Monday, February 14, 2005

Treaties

Here is my personal axiom on international relations, "Treaties are made by those with something to gain; treaties are kept by those with something to lose."

This tends to explain a lot of recurring political problems. For example, there is nothing we can do to North Korea that could possibly make things any worse for them. So we would make a treaty for them to shut down their nuclear program in exchange for some benefit. When they decided they wanted more benefits, they would break the treaty until we gave them more. Weimer Germany, for a second example, was offered peace in exchange for onerous terms. When peace seemed as bad as war, i.e., the Germans had nothing to lose, they were primed for Hitler's spark.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nations would benefit from outside enforcement of treaties, in the same way that corporations benefit from government enforcement of contracts. But even then they'd reflect power relations more than justice. Do you think the WTO is a success?

-comment-powered Karl

3:26 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

I like the WTO for two reasons: first, it has teeth that don't depend on the good will of the nations being sanctioned. Second, it is not a consensus-driven organization. The greater a majority needed to make a decision, the more powerful the minority is. A consensus-driven organization is a universal-veto organization. That leads to either the watering-down of programs or the adoption of the lowest common denominator--neither are good ways of making decisions.

4:06 AM  

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