The “Morally Fraught Endeavor” of War

How should we, as a country, execute our military power, and what role should we, as citizens, play in military policy? In what ways does our current engagement in modern warfare, as it has evolved during the war on terror, fall short of the ideal, and what’s the impact of that shortfall? What’s the connection between our deep polarization at home and the endless, invisible conflicts we’re mired in overseas? What does the conflict in Ukraine teach us about the power and significance of a clear and meaningful military mission, and about the inevitable tragedy of war? Phil Klay–a U.S Marine Corps veteran and the author most recently of the thought-provoking essay collection Uncertain Ground: Citizenship and an Age of Endless, Invisible War–tackles these questions and more with Eve and Julie on this episode of Book Dreams.


Phil Klay is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His first book, Redeployment, is a collection of short stories set in wartime Iraq. It won the National Book Award and was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times. His debut novel, Missionaries, also involves the military tactics of U.S. soldiers. It was named as one of the 10 Best Books of 2020 by The Wall Street Journal and chosen by former President Barack Obama as one of his Favorite Books of 2020. Now, Phil has published a collection of essays called Uncertain Ground: Citizenship and an Age of Endless, Invisible War.




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


“[The] longest, meatiest and most probing essays and articles presented here share the lasting power of Klay’s acclaimed fiction. They were published separately, in different places over a decade-plus span. But read together they amount to an interwoven, evolving and revealing examination of Klay’s central topic: What it means for a country always at war, that so few of its people do the fighting . . . It is engrossing and important, and I hope readers will start with the longest parts first.” —James Fallows, New York Times Book Review


“The keenness of his observations is unmatched . . . With this collection, Klay transcends his self-description as ‘a writer who was once a Marine and writes about war’ to become more of a philosopher. He uses war to pose urgent questions about political identity and personal faith that will endure long after the narratives of recent conflicts get revised and their terminology fades into history.” Los Angeles Times


“With care, Klay addresses questions of faith, guilt, and collective trauma, offering insights into military culture and the meaning of masculinity . . . Klay has written an important and eye-opening essay collection that should be a must-read.” Library Journal


Go Deeper


Phil Klay

Redeployment, by Phil Klay

Missionaries, by Phil Klay

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

Eve Yohalem

Julie Sternberg

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