In my thesis, I seek to explain the Georgian decision to attack South Ossetia in August 2008 using rational choice theory. My research questions are: Was the Georgian attack on South Ossetia an irrational act? If not, what rational reasons were behind it? My analysis is in two parts.
In the first part, I offer a traditional game theoretical analysis of the outbreak of the war between Georgia and Russia. The conclusion based on this first round of analysis is that the rational decision of Georgia would have been not to attack. Georgia’s decision to attack thus seems irrational.
In the second part, I extend the analysis to four new games. I use George Tsebelis’s theory of ”nested games” as a structuring tool. This theory seeks to explain seemingly irrational actions by taking a wider perspective. According to Tsebelis, a political actor is generally involved in more than one game at the time. It is only by looking at all these ”nested games”, which mutually affect each other, that the observer can understand the rationality of the action initially under study.
The four new games I choose to include are: 1) Georgia - International Community, 2) Georgia - Domestic opinion, 3) Russia - International Community, and 4) Russia - Domestic opinion. I search for costs and benefits in these new arenas of the players’ strategies in the principal game of South Ossetia. My conclusion after this secound round of analysis is that, although I do not reach a final conclusion to the question whether Georgia was rational or not when deciding to attack, it is important to look for reasons in different arenas when analyzing such a game.