Why does Wüsthof sell a fancy kitchen knife for US$2000, but mass-produce something similar for US$100? Why do some of us mail holiday cards, while sending anything similar by email? Why does the American Journal of International Law print its journal, when interested readers—and there should be many—can read articles like Julian Nyarko's “Giving the Treaty a Purpose: Comparing the Durability of Treaties and Executive Agreements” online? Come to think of it, why bother with Article II treaties, when they too have a near substitute, more easily produced, in congressional-executive agreements? On this last question, Nyarko's article offers an interesting approach and an intriguing finding: if we measure the commitment strength of agreements in terms of duration, treaties are measurably longer and, perhaps, stronger. Having spent several years working on treaty issues for the Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, I am acutely (and perhaps embarrassingly) interested in finding out why they matter. In this essay, I note some misgivings about how the article reckons the substitutability of agreements and about treating their age as a proxy for strength—perhaps Methuselah rivaled Samson's might at some point, but that was not how he distinguished himself—before closing by trying to imagine rival inferences that might be consistent with Nyarko's valuable insights.
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