Perpetual war

Perpetual war refers to a lasting state of war with no clear ending conditions. It also describes a situation of ongoing tension that seems likely to escalate at any moment, similar to the Cold War.

In current events

British journalist Robert Fisk is among the critics of Western policies in the Middle East and argues that recent Western conflicts against the Middle East after the end of the Cold War have been part of a new perpetual war.[1] He suggests that Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush launched attacks on Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan to distract the population from his domestic political problems and claims that despite victorious claims after the first Gulf War that Saddam Hussein had been "defanged," he was again the target of Western attacks until his execution in 2006.

Similarly, Ted Koppel described the War on Terror as "Our Children's Children's War."[2]

Critics have used the term "perpetual war" in reference to non-military "wars", such as the "War on Drugs", "War on Poverty", "War on Cancer", Lou Dobbs's "War on the Middle Class", or the "War on Terrorism", the "War on Women", or Bill O'Reilly's "War on Christmas".

In socioeconomics and politics

Some analysts, such as Noam Chomsky, posit that a state of perpetual war is an aid to (and is promoted by) the powerful members of dominant political and economic classes, helping maintain their positions of economic and political superiority.

Some people, such as the following authors, have suggested that entering a state of perpetual war becomes progressively easier in a modern democratic republic, such as the United States, due to the development of a relationship network between people who wield political and economic power also owning capital in companies that financially profit from war, lobby for war, and influence public opinion of war through influence of mass media outlets that control the presentation for the causes of war, the effects of war, and the Censorship of war: (1) "The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group" (2004)" by Dan Briody; (2) "The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It" (2011)[3] an anthology by nine authors who are Pierre M. Sprey, George Wilson, Franklin C. Spinney, Bruce I. Gudmundsson, Col. G. I. Wilson, Col. Chet Richards, Andrew Cockburn, Thomas Christie, and Winslow T. Wheeler; (3) "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex" (2010), by William D. Hartung; (4) "Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (2002), by Noam Chomsky; and (5) "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media" (2002), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. The hypothesized relationship of networking between people wielding such power is known as the military-industrial complex and was briefly described by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on 17 January 1961.

The concept of a military-industrial complex was first suggested by President Eisenhower[4] and the idea that military action can be seen as a form of market-creation goes back at least as far as speeches beginning in 1930 prior to the publication of War Is a Racket in 1935. The economic make-up of the 5th century BC Athens-led Delian League also bears resemblance to the economic ramifications of preparing for Perpetual war. Aspects of any given empire, such as the British Empire and its relation to its domestic businesses that were owned by a wealthy minority of individuals, such as the East India Company, the Hudson's Bay Company, and De Beers, manifest an observed relationship between a minority of individuals influencing Empire or State policy, such as Child's War in India, the Anglo-Mysore Wars in India, the Anglo-French conflicts on Hudson Bay in Canada, and the Second Boer War in South Africa, follow a pattern where the Empire allocates resources pursuing and sustaining policies that financially profit the Empire's domestic business's owners.[5]

With the advent of perpetual war, communities have begun to construct War Memorials with names of the dead while the wars are ongoing. See Northwood Community Park's memorial which has space for 8,000 names (approximately 4,500 used at time of construction) and plans to update it yearly.[6]

Views of influential writers on perpetual war

Thomas Hobbes

Political Philosopher Thomas Hobbes succinctly wrote in 1651 that a hypothetical State of nature was a condition of perpetual war. The following quotation from chapter 13 of his book Leviathan explores the causes and effects of perpetual war:

So that in the nature of man we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.

The first maketh man invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation. The first use violence, to make themselves masters of other men’s persons, wives, children, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct in their persons or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name.

Hereby it is manifest that, during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man. For ‘war’ consisteth not in battle only or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known, and therefore the notion of ‘time’ is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. ...

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time or war where every man is enemy to every man, the same is consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Sun Tzu

Ancient war advisor Sun Tzu expressed views in the 6th century BC about perpetual war. The following quotation from chapter 2, Waging War, of his book The Art of War suggests the negative impacts of prolonged war:

Sun Tzŭ said: ... When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, the men's weapons will grow dull and their ardour will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.... There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.... In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Historian Alexis de Tocqueville made predictions in 1840 concerning perpetual war in democratic countries. The following is from Volume 2, chapter 22, "Why Democratic Nations Naturally Desire Peace and Democratic Armies, War", 18th paragraph, in his book, Democracy in America:

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country. Not indeed that after every victory it is to be apprehended that the victorious generals will possess themselves by force of the supreme power, after the manner of Sulla and Caesar; the danger is of another kind. War does not always give over democratic communities to military government, but it must invariably and immeasurably increase the powers of civil government; it must almost compulsorily concentrate the direction of all men and the management of all things in the hands of the administration. If it does not lead to despotism by sudden violence, it prepares men for it more gently by their habits. All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it. This is the first axiom of the science.


See also



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