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. 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.
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" 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 inferred, insinuated, or 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) 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 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 the 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 domesitc business's owners.
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 8000 names (approximately 4,500 used at time of construction) and plans to update it yearly.
Views of influential writers on perpetual war
- Political Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes succinctly wrote in 1651 that a hypothetical State of nature was a condition of Perpetual war. The following is a long, but redacted and pertinent quotes from the beginning of chapter 13 in his book, Leviathan:
"NATURE hath made men so equal in the faculties of the body and mind, as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he. ...
And, as to the faculties of the mind, setting aside the arts grounded upon words and especially that skill of proceeding upon general and infallible rules called science, which very few have and but in few things, as being not a native faculty born with us, nor attained, as prudence, while we look after somewhat else, I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength. For prudence is but experience, which equal time equally bestows on all men in those things they equally apply themselves unto. That which may perhaps make such equality incredible is but a vain conceit of one’s own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree than the vulgar, that is, than all men but themselves, and a few others whom by fame or for concurring with themselves they approve. ....
From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore, if any two men desire the same thing which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and, in the way to their end, which is principally their own conservation and sometimes their delectation only, endeavour to destroy or subdue one another. And from hence it comes to pass that, where an invader hath no more to fear than another man’s single power, if one plant, sow, build, or possess, a convenient seat others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces united to dispossess and deprive him not only of the fruit of his labor but also of his life or liberty. And the invader again is in the like danger of another.
And from this diffidence of one another there is no way for any man to secure himself so reasonable as anticipation, that is, by force or wiles to master the persons of all men he can so long till he see no other power great enough to endanger him; and this is no more than his own conservation requireth and is generally allowed. ...
Again, men have no pleasure, but on the contrary a great deal of grief, in keeping company where there is no power able to overawe them all. For every man looketh that his companion should value him at the same rate he sets upon himself, and, upon all signs of contempt or undervaluing, naturally endeavours as far as he dares (which amongst them that have no common power to keep them in quiet, is far enough to make them destroy each other) to extort a greater value from his contemners by damage, and from others by the example.
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."
- Ancient war advisor, Sun Tzu, expressed views in the 6th century BC about Perpetual war. The following is a long, but pertinent quote from chapter 2, Waging War, in his book, The Art of War:
"1. Sun Tzŭ said: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand li, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armour, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.
2. 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.
3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.
4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.
6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. ...
9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.
10. Poverty of the State treasury causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished. ...
15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own, and likewise a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.
16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. ...
19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
20. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril."
- 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."
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- In the landmark George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty Four, Eurasia, Oceania and Eastasia are in a perpetual state of war. The attacks are in the form of rocket attacks (similar to the V2 Attacks on London in WW2) although it is implied in the book that the attacks could be launched by the home Government against their own people in order to perpetuate fear and hatred of the enemy. However the military attacks are limited to the non-aligned areas (North and Central Africa, India etc.), an example of this is The Malabar Front (India) where Oceania won a victory against Eurasia.
- In the Doctor Who Series Genesis of the Daleks, the Kaleds and the Thals are in a perpetual state of war and have been for 1000 years. This state of war finally results in both sides occupying one city each on either side of mountains, and leads to both sides supplies being so completely ravaged by the war that both sides have a collection of Black Powder, modern and futuristic weapons and armour. It is out of this war that the Daleks are created by Davros
- Also in the Doctor Who series, the Sontarans and the Rutans are in a perpetual state of war and have been for over 10,000 years. There appears to be no end in sight, with each side continually attempting to completely obliterate the other. This has resulted in either side constantly gaining and losing territory (including the Milky Way galaxy, which is known in Doctor Who as the "Mutter's Spiral").
- In the 2000AD series Rogue Trooper the North (Norts) and South (Southers) of the Planet Nu-Earth have been fighting a perpetual war against each other for hundreds of years fighting with conventional, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The length of the war as well as the weapons involved have turned the planet virtually unihabitable without protective suits. It was for this reason that the Southers created the GIs or Genetic Infantry which would be able to survive in the environment.
- Although not a perpetual war in the conventional sense, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War shows a war that is made perpetual due to the Einsteinian Time Dilation effects due to Space Travel. (It takes a couple of months to reach the collapsar, and about a day to enter it, but while on the other side it will have been as if a couple of years have past. This effect is used throughout the book to show how the characters are made antiques by the time that has passed.) There were only about 4 major campaigns in the War but the war (due to the effects of Time Dilation) took over 2000 years.
- In the original Star Trek episode A Taste of Armageddon two neighboring planets have been at war for 500 years. To avoid the physical devastation of an actual war, the belligerents agreed to conduct only computer-simulated attacks as long as the resulting "victims" voluntarily kill themselves in "disintegration stations".
- Cold War
- Endemic warfare
- Just war
- List of wars extended by diplomatic irregularity
- Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
- Permanent war economy
- Perpetual peace
- The Report from Iron Mountain
- Rogue state
- War as metaphor
- War Is a Racket
- Locked in an Orwellian eternal war, by Robert Fisk.
- Wheeler, Winslow (February 2011). "The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It".
- "The Military–Industrial Complex; The Farewell Address of President Eisenhower" Basements publications 2006 ISBN 0976642395
- "Long Cycles in World Politics" by George Modelski (1987)
- Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, by Gore Vidal. Nation Books, 2002. ISBN 1-56025-405-X
- Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, edited by Harry Elmer Barnes, The Caxton Printers Ltd., 1953 -