The article sets out to reconstruct the discussion on the international role played by the United States at the end of the Cold War. In particular, it attempts in the first place to highlight how this debate has gone on in open continuity with the "security tradition" of the state during events of the twentieth century, within a "Wilsonian" framework. In second place, it advances the hypothesis that the reflections of the time essentially developed as a single and articulate response to the so-called "thesis of decline" which came to the fore towards the end of the 1980s. In third place, it suggests that the broad range of positions expressed can actually be reduced to two essential and competing perspectives, the "endist" one and the "dualist-conflictual" one. Finally, it tries to illustrate how both readings have considered the national security defence issue to be the crucial element for the preservation of world primacy, while failing to provide a solid foundation for this link. It therefore leaves post-Cold War US hegemony to rest upon unstable and precarious conceptual basis.