Transnational anthem: pro-EU demonstrators singing in Kiev, November 2013.
Stoyan Nenov / Courtesy Reuters

Walter Russell Mead paints a disturbing portrait of the United States’ geopolitical predicament. As he sees it, an increasingly formidable coalition of illiberal powers -- China, Iran, and Russia -- is determined to undo the post–Cold War settlement and the U.S.-led global order that stands behind it. Across Eurasia, he argues, these aggrieved states are bent on building spheres of influence to threaten the foundations of U.S. leadership and the global order. So the United States must rethink its optimism, including its post–Cold War belief that rising non-Western states can be persuaded to join the West and play by its rules. For Mead, the time has come to confront the threats from these increasingly dangerous geopolitical foes.

But Mead’s alarmism is based on a colossal misreading of modern power realities. It is a misreading of the logic and character of the existing world order,

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  • G. JOHN IKENBERRY is Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and George Eastman Visiting Professor at Balliol College, University of Oxford.
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