The impact of the end of the Cold War on United States foreign and defense policy in the 1990s is frequently misunderstood within the field of International Relations. On the one hand, it is often assumed that the US was able to achieve a substantial ‘peace dividend’ after finally claiming victory over the Soviet Union. Yet it is also common for scholars to see the early potential for a more peaceful international order after the cessation of Cold War hostilities as having been frustrated by a series of unexpected events during the 1990s. On the other hand, scholars who focus on understanding contemporary developments and the prosecution of US foreign and defense policy in the Global War on Terror often restrict their analysis to the unfolding of recent events, rather than critically investigating the roots of contemporary US defense policy, which lie in the years immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in 1989. This thesis puts forward the notion that the contemporary parameters of US security policy can only be fully understood when they are placed within a broader analytical narrative that incorporates the politics of US defense policymaking during the late-1980s, as well as the decade following the end of the Cold War. In doing so, it suggests two key factors not sufficiently highlighted in the existing literature. The first is that analyzing how US ‘defense coalitions’ are formed, which conditions facilitate their influence on the defense policy agenda, and what the consequences of this are for US security strategy is crucial to understanding the intense political struggles that inform US threat perception, strategic planning, and the development of major weapons systems. Building on earlier theories of the Military-Industrial Complex, the concept of defense coalitions establishes greater analytical leverage for providing a compelling account of the dynamics of change and continuity in US defense policy during the 1990s. The second factor is the importance of studying the use of rhetorical action, which is aimed at the construction of an overarching security narrative, for understanding how political entrepreneurs within the US defense policy community have sought to shape the post-Cold War defense policy agenda. In sum, the thesis argues that political elites who were committed to the maintenance of a high volume of US defense spending in ‘peacetime’ were able to shape how external events were interpreted within the defense policy community, in order to construct a new overarching security narrative that helped to legitimize their policy goals.