My colleague, Mlada Bukovansky, from Smith College who does excellent work on the evolution of norms and the role of institutions raises some interesting points on the question at the IR Blog.

She’s cites three recent examples on trade and the environment in which the Obama administration’s rhetoric on multilateralism is disconnected from its actions. I think her punch line is fascinating and really thought provoking:

…multilateralism is difficult. It is especially difficult for a superpower. And it is most especially difficult for a democratic superpower. Anyone who studies trade and climate negotiations knows how easily domestic politics can derail multilateral commitments. The simplistic liberal view that democracy and multilateralism go hand in hand needs to be challenged, or at least viewed with more skeptical eyes and a nuanced analytical framework.

I wonder how our multilateral friends in the Obama administration see this?