The souring of the 2003 invasion of Iraq provided ample opportunity to denounce the darker side of American exceptionalism. Although these condem­ nations came from different quarters, they shared a common belief in a danger­ ous consensus on the utility of force. Carrying the world’s biggest military hammer, the argument went, American leaders of all political stripes went out looking for nails. Dissent from news media, marginalized elites, or the general public was stifled, the arguments went, either because the fear of terrorism allowed belligerent leaders to seize the nation’s agenda or because the most powerful Americans shared enduring illusions about the value of an overly aggressive foreign policy. When President Barack Obama decided to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 in 2009, his decision was viewed by some critics as one more step down the American empire’s disas­ trous path to perpetual war (Chapter 3). Still, the costs of the war in Iraq and America’s renewed effort in Afghan­ istan-tens of thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, severe damage to America’s international reputation-arguably have ushered in a period of more sobering reflection. If American officials have not lost their appetite for war, then they at least are beginning to count their calories. This approach is exemplified by the idea that US foreign policy in the Obama administration’s second term will be distinguished by its pragmatism. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza described the president’s initial response to the social revolts in the Middle East and North Africa in the first half of 2011:

Obama has emphasized bureaucratic efficiency over ideology, and approached foreign policy as if it were case law, deciding his response to every threat or crisis on its own merits. “When you start applying blanket policies on the complexities of the current world situation, you’re going to get yourself into trouble,” he said in a recent interview with NBC News.