The 80s Music Guide to Current Conflicts

In Blog by Ben Dagan1 Comment

After surviving the first of April hoaxes, we’ve decided to cheer you up with an 80s music guide to current conflicts and issues in International Relations. It is interesting to see how music can be reused to describe something that wasn’t on the radar at the time and certainly not on the mind of the artists. It is nothing but to enjoy music from a time when the fronts appeared to be clear cut – with 20-20 hindsight we can say that this wasn’t always true. Friends have become foes and some players are even trying to go back in time.

This short selection doesn’t reflect the importance of conflicts, nor the importance of states or players. Also, this article is supposed to show one thing: we are passionate about International Relations and even though one is mostly confronted with a rather dim view of the world, there are still ways to make it more bearable. Enjoy the not so serious but well researched comments and let us know what you think. You can tweet your suggestions to @sipol_at.


With the referendum on the EU membership inches closer and closer, not only David Cameron is worried about the outcome. If the UK leaves the EU, it would certainly be a lose lose situation. Also, we know that advice from the continent is not always well appreciated, which is why we just ask you to “listen to your heart” (and stay).


Russia – Ukraine

Certainly Ukraine reminds Russia of childhood memories where everything was fresh as the bright blue (red?) sky. For very good reasons, the “sweet love” is fighting an inner struggle. Also, because there’s a competing love affair coming from the West. With the ongoing cultural battle that has impacted the country over the last decade, Russia might wanna try another tune to win the country over. Sometimes war and diplomacy is nothing else than Guns n’ Roses. So where do we go now, sweet child o’ mine?

Civil Society Organisations 

Young disaffected youth in the Arab world brought about new hopes for the spread of democracy and freedom. In the end, it proved to be more of a blood drenched farce than a revolution. Tunisia did quite well though, and the National Dialogue Quartet scored a Nobel Peace Price for it. Many wouldn’t mind a youth rising up for democracy beyond elections, women standing up to their husbands and Western glam rock singers cheering them up while they are chanting “We’re not gonna take it”. Certainly some governments are afraid and label them foreign spies


This week, the European Central command has revealed that by 2017, an additional armoured brigade is to rotate through Europe. Although burden sharing is one of the dominating talking points at NATO (related) meetings, we will see whether the allies on our continent are willing to invest the monetary and human resources necessary to strengthen the alliance (and their security). The US pivot to Asia might ring some alarm bells in European defence ministries. It’s not the 80s anymore though we know each others for much longer: the rules aren’t the same, but a commitment remains… so lets sing together:

China and the South China Sea

China is building islands and its pacific neighbours are getting a bit wary with an ever growing military presence and sea border disputes being fought with an ever growing determination to maintain territorial claims. Countries are equipping themselves for potential standoffs and their navies are receiving more attention after all. With tensions running high over some fishing boats in Indonesian, Japanese and other waters, China is holding on. They are convinced to know who’s gonna be the number one.


Once this tiny nation started up, it would never stop. And they are pretty clear about one thing: if anyone wants to rough it up, they’ll make a couple grown men cry. With a refugee crisis in Lebanon, the civil war in Syria, terror attacks and a resurgent Iran this posture is understandable. Having a rather eccentric attitude like Mick Jagger on the dance floor might polarise a bit (but lets not even start).  Surely some diplomats where crying too over the last couple of decades.

Coalition against “ISIS”

Rock the Casbah is certainly one of the more commonly referred to songs when looking at interventions in the Middle East. Not only was it the first song to be aired by the Armed Forces Radio covering Operation Desert Storm. The operation itself created the impression that air superiority and some fancy jet fighter bombing could win wars – and it worked to some degree. However, at the beginning of our century we had to learn that this is certainly not enough. But what’s the right thing to do? Many people disagree for sure. Tony Blair once commented that neither invasion (Iraq), nor an air campaign (Libya) and not even doing nothing (Syria for way too long) yielded the results intended. One of the biggest problems are radicals who degenerate the faithful with the crazy Casbah sound. Certainly not Kosher. Certainly a problem.

If anyone thinks it is inappropriate to reference 80s songs to current conflicts and ultimately to human suffering – I can only say it is an outrage that the suffering occurs in the first place. So please keep in mind: We didn’t start the fire.

featured image (cc) BY: Quentin Meulepas

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About the Author
Ben Dagan

Ben Dagan

Ben holds a Master’s degree in International Security from Sciences Po, Paris School of International Affairs. His research topics include International Relations, Asymmetrical Warfare & Radicalisation as well as the strategic behaviour of state and non-state actors with a focus on the MENA region.


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