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A World of Enemies: America’s Wars at Home and Abroad from Kennedy to Biden

Osamah F. Khalil

Harvard University Press, April 2024


Osamah Khalil, professor of history and chair of the International Relations Undergraduate Program, has written “A World of Enemies: America’s Wars at Home and Abroad from Kennedy to Biden” (Harvard University Press, 2024).

He traces an interrelationship among the U.S. government’s wars on crime, drugs and terror over the last six decades. After the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. approached inner city neighborhoods at home and conflict zones abroad as “badlands” using the rhetoric of a war of civilization against barbarism, he argues. Drawing on case studies from Southeast Asia to South America, Khalil examines overt and covert U.S. involvement in Global South countries, post-Vietnam War notions of American primacy and decline and the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy.

Khalil is the author of "America’s Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of the National Security State" (Harvard University Press, 2016). It was named by Foreign Affairs as a Best Book of 2017 and was widely reviewed. He has been a frequent media commentator for the Los Angeles Times, NPR, The Hill, USA Today, PBS News Hour and Al Jazeera.

Khalil researches, writes and teaches on a broad range of topics related to U.S. foreign relations. He received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011.

From the Publisher:

“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.”

Published in the Spring 2024 issue of the Maxwell Perspective