Escalation of Commitment in Libya

I should disclose that a lot of topics in economics dealing with political economy and growth theory that I am motivated by come from interest in the affairs of Libya.

Nonetheless, I currently acquired a copy of Thomas Schelling’s The Strategy of Conflict . My interest in the game theoretic nature of the Libyan civil war has occupied my day dreams and detached thoughts for weeks now. In particular, there are two elements of the “game” in Libya I find particularly interesting. First, it is escalation of commitment brought by a sunk cost fallacy and tribalism. The tribalism is essentially a sunk cost fallacy but I think there is a dimension to Arab tribalism that is almost a mapping of what someone thinks the hive mind behaves like.

For instance, in a discussion with a relative, they were oblivious about what was happening in Benghazi or in Sirte or in Derna. Areas where substantial and unusual islamist radicals have flourished. The individual was reasoning because his local area’s leaders have said it doesn’t exist then no one thinks it exists. This is different from the presumption I had that people tied to groups because they were attached to their identity then followed their deeds, but in Libya it is like the group is a short cut to normal thinking. A secondary dimension is added.

Secondly, the proxy war in Libya can exist even when it doesn’t through rumours. While the interests of various Arabic parties and Turkey are murky it doesn’t stop the discussion between militia leaders from divulging into lumping a proxy onto another militia. At times with negligence. Tribalism plus false narrative can certainly fuel the “game”.

The two governments in Libya almost ask to be modelled into a paper. Leaving me to wonder if a game with sunk cost fallacy or escalation of commitment exists and whether simple “narratives” can be reconstructed in a game. I’ll certainly try and find out while the weather is cold this weekend.


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