The triumphalism of the immediate post-Cold War period in the United States has faded, and concern about decline has returned. In the field of international relations, the return of power transition models is exemplary of the new mood. This article argues that realist models misjudge the source of foreign policy risks for the United States and its allies. Rather, the standard canon of liberal international relations theory also suggests sources of pessimism. These include the enduring nature of authoritarian rule, the difficulty of coordinating emerging actors through existing international institutions, and the ambiguous effects of increased interdependence on the foreign policy behaviour and leverage of emerging powers.