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

What have you been reading lately? Here are some books I’ve checked out from our local library or listened to on audio from lately. This post is part of a recurring series of book reviews of things I’ve been reading and listening to lately. Check out past editions of Reading Lately.

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

Written by a retired United States Marine, this book challenges the way the United States uses and respects our military. Among other things, the author highlights the disconnect between the military and civilians. Most civilians have next to no idea what our military is actually doing, how much we are spending on military operations, how much we are asking of the individuals in our military, and how our politicians use the military.

While the author doesn’t take any strong positions or have clear political leanings, he does suggest that we ought to respectfully challenge how Congress and the White House employ the military. In too many cases, using Iraq and Afghanistan as examples, our military personnel spend years and even decades waging wars out of sight and out of mind.

These wars have massive costs for the individuals who make up our military and the individuals who live in the locations where the wars take place. Yet the purpose of these wars is not always clear, arguably unjust, and likely not necessary for national security.

He is clear to distinguish that our criticisms should not be placed on the individuals within the military. They deserve our utmost respect. The criticism should be focused on those, like past and future presidents, who choose to use our military in ways that may not be particularly fruitful.

He continues to argue that it is enormously disrespectful to the individuals and their families who dedicate their lives to military service to deploy them for reasons beyond national security. There are reasons to believe, he proposes, that our leaders increasingly use the military to support economic interests when our national security is not necessarily at risk.

For me, someone who has little exposure to current and former military personnel, this book was eye-opening and incredibly interesting. I think his points about critiquing the ways in which we use our military are incredibly important. We should only be asking our military personnel to put their lives at risk when it’s absolutely urgent and necessary.

Furthermore, the military has a massive carbon footprint. Due to limited transparency, it’s not exactly clear how large this carbon footprint is. But based on information we do know about how the military operates, the types of manufacturing that support the military, travel and logistical commitments needed for military operations, and more, we know that the military carries a heavy climate toll. With that in mind, it’s yet another reason we should be respectfully critical of how our military is deployed.

Klay covers a host of topics in the book about how everyday citizens interact (and disengage) with the United States military and how that disconnect can cause a lot of damage. I think this is a really insightful book for both those connected to and disconnected from the military as he seeks to help us all see a larger perspective on how our politicians use the United States military.

Genre Personal Memoirs/Essays/Public Policy – Military Policy/ Nonfiction | Pages 272 | Length 7 hours 44 minutes

Physical Book | Audiobook

A Note on Buying and Borrowing Books

We include affiliate links to books we recommend. If you purchase through one of these links, Honestly Modern earns a very small commission that has no impact on your purchase price.

If you can find the books from your local library, from a friend, at an independent bookstore, or through a used book shop, those sources are ideal. Using the library is zero waste, saves money, and saves space in your home because you can read all the books without storing all the books on your bookshelves. If you’re not sure of the best way to use your local library, check out these tips to make the most of your local library. With a little exposure, your kids will learn to LOVE the library!

If you prefer to listen to audiobooks, we recommend using, our favorite audiobook app. We’ve tried several audiobook apps and love that supports independent bookstores and offers a great user experience.

Jen Panaro

Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and advocate for sustainable living for modern families. To find her latest work, subscribe to her newsletter, Stepping Stones.

In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.

You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.

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