Wars have been a common activity for man since the dawn of time. Humans have fought over anything and everything they could get their hands on, especially if the object at hand could help them to overpower their competition. Along with wars, there has been a development of weapons ranging from strategies to powerful machines that cause mass destruction. Since the eve of its creation, nuclear power has been a sight to behold. Powering off only one part of a nuclear weapon could wipe entire cities. But this kind of weaponry really made an impact during the Cold War between the USSR and the United States. Though there was not any combat during this “war”, these two countries faced off in a fierce battle to see who would emerge as the victor. For just over 40 years, this intense anxiety ran through the two adversaries. The only prevention method was the reality that this might very well bring annihilation. But can we say the same for today’s raging war? Based on how far we have come since that period of unrest, the world seems unwilling to even back down from a threat of destroying one another.
The competition between Soviet Russia and the United States had been slowly steaming behind the scenes for many years before the Cold War. The U.S. did not trust their Eastern neighbor, namely the radical man who led the Communist empire. The Russians resented the way that their Western counterpart behaved towards them. Since the U.S. did not trust them, interactions with the USSR were done on tiptoes. So how is it that the Cold War did not involve any deaths or casualties, other than the pride of either country? A simple acronym can answer this question. The solution was “M.A.D.” or “mutually assured destruction”. A powerful weapon, such as a nuclear warhead, is comedically depicted as being set off by pushing a red button. Mutually assured destruction was the threat that dissuaded both countries from pressing that trigger. Though both countries could not stand the thought of their rival from being more powerful, both countries met in silent discontent so as not to blow each other into smithereens.
Now, give or take, twenty years, the same restlessness is occurring. In the 20th century, there were only two countries having a face-off, but now there are multiples states pitted against one another. So, could the same tactic be used today to ward off the violent conflict at work today? Comparing the developments that the world has shifted to, these states are most likely not going to back down from the fight anymore. In the study of International Politics, ‘game theory’ is very useful in determining a probable outcome for specific situations. For the nuclear powers, the “Chicken Game” can easily explain why states will not back down. If we can set back in time to the Cold War for the first utilization of this game. In the previous century, mutually assured destruction was an unsettled agreement that the two countries would not destroy each other. The USSR and the U.S. both swerved to avoid slamming into each other. However, that same move would not be used now. Instead of two cars swerving, to avoid a collision, there are now upwards at least 10 countries with access to nuclear power. The one problem that is presented; will any of the countries swerve to save themselves or their allies from decimation? In layman terms, or as in reference to the Chicken Game, there may be one country willing to back down/swerve, but now that there are multiple states with the advantage of nuclearization, there are also a few countries who will press that red button. Take for example the negotiations between North Korea and the United States. Every moment that the United States believes it to be making progress and working on the path to a more amicable relationship, the East Asian country will pull the rug out from underneath the U.S. and, thus, the two countries are thrown right back to square one.
A second example could be the troublesome conflict of between Iran and the U.S. Only after delegating economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern country, did the Iranian government seemingly back down one step. But as development of nuclear warheads continues, how long will Iran be intimidated into holding back their advantages they hold over the U.S.? In theory, the study of the conflict may delineate a solution, but that all depends on the resolve of both countries and the reactions to their respective militia.
In conclusion, times have changed in positive and negative ways. Are we sinking back into a period like the Cold War? It’s quite a possibility, but the way that this fight has been waging, the current climate does not seem likely to want a peace. Instead, the arms battle in the twenty-first century may just have the potential to develop into the next clash of international powers. Game theory may just be proven wrong in the next coming years. The only possibility of a solution would have to be states willingly entering into peace talks that have a solid credibility backing. But as we know, in International Politics, nothing can be guaranteed.