American public opinion is often influenced by interest groups that are well-versed in public relations. Popular perceptions of America's role in the world have long followed a similar dynamic. In Foreign Friends, David P. Fields provides a detailed study of how Syngman Rhee attempted to shape US-Korean relations through public advocacy and congressional lobbying from the early to mid-twentieth century. Rhee's associations with American evangelical, professional, and political elites gave him an effective understanding of his host county's idealism and sense of mission in the world.

The American mission—the notion that the United States, as a privileged nation steeped in liberty, has a moral obligation to promote just causes overseas—lacks any fixed meaning or ideological principles. Thus, its praxis has changed over time to conform to shifting strategic priorities. Spreading the gospel, defeating fascism, and containing communism are all avatars of America's exceptional idealism. The mission's very malleability has...

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