missile crisis. The theory refers to a branch of mathematics that is concerned with various decision-making processes in social studies. The theory is mostly applied in situations where there are two or more people concerned with making decisions on two or more options to explore. The Cuban missile crisis that is also referred to as the October crisis of 1962 was a 13-day confrontation between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. This conflict was initiated following the American discovery of the Soviet Union ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. Based on the game theory, the current paper presents a  discussion on the outcome of the Cuban Missile crisis. Specifically, the paper gives a discussion on the strengths and limitations of the theory as an approach for explaining the outcome of the event.

Description of the Crisis 

The Cuban Missiles crisis was fueled by the decision of the Soviet Union to install nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in Cuba.  It was also observed that the Soviet Union was capable of hitting a large part of the US with the same weapons. The US focused on working towards the removal of the Soviet missiles to curtail their possibility of attacking the two nations.

The United States of America adopted two strategies to remove the Soviet Union from Cuba. These strategies included naval blockade and a surgical airstrike. The naval blockade also referred to as quarantine focused on the prevention of the shipment of more missiles into Cuba. The idea was to stop the entry and expansion of the Soviet Union in Cuba. On the other hand, the surgical airstrike strategy focused on wiping out the missiles that were already installed in Cuba. The US focused on the invasion of the Island with the goal of wiping out all the installed missiles in the country.

Application of the Game theory 

Soviet Union policy makes have two alternative decisions to take in their response to the attack from the US. The game theory is concerned with decision-making in social sciences, justifying its applicability in the current case.  The Soviet Union has two alternative decisions that they can make. Withdrawing the missiles or maintaining their missiles in Cuba.

These two decisions can be considered as a course of action that the two players in the game theory can pick. The decisions lead to four major outcomes as follows 4=best; 3=next best; 2=next worst; and l=worst. The higher the score the better the outcome indicating an effective decision.

The higher the number obtained by a player, the greater the payoff, an indication of an ordering outcome that is ranked as the best. The ordering process is based on the ordinal counts obtained by the players. The first number obtained by the player is an indication of the probable outcome of the decision. The second number that is labeled as the payoff is also considered an outcome of the crisis. The decisions made on the strategies to be adopted in addressing the missiles issues by the Soviet Union the probable outcome of the strategies and their associated payoff can be well illustrated in the game theory