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.
A must-read for all who want to make sense of the wars on drugs, crime, and terror and their interconnections. In highly accessible prose, Osamah Khalil gives us a wide-ranging tour of US wars waged under the guise of ‘civilization’ over the last half century.
In this compelling, well-researched, and timely book, Osamah Khalil asks why the theme of war looms so large in America’s domestic and foreign affairs. Showing how the ghosts of the Vietnam War have shaped American statecraft at critical junctures over the last six decades, Khalil argues that war-making has come to define the nation’s approach to resolving conflicts—with profound consequences at home and abroad. His insightful account poses important questions with which all Americans must grapple.
In A World of Enemies, Khalil paints a dark image of post-Vietnam America, where a fear of decline drives militarized wars against crime, drugs, and terrorism. This deeply researched book explains our present moment with great clarity, showing what links the ‘badlands’ targeted by imperial violence at home and abroad.
This sweeping history delivers a powerful indictment of America’s War for Civilization, an all-encompassing battle to preserve American primacy and ward off decline in the decades after the Vietnam War. Khalil shows how presidents from Kennedy to Biden waged interconnected wars against revolutionary movements, drugs, terrorism, and crime, with tragic consequences for the nation and the world.
Osamah Khalil’s magisterial book could not be more timely. Relentlessly critical of six decades of US global policy, it challenges readers’ assumptions in a way that is intelligible, innovative, and deeply grounded in evidence. A World of Enemies should become required reading for students, scholars, policymakers, and the public.
- 408 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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