"Global, muscular liberalism of both parties has manifestly failed to deliver the strength & broad-based prosperity to allow us to shape our future on our own terms. Americans deserve better," writes Elbridge Colby, a principal at the Marathon Initiative.

The central theme of President Biden’s foreign policy is a global, muscular liberalism. Ensuring that democracy “will and must prevail,” Biden told the Munich Security Conference, is “our galvanizing mission.” This appears to mean taking on threats to democracy wherever they lie — challenging both China and Russia, which Biden has said posits “just as real” a threat as Beijing — while continuing the “forever wars,” halting reductions of U.S. forces in Europe, sanctioning the new military government in Myanmar, signaling a firm line against North Korea and more.

This might have been a defensible policy decades ago, when U.S. wealth dwarfed that of the Soviet Union and China. Or in 1999, before China’s rise, the sapping wars in the Middle East or the profound effects of the financial crisis had all been felt. But it is not a sensible policy today.

For the first time since the 19th century, the United States is not clearly the world’s largest economy. China is already larger by many measures and growing faster than we are, including in the wake of covid-19. And traditional U.S. allies are declining in relative wealth and power. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies face challenges as varied as Russia, Iran and North Korea; nonstate terrorists; pandemics; economic recovery; and climate change.

 

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