Courtesy Reuters

The call to establish a "league of democracies" was one of the hottest policy proposals this past election season. Advocates contended that creating a club open exclusively to the world's liberal democracies would enhance the ability of like-minded states to address the challenges of the twenty-first century. Not since the 1940s, when the United States orchestrated the founding of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods monetary system, have voices on both sides of the aisle called for such an ambitious overhaul of international institutions. Influential advisers to both Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) enthusiastically backed the proposal, and McCain explicitly endorsed the idea. "Rarely," as the journalist Jonathan Rauch has observed, "have liberal idealism and neoconservative realism converged so completely."

The proposal to launch a league of democracies has its merits. The size and diversity of the UN's membership hinder the organization's ability to coordinate timely and effective action. And whether the task at hand is containing Iran's nuclear program or stopping genocide in Darfur, China and Russia regularly block action by the UN Security Council. In contrast, liberal democracies are generally prepared to work together to pursue common interests. When it comes to political

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  • CHARLES A. KUPCHAN is Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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