The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Words are Wind?

December 2, 2011

 In the fifth book of the Game of Thrones series, it seems like every character at some point says: “Words are Wind.”  This means that a promise or threat is being made, but there may not be any credibility.  Without getting sunk into an overly academic debate about the credibility of commitments, signaling and resolve, I just wanted to highlight a promise or two that might be “wind-worthy.”

Specifically, NATO, the US, the Danes, the Canadians, and everyone else keeps telling the Afghans that they will not be abandoned even as everyone is already heading out the door with official transition to take place in 2014.  Why should the Afghans believe the international community?  Are there any other promises that folks are making that have heaps of doubt built in?

So, here is the contest: can you name a promise or threat in international relations (we will omit statements of confidence by owners and general managers in various NFL head coaches aside for now) that has as little credibility as the assurances made to the Afghans?

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Steve Saideman is Professor and the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has written The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict; For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres); and NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald), and elsewhere on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and civil-military relations.