cover image Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War

Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War

Phil Klay. Penguin Press, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-29924-1

Klay, a Marine Corps veteran and National Book Award winner (for the story collection Redeployment), makes his nonfiction debut with this incisive collection of previously published essays on the “Global War on Terror”: “a conflict that has lasted so long, and at such a low ebb that most Americans can pretend it isn’t happening.” In “We Have No Idea What We’re Doing in Iraq. We Didn’t Before We Killed Suleimani,” Klay forcefully critiques President Trump’s continuation of Obama’s “policy of airstrikes and deployments of Special Operations troops in support of local forces.” According to Klay, this tactic produced short-term military gains but undermined the stability of the government and contributed to the rise of ISIS and other insurgent groups. In one of the book’s most trenchant pieces, Klay reflects on the “moral dimension” of military service and profiles veterans whose horror at “the human cost of our wars overseas” has led them to public service and international aid work. Elsewhere, he eloquently describes his contempt for “performative rage” as a political device and calls for “civility... a style of argument that implicitly welcomes a response.” Enriched by the author’s military experiences and sharp turns of phrase (“We’re America. We’re good at violence”), this is an astute and often enraging survey of America’s forever wars. (May)