Treaties, Trust Limits, and Advice Ranges

Afghanistan’s Taliban, governing the nation, forbade females from getting education above the sixth grade, while males can. Foreign aid coming in will be much less. Why less? Why the decision by the recipient that leads to less? What in general, not merely for one nation or transaction? What dynamics that are found worldwide apply here?

Any national government, even anything as close to a one-person dictatorship as is possible (and I haven’t heard that Afghanistan is a one-person dictatorship or close to being one), has an informal group of top advisers, people who are trusted and often consulted. This group likely includes top government leaders, top political party leaders, family members of the top leadership, and top domestic facilitators (e.g., a donor or a religious leader may be a facilitator). They may number one or two dozen people at any given time.

Almost all members of this group share values in common, agree on what’s important and right for the nation, have the same nationality as the leadership they serve, if there's a two-party political system are in the same party, and, if something politically extreme recently happened, such as a civil war (war being the most extremely destructive activity humans intentionally do), were part of that experience and were on the winning side.

But, within that framework, they differ. A minority are purists, relatively speaking. Another minority are pragmatists, relatively speaking. And, in between are the swing members; sometimes they themselves divide, but sometimes they align with purists and sometimes with pragmatists. The swing members are usually numerous enough to change national direction many times over time, although not too rapidly for major changes. The public image of change may be relatively more stable than the change within the group and between the group and the leadership it serves.

Any nation has relations with at least some other nations. No nation is so politically isolated that it has no relationship with other nations. All interact.

All nations face costs in those relationships. So, all nations want some kind of foreign support and all offer it, some political, some financial. That support will be conditional. If an agreement is to be reached, that conditionality must be negotiated. The conditionality comes in two kinds. One conditionality is specific. The other is not.

Specific conditionality can be stated in an agreement, such as in a treaty, and is legally enforceable. It is among parties who would thereby gain rights and duties. A means would be available for enforcement.

Nonspecific conditionality, whether stated in an agreement or not, is, both legally and extralegally, unenforceable. There would be, at least functionally, no rights or duties and no enforcement fora. The nonspecific conditionality, even without enforceability, may articulate hopes and expectations, even a timeline. The nonspecific conditionality may have political weight, useful for persuasion, maybe a lot, although not enough to be a means of enforcement.

Without a means of enforcement, nonspecific conditionality relies on trust. (If it relies on fear, that’s enforceability, which shifts the conditionality into the specific.) The trust may be absent in the beginning; if it builds enough to be effective, the trust must eventually reach mutuality.

If a nation strongly wants foreign support, either political or financial, it wants to avoid strongly offending the foreign source of foreign support. If it would make a decision that would so offend and it wouldn’t be able to hide the decision to prevent the offending or to persuade the foreign source not to be so offended and a contrary decision is not acceptable, then the cost of the decision going in the offending direction would be too high and that decision won’t be made.

Therefore, if the question about the prospective decision is presented to the group of advisers, the pro-pragmatists will likely argue for refraining from the decision so that foreign support will flow, and the swing members will tend to agree.

But the foreign sources may not trust that the nation will continue to refrain from that offensive decision. In that case, the foreign support will not be forthcoming.

Then, when time has passed, if the decisional question is again presented to the advisers, the pro-purists will likely argue for going ahead the original decision since the foreign support will not flow no matter what decision is made, and the swing members will tend to shift so as to agree with the pro-purists, whose view will then win.

While the top leadership treats the advisers as only advisers, and may overrule them even when doing so alone, usually they won’t, and instead will rely on the group’s collective knowledge and wisdom.

The foreign support sources being distrustful may be shortsighted, but it may be based on the history of trust having been unwarranted over time. If an agreement would not be enforceable, trust may be the only relationship basis left.

Trust can take time to build, perhaps too much time for the nation seeking support. But enforceability may be unavailable, in which case concluding a treaty may be pointless.