John A. Thompson takes a long view of America's dramatic rise as a world power, from the late nineteenth century into the post-World War II era. How, and more importantly why, has America come to play such a dominant role in world affairs? There is, he argues, no simple answer. Thompson challenges conventional explanations of America's involvement in World War I and World War II, seeing neither the requirements of national security nor economic interests as determining. He shows how American leaders from Wilson to Truman developed an ever more capacious understanding of the national interest, and why by the 1940s most Americans came to support the price tag, in blood and treasure, attached to strenuous efforts to shape the world. The beliefs and emotions that led them to do so reflected distinctive aspects of U.S. culture, not least the strength of ties to Europe. Consciousness of the nation's unique power fostered feelings of responsibility, entitlement, and aspiration among the people and leaders of the United States.