Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Josh Gold spoke at the UNA Utah Meeting. He is a PhDed professor currently teaching at SLCC. The talk brought up speculations of the US agenda in Iraq, and he brought up the thesis that many smaller countries, in the wake of the Iraq war, are desperate to find ways to defend themselves against US aggression. As such we are likely to see more countries trying to go nuclear or join anti-US pacts.

From an academic point of view. It is interesting the number of times he delved into metaphors from game theory. For example, he brought up the prisoner's dilemma twice. The first was in reference to countries that felt the cost of opposing the US was greater the gain. The second was in context of the US unfettered support for Zionism. In this case the lobbying is one sided. The support or withdrawal of support by AIPAC far outweighs any benefit a politician would gain by an open minded approach to the Palestinian question.

As for the plight of the UN and international community. Professor Gold would simply bring up the problems of the commons. While there are many people who would want to have the benefits of collective action, there are few willing to bear the cost.

Post 9/11 America is an extremely sad affair. The US has given in to the primal instincts to destroy our perceived enemies and it is now a very difficult time for people who believe in rationality and hold the hope that there is a better way to approach international affairs than through either brute force of poised diplomacy of the UN security council.

If there were only an International Criminal Court.

Anyway, back to the issue of game theory. The unilateral and controversial actions of the US really have created a horrible situation for the world. It is as though the US has cast aside the whole concept of right and wrong, and the world has digressed to an irrational game of different parties that simply seek advantage over one another.

Professor Gold had a great deal of knowledge about the problems in the Middle East, and had a great deal of insight into the different positions and motivations of the interested parties in the region, but when asked about solutions, or best path to follow from here, he had little to offer.

And so it is with the fog of war. No one knows what the future will hold. It is all up in the air. There are no simple patches to fix injustices of the past. When you stare at a problem and longer even see a clear path to solution, the mind simply has to fall back and find other explanations.

As such, the political economist will turn to game theory. It is all a game where parties seek comparative advantage. Saddam may have lost the battle, he may even be dead, but at the moment he won the war because the world has just been taught a great lesson by the US Administration.

It is sad. The US had served as a beacon of hope and justice for many in the world, but they now see that it is all about power. If people give up hope that we can define a right way and a wrong way of going about important international issues, they will simply fall back to the belief that it is all a game of parties vying for power and the strongest party ruling.

The UNAU is a fantastic organization. It gives people of Utah a chance to learn about and discuss international affairs. Yet I am sad today, because we have fallen in a sad state that makes no room for civil discourse. Should I fall into the trap of the dour academician and say it is all game. It is all parties seeking relative advantage over each other...or should I hold to my naive believes that there is an ability for people to engage in rational, mutually beneficial discourse?

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