The U.S. and the world

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Barack Obama assumed office at a time when the discourse of American exceptionalism had become dysfunctional in international affairs even though it still had broad appeal among the American people. Obama tried to move beyond exceptionalism and chart a new course for American foreign policy in a series of speeches during 2008 and 2009. There is little evidence that Americans paid much attention to these speeches, but if they had, they likely would have seen them as undermining American strategic interests. Obama might mitigate this dilemma by trying to redefine exceptionalism, focusing on its challenges and responsibilities rather than its gifts, This approach would involve recovering a recessive strain in the history of American public discourse.


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