Rick Perlstein emails to recommend this Corey Robin essay as “the most brilliant thing” he’s read about the rhetoric of American interests. I think you can’t actually read it unless you’re a London Review of Books subscriber (or someone emails the text to you), but I offer the suggestion as food for thought. It’s called “Protocols of Machismo” and appeared in the 19 May 2005 issue.
My take is that the world really could use a brilliant examination of the rhetoric of “vital interests” in American political discourse but that Robin doesn’t quite have the goods here. If others have suggestions for further reading on this topic, I’m interested.