The absolutist philosopher Jean Bodin pointed out that the sovereign cannot credibly bind himself. Any promise that a sovereign king might make, can be reversed with impunity in the future.

That's a serious problem for the biggest kid on the block. Nobody can ever trust his promises.

As the only superpower, it is difficult for the United States to make credible commitments. Nobody believes us when we say that we are not in Iraq for oil and bases. For the same reason, nobody believes Condoleezza Rice when she insists that there is no torture in Guantanamo.

That's a problem that could have easily been remedied had we allowed multilateral institutions to bind us. We would have lost a marginal amount of freedom and won the trust of the world. That is a precondition for the success of the war. For without trust, no one can afford to lay down arms.

If the Bush administration is serious about snatching victory from defeat then it better design a multilateral vehicle to realize America's national interest.