Hodge (coauthor of A Nuclear Family Vacation), a journalist specializing in defense and national security issues, takes a critical look at the post-9/11 shift in U.S. foreign policy toward nation building in a timely and balanced account. Drawing upon firsthand reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan and extensive interviews with key figures behind the shift, the author traces how the initial failure to secure Afghanistan and Iraq led to the "military's embrace of counterinsurgency"--a shift to "armed social work" that blended force and humanitarianism and became the new face of American foreign policy. Hodge locates the origins of the new paradigm in the work of defense intellectuals like Thomas Barnett (The Pentagon's New Map) and the support of a cadre of military officers, led by Gen. David Petraeus, who embedded the doctrine in the military's counterinsurgency manual and oversaw its adoption during the 2007 surge. While acknowledging some tentative successes, the author argues that nation building detracts from the military's primary mission and is best left to development and diplomatic agencies. Hodge calls for a national conversation on the issue of nation building, and his carefully reported and sprightly written critique is a good place to begin. -- From publisher description.