Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace


The term perpetual war is used to refer to unending or continuous warfare (Vidal 14). Thus, perpetual peace refers to everlasting peace (Vidal 14). Since World War I, the world has had several other significant wars that have shaped the course of history, the present, and the future. Using the concepts presented in “perpetual war for perpetual peace” (Vidal 7) one can argue that the wars that have happened in the past have significantly contributed to the wars that are happening now, and that also affects the absence or presence of peace.

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On the same note, in the search for peace, governments have developed policies and other activities that have caused conflict. This essay looks into the works of Helen Keller, General Smedley Butler, Frederick Douglass, and Henry David Thoreau in regards to the concept of war. The concepts suggested by the stated critics will be compared to those made by Gore Vidal, who came up with the phrase “perpetual war for perpetual peace”. The paper will prove that the search for peace by governments has led to more war.

Definition of War

There are many definitions of war. Goldberg defines it as a state of armed battle over a certain cause that is valued by all the parties involved (50). For instance, World War II saw the division of states as they fought against each other for territory and status. However, it is important to note that not all war is physical. For example, the Cold War was not a physical war, yet, still had devastating results.

Goldberg argues that there has been a lot of debate on the importance of war in the world (51). Some critics have argued that there has to be the war for there to be peace. Additionally, the concept of “perpetual war for perpetual peace” has been debated upon. In this premise, the definition of warfare is tied to the definition of peace, and vice versa. Butler defines war as a racket. The racket is defined as something that is not well understood by the majority, but whose right meaning is secretly held by a minority (Butler).


The premise that the search for peace has heavily contributed to the presence of war is supported by various studies, literature, and scholars. For instance, Keller notes that every modern war has had some type of exploitation associated with it. For example, the war against terrorism led the US to invade some countries such as Iran and Iraq. Whereas terrorism was the initial reason for attacking these countries, the US military still stayed, and the government continued to manipulate the country’s government, despite neutralizing the threat.

There have been arguments that the main reason behind the attack on Iran and Iraq was access to oil, a highly valuable commodity. Keller goes further to state that the US government is fully capable of ending the wars it started. However, due to the fact that the government has to protect the investments of some influential people, they choose not to do so (Keller).

Thoreau argues that a good and effective government does not govern everyone. The scholar states that war is a machine, and the US citizens have been used as objects, similar to guns and bullets. This argument suggests that the soldiers that offer their lives to fight for their country are not valued. Indeed, going back to the thesis, one can argue that the government has created a relevant narrative where soldiers are seen as national heroes.

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This narrative encourages some citizens to join the armed forces. They are then deployed to different war zones, where the US government supposedly seeks to establish peace. In many cases, these soldiers die or are badly hurt, and this causes more uproar in the US. The circle begins with citizens calling for more action against such countries, thereby, proving the “perpetual war for perpetual peace” concept.

As stated, Butler sees war as a racket. Butler believes that war is profitable and it is for this reason that the best wars are perpetual. One way in which some people benefit from war is through the sale of war-related merchandise. Some countries are fully focused on inventing the best weapons due to the fact that any war requires such merchandise. In fact, the side with the best weapons has a higher probability of winning the war. On the same note, countries spend a lot of money buying weapons regardless of whether they are going to war or not. Secondly, countries can make profits from the war due to deals made in the name of international relations.

For instance, the involvement of the US government in World War II established it as one of the greatest governments in the world. It was at this time that the term “superpower” was coined to refer to both the US and the USSR. Soon after the Cold War, the US was declared as the only superpower. One can argue that the US wanted the Cold War to happen in order to become the only world superpower. With such a status, the government was able to manipulate others to get what it wanted.

Such realizations have led to some people not only hating war, but also the soldiers who fight in such battles. For instance, Douglass states that he wished all the soldiers who had fought in the Mexican War to have died there. Such anger, again, supports the thesis provided. Whereas the American government stated that the Mexican war was conducted to establish peace, it ended up also making people angrier and eager for more war. Additionally, the same argument proves Vidal’s argument true. One can argue that the perpetual war is fueled by the wars of the past. The decisions made by the US government to either invade or help allies in war have led to continuous fighting.


In conclusion, there are many things that can cause war. However, one constant fact is that the search for peace has led to more battles than anything else. The US government has argued over the years that they are in search of securing the safety of the citizens and helping other countries fight off invaders. However, this action has led to more war. The profitability of battles has encouraged investors to seek perpetual war, therefore, also seek perpetual peace.

The concept of war has also been used to manipulate citizens. In the US, soldiers are considered heroes despite the fact that they are treated as replaceable objects needed only for war. The US government has the power to stop all its wars. Despite this, the government has used excuses that revolve around international relations and diplomacy to engage in war.

Works Cited

Butler, Smedley. War is a Racket. Dauphin Publications, 2018. Archive E-books. Web.

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Douglass, Frederick. “History is a Weapon. Address to the New England Convention.” Defcon, 1849, Faneuil Hall, Boston. Lecture.

Goldberg, Jeffrey. “The Lessons of Henry Kissinger.” Atlantic, vol. 318, no. 5, 2016, pp. 50-57.

Keller, Helen. “Strike against War.” Women’s Peace Party and the Labor Forum. 1916, Carnegie Hall, New York City. Lecture.

Thoreau, D. Henry. Civil Disobedience. Dover Publications, 1849. X-Roads Virginia E-books. Web.

Vidal, Gore. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. Caxton Printers, 1953.

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