You learn something new every day. In the last while I have been doing a lot of research on the intersection of connectivity with revolution and war. I mentioned some of this in an earlier post on ‘Connectivity, War and Beyond Cyber War‘. I am, like most people in War Studies, an instinctive Clausewitzean. I tend to frame things in accordance with the precepts of his theory of war. I’m wondering what happens to war when you wire up human society as densely as we have done (and are continuing to do).
- How do armed forces operate when (or, rather, if) sensors and information systems banish uncertainty from the battlefield? What role has the commander if dealing with the ‘interplay of chance and probability’ is no longer the hallmark of the art of war?
- How do governments make war ‘work’ as a tool of policy when the major sources of threat and alarm are organised in wispy networked forms that are difficult to touch with the kinetic blows of a conventional military campaign?
- And, I think most interestingly, what role do the forces of ‘hatred and enmity’–the passion supplied by the people which is meant to sustain the war–when as a result of connectedness people’s identities and the things that they feel passionate about are no longer defined primarily by physical territoriality?
If you think those questions are important too you might be interested in a just published paper of mine ‘Cyber Power in Strategic Affairs: Neither Unthinkable, Nor Blessed‘ in the latest issue of the Journal of Strategic Studies. (I’ll see if I can get a free access version available from the publisher. At the moment, you need a university library subscription to access it). The point of this post is rather to share with you something else I found interesting. On something of a whim I picked up Dorian Lysnkey’s book 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs. It’s not the sort of genre that I normally read but if you’re interested in how social movements work, narratives are framed, and resonant messages are constructed it’s really a terrifically useful piece of work. To paraphrase Comrade Trotsky ‘you may not be interested in revolutionary music, but revolutionary music is interested in you.’ I also liked the title, which to me has a certain Paul Virilio-esque Speed and Politics ring to it. Lynskey’s 33 Revolutions per Minute blog is also worth a browse. This post ‘Endless war: A few thoughts on on-line debate‘ struck me as very agreeable, whether or not I agree with his politics. (In similar vein this recent episode of This American Life: Red State, Blue State is also worth a listen).
Anyway, one of the many intriguing tidbits in the book included these lines about Bob Dylan’s classic song ‘Masters of War’.
In Lynskey’s account the song originates from early 1962 when Dylan visits England,
…where he played a few shows, appeared in an ill-fated TV drama, and lapped up the country’s folk music. He quickly managed to aggravate Ewan MacColl but befriended a younger, less severe English folksinger, Martin Carthy, who taught Dylan some folk melodies that he would later appropriate. Another Dylan tune encountered was the bizarre and unsettling ‘Nottamun Town’, in an arrangement by American song-collector Jean Ritchie. He applied the melody to a lyric he had been working on about those who profited from war. as he explained later, ‘It’s not an antiwar song. It’s speaking against what Eisenhower was calling a military-industrial complex.’ It’s an important distinction, because no pacifist could have written ‘Masters of War’. As a boy, Dylan had been so fascinated with the army that he considered applying to West Point Military Academy. In New York, he imbibed the classic military theory of Sun Tzu and Carl Von Clausewitz.
Well, that surprised me. At first, at any rate. But then again, when you think about it, why should it? Angry young men and women should read Sun Tzu and Clausewitz. Marx and Engels did–Clausewitz, not sure about Sun Tzu.