A (Qualified) Defense of Secret Agreements

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Ashley S. Deeks

This article sets out to describe and defendwith certain qualificationsthe use of secret commitments in contemporary practice, with a focus on those to which the United States is a party. Secret commitments should not always be viewed with suspicion and hostility. Notwithstanding their opacity, these commitments perform a critical role in shaping legal and strategic interactions between the United States and other states. Further, the evidence belies the idea that states predominately resort to secrecy when they intend to violate international norms. Most of those commitments that have come to light arecounter-intuitively, perhapsconsistent with the U.N. Charter, and in some cases actually advance the Charter’s purposes.

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