Carnage and Connectivity: Landmarks in the Decline of Conventional Military Power  Book Cover Carnage and Connectivity: Landmarks in the Decline of Conventional Military Power 
David Betz 
C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd; UK ed. edition
Oct 22 2015
256 pages

The burgeoning of global connectivity in recent decades is without historical parallel and the 'wiring up' of the world continues apace, even in the poorest regions. Flux and ever-quickening change are the leitmotifs of the 'information age' across a swathe of human enterprise from industry and commerce through to politics and social relations. This is no less the case for the patterns of war, where change has been disorientating for soldiers and statesmen whose confidence in the old, the traditional, and the known has been shaken.

David Betz's book explains the huge and disruptive implications of connectivity for the practice of warfare. The tactical ingenuity of opponents to confound or drop below the threshold of sophisticated weapons systems means war remains the realm of chance and probability. Increasingly, though, the conflicts of our time are less contests of arms than wars of hearts and minds conducted on a mass scale through multimedia communications networks. The most pernicious challengers to the status quo are not states but ever more powerful non-state actors.

Carnage and Connectivity: Landmarks in the Decline of Conventional Military Power by Dr. David Betz is well worth the read. This book provides a much needed grounding in terms of understanding current conflict, showing that while there have been changes brought by the internet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those changes are revolutionary in a military context. Of the many reasons Betz’s book is worth the read, is that it delves beyond some concepts of conflict into the links between war and society itself.

Through the ‘mediatisation’ of conflict, Betz explains, that conflict has developed a “‘virtual dimension’…in parallel or intertwined with the physical dimension.” This virtual dimension isn’t entirely new either, though, but could be viewed as the ‘moral’ aspect of war as outlined by the military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz.

Unlike many books on the subject, Betz moves beyond focusing on just the technology, to consider the more virtual effects of information in shaping perspectives. As such, Betz, explores many of the underlying and universal problems driving people to extreme situations, existing before the advent of the internet. As Betz rightly asks, how those issues are addressed is the real question going forward.

Clausewitz is central to Betz’s thesis in Carnage and Connectivity, and in particular he picks up on the issue of “passion” in conflict, raising an important challenge in modern warfare at least in Western countries – if most conflicts are perceived to be ones of choice, for what are we fighting? How will this shift in perception affect morale?

Betz has a nice writing style, which is much wittier than most academics can boast. Carnage and Connectivity is also chockablock with source material. It’s clear Betz knows not just the nature of information warfare, but also the history of conflict in general and a great deal more. Beyond military thought, Betz introduces the likes of behavioural economist, Dan Ariely, the propaganda theorists one would expect to see in this sort of work, all with a sprinkling of “po-mo” or post-modernism.  What I particularly enjoyed in Betz’s work is the breadth and diversity of thought he brings together in offering an understanding of the role of connectivity in modern warfare.

For anyone tackling the issues of propaganda, information operations, or even diplomacy this is a must-read book. Carnage and Connectivity should also be mandatory reading in military and government – full stop.

On a lighter note, it’s hard not to like a work that starts not one, but two chapters off with quotes from Lewis Carroll – but that could just be my bias.

Carnage and Connectivity is available on Amazon.

About Author

Alicia Wanless

La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age. Alicia researches how we shape — and are shaped — by a changing information space. As the Director of Strategic Communications at The SecDev Foundation, Alicia develops campaigns and strategies for engaging beneficiaries in outreach and behavioural change. Her work includes developing a training program that deals with verifying information and the spread of content online, and has supported projects in the Middle East, Vietnam and the post-Soviet space.

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