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Tyrone Schiff

Chris Kokoczka
Brett Serafin
Dr. Strangelove Strategy

Throughout the course of the movie, Dr. Strangelove, there were a number of

instances in which there were games of strategy. In particular, there were features of

“Plan R,” which was a retaliation against Russian forces that could only be made by

senior ranking officers, that expressed multiple representations of strategy. It is important

to recognize that “Plan R” essentially set all of the events of the movie into motion1.

Having this plan is a strategy within itself. For instance, “Plan R” is an effective means of

retaliation, because it allows for a senior officer to authorize a defensive attack via

nuclear weapons during a time of urgency. However, without this plan there would be no

set strategy for retaliation. Then again, plan R has the ability to begin a systematic chain

of events that can in turn cause nuclear demise, as was the case in this film.

The Doomsday Machine is a device that is capable of automatically retaliating to

any attack but has dire consequences. After a US attack, the Doomsday device would

either retaliate or not. However, the Russians also had the choice of creating a Doomsday

device or not. Seeing as they created the device, they could then choose to make it

automatic or manually triggered2. Based on the events in the movie the Doomsday

device was automatic, which in turn lead to a nuclear catastrophe. This clearly was not

the best strategy to be employed by the Russians, because it led to a nuclear holocaust

and a lot of people died. Additionally, the Doomsday device is merely a threat proposed

by the Russian side. The US is not entirely positive whether or not this Doomsday device

actually exists, so they do not know with complete certainty whether to attack or not.

1
See Game Theory of “Plan R”
2
See Game Theory of Doomsday Device
Another instance of strategy occurred in the film when President Merkin Muffley

called up the Russian President to warn him of the looming attack. This is an example of

forward induction. The US had the option to call or not call the Russians to advise them

about an attack. Furthermore, the phone call could have been interpreted by the Russians

as friendly or unfriendly. However, the reason that this is a clear example of forward

induction is because the US was obviously being friendly by choosing to make the call in

the first place3.

Finally, General Ripper chose to put “Plan R” into motion which left the US with

the decisions of making a full-out attack against the Russians or notifying the Russian

president and US bombers to end the attack to the best of their ability. Unfortunately in

the movie the “Leper Colony,” a B-52 bomber, could not be recalled and this ultimately

set-off the Doomsday device and the world was destroyed4.

Dr. Strangelove is a fantastic way to illustrate the various types of strategy that

can play out in a given scenario. Inherent to all situations, there will always be decisions

that have to be made and as a result of these decisions consequences will ensue.

3
See Game Theory of President’s phone call
4
See Game Theory of General Ripper’s Attack