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War and Game Theory: Reflecting on the War on Terror on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Borderland

Syed Sami Raza, Muhammad Ayub Jan & Ghazala Rafi

Abstract
James P. Carse in Finite and Infinite Games defines finite a game that is played to win
between two exclusive opponents within an established period of time and according
to agreed-upon rules. There is one winner and one loser. There is much in
international diplomacy that seems to fit this model. Carse introduces a second
category that he calls infinite games—games that are played without time constraints
or specific rules; the goal is simply to continue the game. The effort to strengthen the
relationship between parents and a child might be an example, where the focus is on
the relationship rather than exclusive agency, and the goal is to deal effectively with
complex situations as they arise. Can this distinction be used productively to theorize
the ongoing violence and terror that is consuming Pakistan? This article engages game
theory and demonstrates that the Pakistan Army and the Taliban exhibit quite different
understandings of and strategies for the ongoing war. It is this difference in
understandings that underpins the inability to engage each other and also explains why
this war has become protracted.