The Future of Liberal Internationalism 23
opening to champion the unilateral exercise of American power. Thomas Knock and Anne-Marie Slaughter argue that multilateralism is at the heart of Wilsonian internationalism. But the problem remains that in an era of American unipolarity, the ability of the international community to act collectively is particularly difcult. American power becomes a prob- lem as much as a solution for many states and peoples within the system.
If, however, liberal internationalism is to promote international author- ity it must wrestle with the problem of democracy and the accountability of international organizations. This has always been a challenge of lib- eral internationalism: how do you build rules and institutions above the nation-state while remaining committed to democratic accountability? To be sure, much of the liberal order building of the postwar era actually strengthened the ability of states to serve and protect their societies. For example, the Bretton Woods rules and institutions provided tools for gov- ernments to pursue full employment and social security goals. Across the realms of economics, politics, and security, postwar multilateralism tended to be loose, accommodating state sovereignty. Today, however, more so- phisticated and legal-binding sorts of international agreements appear to be placing more severe demands on governments. In areas as diverse as the environment, human rights, and arms control, multilateralism is be- coming more demanding. If the world of the twenty-rst century will re- quire more complex and far-reaching sorts of multilateral cooperation, how can this be squared with state sovereignty and accountability?33
Finally, there is the challenge that is central to the debate between Smith and Slaughter. This is the question of how liberal internationalism can safeguard against abuses that turn enlightened intervention into impe- rialism. How can you get the progressive benets of action by leading de- mocracies that seek to strengthen and uphold collective liberal norms without falling prey to abuse? Smith sees that a slippery slope is embedded in postwar liberal internationalism. The “neoliberal” American grand strat- egy of the late 1990s had lofty intentions but, according to Smith, it also did the intellectual heavy lifting for neoconservatives who brought forward the Iraq war. Slaughter disputes this claim and advances the view that a mechanism does exist—or can be devised—to separate good interven- tions from bad. She suggests that it is a mechanism that grows out of