During the Donald Trump presidency, the United States began to withdraw from the world. This withdrawal was accompanied by destructive chaos, turmoil and division within American society. Will the U.S. manage to halt this decline or allow it to continue? Or could the U.S. seize the opportunity to reverse course entirely and rebuild? These are the questions that must be asked by the Biden administration.

The U.S. has dealt with the question of decline more than once in the postwar era. Even in the immediate postwar period (which in retrospect marked the pinnacle of American power), whispered suggestions of impending decline accompanied various setbacks, including the success of Soviet nuclear tests, the Korean War stalemate and the 1957 Sputnik shock when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into orbit.

The U.S. remained mired in the Vietnam War throughout the 1960s, with the fall of Saigon in 1975 prompting a widespread sense of weariness and decline within the American public and helping to usher in the Jimmy Carter administration. During the second oil crisis of 1979, President Carter urged Americans to overcome a so-called “crisis of confidence,” but went on to lose to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election.