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

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

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

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

by Phil Klay


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From the National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment and Missionaries, an astonishing fever graph of the effects of twenty years of war in a brutally divided America.

When Phil Klay left the Marines a decade ago after serving as an officer in Iraq, he found himself a part of the community of veterans who have no choice but to grapple with the meaning of their wartime experiences—for themselves and for the country. American identity has always been bound up in war—from the revolutionary war of our founding, to the civil war that ended slavery, to the two world wars that launched America as a superpower. What did the current wars say about who we are as a country, and how should we respond as citizens?
Unlike in previous eras of war, relatively few Americans have had to do any real grappling with the endless, invisible conflicts of the post-9/11 world; in fact, increasingly few people are even aware they are still going on. It is as if these wars are a dark star with a strong gravitational force that draws a relatively small number of soldiers and their families into its orbit while remaining inconspicuous to most other Americans. In the meantime, the consequences of American military action abroad may be out of sight and out of mind, but they are very real indeed.
This chasm between the military and the civilian in American life, and the moral blind spot it has created, is one of the great themes of Uncertain Ground, Phil Klay’s powerful series of reckonings with some of our country’s thorniest concerns, written in essay form over the past ten years. In the name of what do we ask young Americans to kill, and to die? In the name of what does this country hang together? As we see at every turn in these pages, those two questions have a great deal to do with each another, and how we answer them will go a long way toward deciding where our troubled country goes from here.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593299241
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/17/2022
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 364,671
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Phil Klay is a veteran of the US Marine Corps and the author of Redeployment, which won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction, and Missionaries, which was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2020 by The Wall Street Journal. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and elsewhere. He currently teaches fiction at Fairfield University and is a board member for Arts in the Armed Forces.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi


Death and Memory 3

How We Mourned, Why We Fought 8

Left Behind 11

What We're Fighting for 35

Fear and Loathing in Mosul 42

We Have No Idea What We're Doing in Iraq. We Didn't Before We Killed Suleimani 54

War, Loss, and Unthinkable Youth 60


Citizen-Soldier: Moral Risk and the Modern Military 65

The Good War 93

Duty and Pity 98

The Lesson of Eric Greitens, and the Navy Seals Who Tried to Warn Us 106

The Warrior at the Mall 116

The Soldiers We Leave Behind 124

A History of Violence 139


After War, a Failure of the Imagination 165

Fact and Fiction 169

Public Rage Won't Solve Any of Our Problems 175

Visions of War and Peace: Literature and Authority in World War 180


Tales of War and Redemption 187

Man of War 204

Can the Trauma of War Lead to Growth, Despite the Scars? 228

American Purpose After the Fall of Kabul 233

Acknowledgments 239

Index 241

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