First, Mr. Trump knows that the post-Cold War policies can no longer be politically sustained. Second, he knows that China poses a new and dangerous challenge to American interests. Third, he sees that foreign policy must change in response. The old approach—on everything from trade and development, to military deployments and readiness, to religious freedom and women’s issues—must be reassessed in the light of today’s dangerous world.
For years foreign-policy thinking was dominated by the idea that the end of the Cold War meant the “end of history”—the inevitable triumph of the so-called liberal world order. This belief shaped a generation of intellectuals and practitioners.
But history isn’t over, and American foreign policy needs to come back to earth. The U.S. isn’t putting the finishing touches on a peaceful global system that is fated to endure for the ages. For the foreseeable future, foreign policy is going to be less about making dreams come true and more about keeping nightmares at bay.