U.S. foreign policy is, by most accounts, in disarray. Headlines—including in these pages—proclaim the death of global American leadership. Famous columnists send regular dispatches from the frontlines of U.S. President Donald Trump’s supposed campaign against the postwar liberal order. The damage to Washington’s standing in the world, we are told, is irreparable.
But step back from the day-to-day commotion, and a different picture emerges. In truth, the United States is gearing up for a new era—one marked not by unchallenged U.S. dominance but by a rising China and a vindictive Russia seeking to undermine U.S. leadership and refashion global politics in their favor.
This shift in Washington’s focus has been some time coming. Elements of it emerged, mostly in a reactive form, under President Barack Obama. The Trump administration has gone one important step further, recognizing that great-power competition warrants rebuilding U.S. foreign policy from the ground up, and it has based its formal strategy documents on that recognition. When future historians look back at the actions of the United States in the early twenty-first century, by far the most consequential story will be the way Washington refocused its