Narratives of international decline are common in great powers, from Margaret Thatcher’s promise to reverse Britain’s decline to John F. Kennedy’s handwringing about the decline of the United States vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. What are the consequences of narratives of international decline? I argue that declinists, more often than not, choose policies that can be characterized as expansionist and pugilistic—policies of “punching back” against decline—rather than policies of retrenchment (or “pulling back”). Declinist narratives often sustain policies of global expansion to save face, regain lost glory, and reverse decline. First, it is typical of declinists to envision and draw upon a time of past glory. Second, there are psychological reasons, particularly with respect to prospect theory, for why we would expect declinists to pursue expansion rather than retrenchment. Finally, from a political coalitional perspective, there are more incentives to expand than retrench. I examine this argument by comparing narratives of international decline and foreign policy consequences in three cases: the declinism of Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and Donald Trump. This paper has implications for contemporary debates about US decline and the policy consequences of narratives more generally.