Gaining ground this political season is a proposed League of Democracies designed to strengthen support for the next president's overseas agenda and ensure a global leadership role for the United States.
John McCain, the virtually certain Republican presidential nominee, has endorsed the concept of a new global compact of more than 100 democratic countries to advance shared views and has discussed the idea with French and British leaders.
"It could act where the U.N. fails to act," he said last month, and pressure tyrants "with or without Moscow's and Beijing's approval."
McCain said the League might impose sanctions on Iran, relieve suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan and deal with environmental problems.
Barack Obama, who has a lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, has not taken a stand. But Anthony Lake, one of Obama's policy advisers, has spoken in favor of the idea.
Analysts at think tanks in Washington and elsewhere envision a league focused on maintaining peace and limiting U.S. military intervention, such as the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Missing so far are specific, proposed steps to turn the idea into reality, such as where to have a headquarters, who would finance the league and how its membership would be decided.
"Cooperation is an absolute essential," Ivo Daalder, a national security expert at the Brookings Institution, said Thursday at a seminar.
An originator of the idea, Daalder said it would give democracies a better opportunity to reform the United Nations.
"If there had been a dialogue on Iraq there would have been more rigorous containment of Saddam Hussein," possibly averting war, said Tod Lindberg, a Hoover Institution research fellow, at the seminar held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Not all foreign policy experts support the proposal.
Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at Carnegie, said "the world has no appetite for a U.S.-led league and many countries do not want the U.S. going around the U.N."
In fact, Carothers said, the United States cooperates often with non-democracies in its foreign policy. China's help in trying to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program is just one example, he said.
President Bush's Iraq war policy was bitterly opposed by two leading democracies, France and Germany, among others. But Bush went ahead despite their strong objections.
"It is wishful thinking" that a league of democracies would any more readily approve U.S. military intervention in support of another U.S. president, Carothers said.
And while "some people like Senator McCain imagine it might become a replacement for the U.N., that is not the initial intention," Carothers said in a telephone interview after the seminar.