John Ikenberry, summarizing one theme in the work of Thomas C. Schelling:
To change the expectations or behavior of others, an individual — or government— must restrict his own options and give up freedom of action; the ability and the willingness of actors to make commitments shape the evolution of strategic relationships.
Schelling’s work on commitment, like much of his writing, is graced and strengthened with literary and historical references. Thucydides is among his favorites. But I don’t recall his finding this little story from Second Samuel about the revolt of Absalom against his father David.
And Ahithophel said unto Absalom: “Go in unto thy father’s concubines, that he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that thou art abhorred of thy father; then will the hands of all that are with thee be strong.”
Absalom’s problem is that anyone who thinks about supporting him has to worry about what will happen in case Absalom reconciles with David by, for example, restoring him to the throne in return for being recognized as his successor. By doing something unforgiveable in his father’s eyes, Abaslom reassures his followers that he won’t sell them out, because he can’t.