14.11.02

CREDIBLE THREAT? Little Green Footballs posts a lengthy statement from an al-Qaeda commander detailing dire consequences for the United States, and warning that the assets are already in place. A number of comments to the post have noted, if the assets are in place, why have they not already been used? Although the conflict between the United States and its allies and al-Qaeda is a repeated game, I do not know of any version of the folk theorem in which deferring your greatest threat rather than using it immediately is optimal. If there is research to that effect, please let me know.

As a nontechnical note, in repeated competition a competitor might want to establish a reputation for being ruthless, even at the cost of a short-term loss. Think, for example, about a chain store confronting a sequence of competitors. The most effective way to confirm that you will destroy any competitor is to destroy the first competitor. In like manner, if you have nuclear weapons, and your objective is to destroy the United States, it strikes me as more effective to use them rather than posture about them being hidden somewhere in tamper-proof cases. All it takes is the wrong computer being captured in Afghanistan with the locations stored on the hard drive...

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