Retail Diplomacy

The successful U.S. campaign to convince 188 other nations to cut its annual dues obligation provides a model for success in other multilateral negotiations.

Issue: Winter 2001-2002

PERHAPS THE most widely heard and trenchant criticism of the Bush Administration's foreign policy before September 11 was that it displayed a wilful and counterproductive unilateralism. Clearly, since the terrorist attacks, that policy has changed: We're all multilateralists now, at least for the time being. Nonetheless, a tension remains: Can an administration whose vision of international leadership is defined by a go-it-alone approach whenever possible really conduct effective multilateral diplomacy? The question is not only whether the administration can keep a motley coalition together long enough to accomplish its military and political goals in the war against terrorism. We need also to ask whether it will, and whether it should, maintain a commitment to multilateralism once the present crisis passes.

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