30 April 2013

Game theory and the successful settlement of civil wars

We're headed into the final stretch of our Peace and Conflict unit in IB Global Politics. Students are wrapping up presentations on selected book chapters (their choice amongst the list below) on intrastate conflict in advance of a case study and day-long simulation on peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The game theory aspect of these presentations popped up today in class-I had no advanced notice that they were presenting this way. Two students used Rousseau's Stag Hunt to demonstrate how actors perceive relative gains of adversaries and the challenges of cooperation in peace negotiation. The student facilitators asked for volunteers from the class to play Stag Hunt, each volunteer making their choices in isolation from one another. The student facilitators then explained the outcome and why it mattered with respect to world politics, before launching into a detailed summary and analysis of a few chapters from Walter (2002). As we've already conducted an initial case study on the Rwandan Genocide, it was interesting and inspiring to see how the students processed Walter's "ripe for resolution" theory towards the peaceful settlement of intrastate conflicts as well as to process their enhanced understanding of the Rwandan Genocide in light of new information. 


What makes me so happy to be an instructor is the fact that our class is one where 11th graders embrace the opportunity to read, present, discuss, and apply ideas and scholarship that is generally reserved for undergraduate seminars in international politics. We've worked hard all year on a variety of skills and content; how to read, summarize, and synthesize primary sources, secondary sources, policy journals peer-reviewed journals, to university-press texts; how to write case study briefs on topics and then to draw on this work to support more sophisticated analytical papers; how to understand, explain, apply, and predict events in simulations and in world politics using IR theory and Game Theory. All of the students in the class have continued to show how they are improving their understanding of this complex material during this portion of the unit; something that is inspiring to see so late in the academic year. These are the sorts of days that reinforce my (almost decade-old) decision to teach in an independent school rather that to pursue teaching at university. Of course, Weissman's recent series in The Atlantic also makes me feel a whole lot better about the decision. The quality of interactions with students, the ability to dive deep and to differentiate learning experiences for each and every student, as well as the freedom to continue to teach  world politics is luxury that I am thankful for each and every day. I'll be sure to post pictures and a full recap of our DRC simulation after the 14th. In the interim, please feel free to go out and read what our 11th graders have been reading the past two weeks: 

  1. Brown, M. E. (1997). The causes of internal conflict. In Nationalism and ethnic conflict (pp. 3-25). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. Kaufmann, C. (2006). Possible and impossible solutions to ethnic civil wars. In R. J. Art & R. Jervis (Eds.), International politics: Enduring concepts and contemporary issues (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
  3. Kegley, C. W., & Raymond, G. A. (2012). Patterns of armed conflict. In The global future: A brief introduction to world politics (5th ed., pp. 172-196). Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
  4. Posen, B. (1993). The security dilemma and ethnic conflict. In M. E. Brown (Ed.), Ethnic conflict and international security (pp. 103-124). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  5. Snyder, J. L., & Jervis, R. (1999). Civil war and the security dilemma. In B. F. Walter & J. L. Snyder (Eds.), Civil wars, insecurity, and intervention (pp. 15-37). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
  6. Licklider, R. E. (1993). How civil wars end: Questions and methods. In R. E. Licklider (Ed.), Stopping the killing: How civil wars end (pp. 3-19). New York, NY: New York University Press.
  7. Byman, D. (2002). Dilemmas and choices. In Keeping the peace: Lasting solutions to ethnic conflicts (pp. 213-225). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  8. Walter, B. F. (2002). Committing to peace: The successful settlement of civil wars. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.