The State is undergoing a crisis of legitimacy owing to its inability to cope with novel problems of weapons proliferation, transnational threats including climate change, a fragile global financial infrastructure, cultural influences carried by electronic communications, and an undemocratic regime of human rights law. These fatal inadequacies are summoning forth a new constitutional order, the latest in a series of century-spanning archetypal regimes that have arisen since the Renaissance and the collapse of feudalism. A backlash against the harbingers of this new order, however, is crippling the development of those modes of action that are required to deal with the underlying crisis. In the United States, this crippling reaction has operated in tandem with a formidable critique of America’s right to lead an international order that has brought unprecedented prosperity and low levels of warfare to the world. This backlash is as much a reaction to the critique of the United States’ political and cultural heritage as it is to the governing techniques that are harbingers of this new constitutional order. Only a restoration of faith in America’s constitutional and strategic heritage — its exceptional ethos — will make possible the preservation of liberal traditions of governing in the new world that is being born. To accomplish this, we must answer the critiques by identifying what is the animating American quality that entitles the United States to compete for leadership.