The End of American Exceptionalism? The Cold War and Vietnam

  • Trevor B. McCrisken


In 1941, Henry Luce published an influential essay in Life magazine in which he declared that the twentieth century should be considered ‘the American Century’. Luce portrayed a vision of America that continued the long tradition of regarding the United States as an exceptional nation with a special destiny. He argued that the US must ‘accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence’. He insisted that ‘our vision of America as a world power’ must include ‘a passionate devotion to great American ideals’ such as freedom, equality of opportunity, self-reliance and independence, but also cooperation. The time had come for the US to cast aside isolationism and become ‘the powerhouse from which these ideals spread throughout the world and do their mysterious work of lifting the life of mankind from the level of the beasts to what the Psalmist called a little lower than angels’.1


Foreign Policy American People Moral Legitimacy Free World American Foreign Policy 
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Copyright information

© Trevor B. McCrisken 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor B. McCrisken
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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