23 Sep 2022


The Paradox of Domestic Commitment

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Essay (Any Type)

Words: 1321

Pages: 5

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Globally, a country, or government, or a world leader cannot vocalize commitment. At the same time, such figureheads cannot arbitrate on reluctant countries or states. The sovereignty of a state denotes that no one government can take the responsibility of enforcing powers over another country. As Fromkin (2007) explains, in spite of lack of guaranteed enforcement, a state can make a binding commitment, legal or not, with a different country or enter into a multilateral agreement. Obligations remain influential currencies within the foreign policy. For example, promises or commitments by another country may lead another state to willfully cooperate with that same country. Unlike international commitments, domestic binding contracts can be enforced by a legal system with the ability to call on the authority to fulfill their end of the bargain. The paradox of local commitment thus rises from locally made contracts between one entity and another with one of the parties being the sitting government. 

One of the central problems to international and domestic relations is the controversy emanating from lack of understanding of what it means to commit. Various concepts of commitment may explain the present-day theory on the paradox of commitment; non-situational and situational, which have gradually been denoted as delineated. Over the years, how nations and world bodies have faced the concept of binding agreements has given rise to logically unacceptable conclusions or self-contradictory statements ( Fromkin, 2007) . In Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1994, Fromkin presents a nuanced and decisive but convincing analogy on the events that led to the first World War ( Fromkin, 2007) . In an appalling narration, Fromkin gives clear-cut evidence of what constitutes an international commitment (2007). From the narrative, it is possible to get a universal explanation to the paradox of domestic commitment. 

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Over years, since the end of both the First World War and Second World War, a great deal of analysis, academicians, journalists, and historians have taken a keen interest in the mystery that led to the first World War. Fromkin treated World War I like a murder mystery ( Fromkin, 2007) . He concludes that what happened in Europe in 1944 was a “jagged lightning flashing suddenly across a summer sky.” In other words, the First World War was a premeditated explosive ready to go off many years before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. Germany had already started advocating a preventable war against France and Russia ( Fromkin, 2007) . At the same time, Vienna had begun drafting a challenge against Serbia a few days before Ferdinand was assassinated. Fromkin puts the blame directly on Austria and Germany. According to Fromkin (2007), it was a struggle for holding onto expansive Europe. In Conclusion, given that it was a war, chances of happening again is still high and no doubt it can happen. 

Alliances fronted and made up before World War I showed significant commitment to avoiding any conflict and confrontation. Fromkin (2007) argues that many alliances and blocks penned their allegiance to peace and regional stability. Many years before the break out of the First World War or the assassination of Ferdinand, nations gave forth a resounding commitment to the world for regional peace. Concepts were spread all over from one local block to another. Towards 1914, six countries in Europe divided into two main alliances that later formed the warring groups in the First World War. Russia, France, and Britain were the Tripe Entente. 

On the other hand, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Germany were in the Triple Alliance. These countries were not the front runners in causing the First World War. However, they played a crucial role in accelerating the region’s rush to confrontation. Fear of German destruction led Bismarck to outline several foreign policies and alliances that would help bring stability in Europe. Bismarck believed that without alliances and agreements, another war was possible. The Dual Alliance was formed when Bismarck reached out to Russia and Austria-Hungary ( Fromkin, 2007) . The Dual Alliance committed to helping each other in case Russia waged war. On the other hand, the Triple Alliance was formed with Italy joining Austria-Hungary and Germany. All three committed to a support cause. 

According to Fromkin (2007) countries continued realigning and committing to assist one another, with Britain determining to Russia for a similar cause. France and Britain were tied closely to one another by the Anglo-French Naval Convention. By the time Ferdinand was being assassinated, all strategies were in place. Triple Alliance fought Triple Entente with later Italy switching sides. The war took more time than was anticipated. One of the factors that led to the First World War was the commitment that European countries placed on protecting and standing with one another in case of war or attack by an enemy. 

It is clear that as the expectation of war increased among the two alliances, the domestic commitment to stand with one another increased. Such was contrary to the fact that the majority of nations were against the possibility of war and the resulting final preparation. The paradox of domestic commitment is well illustrated in World War I as narrated by Fromkin (2007). Engagement translates to inconvenience. This may result from an adverse change in a given circumstance. For example, the First World War increased domestic costs to the warring nations. Between France and Britain, France incurred an increased loss due to its promises to defend and protect Britain in the case of an attack. 

On the other hand, Italy also incurred costs in protecting Germany and Austria-Hungary. Due to prevailing circumstances, Italy switched sides partly due to special privileges it weighed it could get from the Triple Alliance. Italy failed to keep its commitment due to what it could consider as lack its interest. Italy thus renounced its commitment contrary to what they agreed with the Triple Entente. 

The paradox of commitment is evident in Italy switching sides. Maybe, Italy did not trust Germany to fulfill its promise ( Fromkin 2007) . Thus it had to seek for a partner who he believed could not renege on a commitment later after the war. Within the domestic front, the governed can be taken to court if its promises are less credible. By taking it to court, a civilian requires a binding agreement. Taking a government to court is valuable as it makes any commitment or promises reliable and legitimate. At the same time, it enables citizens to take a central role in the general social, economic, and political affairs of the country. Lack of such a committal move in holding a government accountable can only increase a government’s failure to commit to its pledges. The paradox of domestic commitment is thus an attempt by a government to renege on its pledge, pledges, and commitments. 

The government, as a powerful entity, often takes for granted its pledges to citizens with the belief that citizens cannot do much towards forcing it to fulfill its promise. Thus, a government may renege on its promise or commitment due to what it perceives that fulfilling a promise is not compulsory but an obligation that can be thwarted or ignored. Just as powerful nations such as Germany had the moral obligation to protect Italy, a smaller country in its commitment, the government must weigh its responsibilities towards keeping its domestic and international commitments ( Fromkin, 2007) . Agreements between nations and states are, undoubtedly mandatory and are guided by the same ethical law that obliges persons to keep their promises. However, due to the rogue nature of government and leaders, reneging against a commitment is often easy as they believe that citizens cannot hold them accountable. 

Dictatorship, weak governorship, and leadership remain some of the underlying reasons why many countries do not fulfill their commitments and promises. The paradox of domestic commitment is often a typical tragedy in many nations, especially developing nations that grapple with numerous challenges that range from poverty, poor leadership, and corruption. For example, the number of leaders and government that promise on dealing effectively with such a crime is high as they consider the vice a kickback scheme where they also benefit. Thus despite committing to dealing with the problem, they give lip commitment but nothing practical on eradicating it in totality. 

Conclusively, the paradox of domestic commitment thus denotes to the contradictory promises that a government might give to its citizens and not fulfill. Notably, it may be considered as an “off-the-mark” remark that calls for little obligation to fulfillment. For example, Italy invested in the Triple Trinate Alliance, Germany invested in Austria-Hungary and Britain in Russia and France. The situation was vice-versa to France, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. However, going against the alliance as Italy did, was undoubtedly a paradox of commitment. On the domestic front, a government entity may renege on its promise due to non-committal and failure to foresee any substantial benefit from such an obligation. Paradox of domestic commitment thus implies a non-binding agreement made with no serious intention to fulfillment or the possibility of reneging on it later. 


Fromkin, D. (2007).  Europe's last summer: who started the Great War in 1914? . Vintage. 

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