Recently I posted on America's war system, the vast economic web that ties every sector of the country into the business of war and the death it produces. One responder expressed sarcastic disdain for the following sentences about the Cold War era: "The race to develop the atom bomb, considered so critical back then, proved to be a chimera in the end. A peace pact could have been made with the Soviet Union not to proliferate atomic and missile technology, saving untold billions of dollars." In response he writes, "A peace pact with the Soviet Union! Wow! How come nobody thought of that before?!? It's genius!! Go run and tell the government about your new idea, Deepak!"
Any historian will point out that the U.S. had a pact with the Soviet Union throughout WW II and is now at peace with Russia; therefore, the notion of a peace agreement in the intervening years isn't absurd. On the other hand, it is absurd if you consider peace itself to be so. Sadly, that's exactly the case in the U.S. today. We are so dependent on a state of international tension, on the constant presence of an enemy, on self-proclaimed demands for "security," that our sense of reality is tied to making sure that peace never breaks out permanently.
America has an addictive need for the military-industrial complex to keep churning on. Societies that get into such an economic bind--one thinks of the Confederacy's dependency on slavery, South Africa's on apartheid, the British empire's on colonialism--generally break free in one of two ways. Neither, as it turns out, is economic. Either internal pressures build up to the point of explosive violence (revolution in Czarist Russia, the Civil War here), or the society confronts its own immorality and decides to change (South Africa, the Soviet bloc under Gorbachev). Which will be the path the U.S. takes? It's self-evident after the debacle in Iraq that the neocons' dreams of military supremacy lasting forever are ruined.
A realist would say that the status quo can continue indefinitely. This country is rich enough to arm itself with new means of mechanized death, such as the proposed robot army that is on the horizon. It will require a sizable investment in death and will no doubt turn a commensurate profit to everyone enmeshed in the war system. But the realists could be wrong. The U.S., as Richard Nixon prophesied in the Seventies, could turn into a pitiful helpless giant, victimized by worldwide terrorism and more. Anti-American governments are rising throughout South America. Nasty forms of chemical and biological warfare threaten to sell to the highest bidder on the open market. Rising militarism in China and the Muslim world are by no means a paper threat. The underground market for developing the "Islamic bomb" continues at a brisk rate.
Peace suddenly doesn't look so absurd. It may turn out to be the key to saving the planet, since countries that waste their resources on pointless arms races become much less able to cooperate over climate change, pandemics, overpopulation, and other pressing crises. War has always been good business and the very core of nationalism. If that situation changes, baby boomers may live long enough to greet a world where war is absurd, at least on the grandiose scale that currently keeps America afloat, to its lasting shame.