Clearly, I enjoy teasing John Bolton and John Yoo as much as the next blogger. In The New Republic, however, Nina Hachigian makes an argument about global governance that inches towards their caricature of how progressives think about international institutions. Consider this paragraph:
Creating effective architectures of global order requires three kinds of intervention--extensive improvement of existing institutions and rules, limited creation of new mechanisms, and reliable American engagement. The agenda is both complex and controversial. In terms of security, it includes the reform of voting rules and membership of the U.N. Security Council, the founding of a workable non-proliferation regime, belated American leadership on climate change, and a fortification of the World Health Organization. In terms of the global economy, we must develop new mechanisms to regulate international banking and finance, as well as update of the roles and governance of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In terms of human rights and justice, the U.S. must join the U.N. Human Rights Council to help make it a serious forum for scrutiny and also engage in the International Criminal Court. As daunting as these steps may be, they are just the beginning.
Maybe it's just me, but I think Hachigian forgot the fourth thing that's necessary for global governance to work -- the great powers have to have preferences that are near enough to each other for there to be a zone of possible agreement. Otherwise, you might as well add "free ponies" to this kind of wish list.
That might exist on the financial and economic front (though I have some doubts about this). There's a chance that it exists on nonpoliferation. It's nonexistent, however, on global warming and on the reform of existing global governance structures (and, trust me, I'm a fan of the latter).
This doesn't mean that the Obama administration should not engage with international institutions. I'm just unconvinced that Hachigian's approach would yield the foreign policy dividends she thinks it would.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.