Prisoner's Dilemma in WWII or Vietnam?
During the Second World War, many observers supposed that soldiers with low morale (that is, they didn’t like being soldiers in general or being in this war in particular) would be less effective in combat than those with high morale. In fact, as Samuel Stouffer and his colleagues showed in their classic study, The American Soldier, there was during World War II no correlation between morale and combat effectiveness.” Instead effectiveness seems to be the result of helping out and fulfilling the expectations of one’s buddies in the squad and respect for one’s officers. The problems in Vietnam were traced to individual (as opposed to unit) rotation out which reduced group cohesion and trust. Soldiers were at their least effective and most cautious as they were about to be shipped back.
This seems rather obvious in retrospect (things often do). If the solution to a prisoner’s dilemma is repeated interactions fostering collusion/cooperation, then as the certainty of repeated interactions draws to a close (i.e. when the end is in sight), collusion/cooperation will tend to diminish and eventually collapse.
If true, this example taken from Vietnam seems like it could be an even better expression of the principle than the classic WWII example.