Skip to main content
Harvard University Press - home

A World of Enemies

America’s Wars at Home and Abroad from Kennedy to Biden

Osamah F. Khalil

ISBN 9780674244221

Publication date: 04/16/2024

A sobering account of how the United States trapped itself in endless wars—abroad and at home—and what it might do to break free.

Over the past half-century, Americans have watched their country extend its military power to what seemed the very ends of the earth. America’s might is felt on nearly every continent—and even on its own streets. Decades ago, the Wars on Drugs and Terror broke down the walls separating law enforcement from military operations. A World of Enemies tells the story of how an America plagued by fears of waning power and influence embraced foreign and domestic forever wars.

Osamah Khalil argues that the militarization of US domestic and foreign affairs was the product of America’s failure in Vietnam. Unsettled by their inability to prevail in Southeast Asia, US leaders increasingly came to see a host of problems as immune to political solutions. Rather, crime, drugs, and terrorism were enemies spawned in “badlands”—whether the Middle East or stateside inner cities. Characterized as sites of endemic violence, badlands lay beyond the pale of civilization, their ostensibly racially and culturally alien inhabitants best handled by force.

Yet militarized policy has brought few victories. Its failures—in Iraq, Afghanistan, US cities, and increasingly rural and borderland America—have only served to reinforce fears of weakness. It is time, Khalil argues, for a new approach. Instead of managing never-ending conflicts, we need to reinvest in the tools of traditional politics and diplomacy.


  • Osamah Khalil brings together America’s wars on crime, drugs, and terror in an arresting narrative of a country fearing decline and lashing out. Donald Trump capitalized on but hardly created the self-destructive campaigns that Khalil traces from the 1960s to the present. A bracing portrait of a country endlessly at war—with the world and with itself.

    —Stephen Wertheim, author of Tomorrow, the World


  • Osamah F. Khalil is Associate Professor of History at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is the author of America’s Dream Palace, which was named a Best Book of 2017 by Foreign Affairs. His research on foreign policy, national security, and military affairs has been featured widely, from PBS NewsHour to USA Today.

Book Details

  • 408 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author