International relations is now marked by a distinct bias against both realism and materialism. This, allied to the currently fashionable notion that in a globalized, liberal economy cooperation rather than competition is the norm, has meant that few scholars have been concerned to analyse the sources of rivalry between the various capitalist states. This article suggests that a version of realism informed by a keen sense of power and hierarchy remains essential if we are to understand the dynamics of US foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. The case study deployed here revolves around the various attempts made by one of America's allies to contest Washington's vision of a 'new world order'. The French challenge assumed many forms but in the end was seen off by the dominant state; the outcome only confirming US preponderance and guaranteeing its hegemonic position into the 21st century.