Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Teapot In A Tempest

Tempest or just a tea pot?
Protest music has many forms, probably best formulated and made most famous "recently" during the 1960's, but is protest music still going strong, I mean is there any new good stuff?

Has it grown and taken on any new facets, become more subtile, or exposed any government madness lately?

Or were accounts of the dangers of nuclear war, focused on by many protest songs, nothing more than chicken little running around talking about things that were too far off to capture the public's interest, and therefore the message they proclaimed has been lost forever?

The answers to those questions depends a lot on both the lyrics or the interpretation of those lyrics, and most importantly, world conditions which those songs sing about.

So, before looking at some new lyrics, let's first take a gander at world conditions that form the context for the songs:
An expert assessment of China's nuclear weapons strategy highlights the risk of escalation to nuclear war from a conflict beginning with conventional weapons, due to the unusual structure of the nation's military.

The possibility of combining or sequentially launching conventional and nuclear missiles is deemed a fundamental source of political and military strength – but also generates critical uncertainties:
"The basic dilemma for the war planners stems from the deployment of the two types of missiles on the same Second Artillery bases with fundamentally different capabilities and purposes," Lewis and Xue say.

The article notes that Beijing's nuclear missiles exist to deter a nuclear first strike on China, and are only to be used in extremis. At the same time, the conventional weapons on the formerly all-nuclear bases must be ready to strike first and hard. Targeted enemies and their allies will not immediately be able to distinguish whether any missiles fired are conventional or nuclear.

This means that those enemies may justifiably launch on warning and retaliate against all the command-and-control systems and missile assets of the Chinese missile launch base and even the overall command-and-control system of the central Second Artillery headquarters. In the worst case, a self-defensive first strike by Chinese conventional missiles could end in the retaliatory destruction of many Chinese nuclear missiles and their related command-and-control systems.

"That disastrous outcome would force the much smaller surviving and highly vulnerable Chinese nuclear missile units to fire their remaining missiles against the enemy's homeland," Lewis and Xue warn. "Escalation to nuclear war could become accelerated and unavoidable." Policies that have led to conventional and nuclear weapons doubling up at the same base could cause, rather than deter, a nuclear exchange.
Beijing's overall defence strategy has evolved significantly in recent decades. According to the authors, China's revolutionary leader Mao Zedong directly shaped the policies for the Second Artillery, the nation's strategic missile forces.
(China's Nuclear Dilemma, emphasis added). In other words a non-nuclear conventional attack on those bases would evoke a response back at the original attackers that could not be determined to be only a conventional missile response or, instead, an escalation into a nuclear retaliation.

Thus, the original attacker would in effect have to wait until the missiles hit their target to know whether they were conventional warheads or instead were nuclear ... or depending on who is at the button, do what "must be done."

The article goes on to explain that "China's revolutionary leader Mao Zedong directly shaped the policies" that led to this problem, which is troubling because he was not an expert in that field, nor was he a military strategist trained in the dangers of such a structure.

On another front, the U.S. and Russia, there are similar dangers and uncertainties that need to be addressed:
Both US and Russian land-based missiles remain constantly on high-alert status, ready to be launched within minutes. Because of the 30-minute flight times of these missiles, the presidents of both the US and Russia would have only approximately 12 minutes to decide whether to launch their missiles when presented by their military leaders with information indicating an imminent attack (after lower-level threat assessment conferences).

That’s only 12 minutes or less for the president to decide whether to launch global nuclear war. While this scenario is unlikely, it is definitely possible: Presidents have repeatedly rehearsed it, and it cannot be ruled out due to the graveness of its potential consequences.
(A Memorial of The Unmemorialized, quoting Daniel Ellsberg). Does this make you want to listen to some protest music, poetry, look at art, or what?

There is no doubt that Bob Dylan had his eye on some of these problems in his song Masters of War, but what of his latest album Tempest? ... does the main stream media have it right? ... check it out:
Marvel at the vitality of a man who's been makeing albums for 50 years and still manages to be relevant ... That this inscrutable lyricist can continue to amaze, amuse, befuddle and bedazzle past retirement age is something to behold. Nobody makes discs like this anymore.
(David Bauder, Associated Press, emphasis added). Are those the requirements of being relevant ("to amaze, amuse, befuddle and bedazzle"), and thus, Bob Dylan is still Blind Willie McTell who is not going to work on Maggie's Farm no more? ... check it out:
"Me, I don't want to write for people anymore - you know, be a spokesman. From now on, I want to write from inside me ... I'm not part of no movement ... I just can't make it with any organisation ..." [- Bob Dylan, 1964]
(Blind Willie McTell News, quoting Red Pepper). Dylan quit the spokesman's business long ago, and has been retired from it all these years, so is the song on the new Tempest album, "Long And Wasted Years", an epiphany?

Or is all that olden golden protest Long Time Gone?

The lyrics to the following protest song, still being sung in 2011, are here.

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