Fried used his retirement remarks to describe “America’s Grand Strategy.” For decades, the U.S. has stood for “an open, rules-based world, with a united West at its core.” Despite occasional failures and blunders, “the world America made after 1945 and 1989 has enjoyed the longest period of general peace in the West since Roman times.”

What would happen if the United States were to leave the global order and pursue its own ethno-national greatness? This is the proposal that the populists have placed on the table, in which blowing up the TPP is a sign of things to come. “By abandoning our American Grand Strategy,” argued Fried, “we would diminish to being just another zero-sum great power.” This would result in a system entirely based on “spheres of influence,” which are “admired by those who don’t have to suffer the consequences.” And accepting spheres of influence would “mean our acquiescence when great powers, starting with China and Russia, dominated their neighbors through force and fear.”

“Some so-called realists,” said Fried, “might accept such a world as making the best of a harsh world, but it is not realistic to expect that it would be peaceful or stable. Rather the reverse: A sphere of influence system would lead to cycles of rebellion and repression, and, if the past 1,000 years is any guide, lead to war between the great powers, because no power would be satisfied with its sphere. They never are.”