Armed Hostilities

Elements of an Ethos of Conflict in “Six Day War”

The formation of the State of Israel led to numerous conflicts in the Middle East. The fighting against it began almost immediately after the proclaimed independence of the country, with Syria and Egypt acting as principal opponents. Israel had constant border conflicts with Syria, leading to large-scale military operations (Goodman, 2018). The Suez crisis of 1956 again ended with the Egyptian-Israeli war, which resulted in the appearance of U.N. peacekeepers on the border between the two states. Their presence helped reduce the number of border incidents but failed to ensure peace in the region. The six-day war lasted from June 5 to June 10 of 1967 and confirmed the region’s instability – the victory brought Israel new territories, but complicated already tense relations with the neighboring countries (Goodman, 2018). The song “Six-Day War” by Colonel Bagshot, a rock band from Liverpool, was released four years after the conflict – it retells the story from the perspective of an unknown soldier caught in an unwanted conflict.

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The fighting in the Middle East could serve as a quintessence of the culture of conflict. The position of a victim in similar situations implies suffering violence, which in social perception leads to an attributed positive self-image, prompts empathy, and discredits the opponent’s agenda (Bar‑Tal, 2013). Victimization is a prominent element in “Six-Day War”, even though the descriptions of unjust harm or demonization of the opponent are limited. The song (Colonel Bagshot, 1971) contains lines like “As you come out to the light / Can your eyes behold the sight / It must be doomsday”, demonstrating the disruptive force of the opponent. The imagery of the text, the mentions of bombarding, and the unexpectedness of the war evoke empathy. The singer addresses words to the listeners as if they were in trenches amidst the conflict themselves, which humanizes the unknown soldier of the song.

It is essential to take into consideration that the text was written by a third party, individuals who were not involved in the conflict directly, and several years after it occurred. This geographical and temporal distancing may enhance the level of the lyrics’ objectivity. Nonetheless, peace is a supreme societal value worldwide, and it is evoked in the lyrics of the “Six-Day War”. The servicemen are portrayed as unwilling to fight and deceived by the situation, “You never thought we’d go to war / After all the things we saw / It’s April Fools’ day” (Colonel Bagshot, 1971). The song describes a continually aggravating situation that started with peace talks (U.N. negotiations) and ends with a bombardment. The U.N. sessions dedicated to the conflict could not establish whether to recognize the occupation of the region as annexation (Goodman, 2018). Attempts to make resolutions were blocked by Arab countries that were not satisfied with the territorial situation. As “Six-Day Was” carries prominent anti-war sentiment, peace in the song is of utopian and idolized character, presented as an unattainable fantasy.

Delegitimization is a significant step to legitimize violence directed towards the opponent’s side. As Bar-Tal (2013) notices, “in essence, delegitimization denies the adversary’s humanity and morality, providing a kind of psychological permit to harm the delegitimized group” (p. 180). In “Six-Day War,” the presence of the enemy is not strong, and the enemy’s portrayal is narrowed towards the actions taken, such as a bombing raid. However, the opponent is referred to as “them”, without further clarification, which is still enough to set the “us-them” dichotomy. The minimalistic and impersonal tone of the referencing is effective in dehumanizing the opposing side – there is nothing worth knowing about it, only that the enemy belongs to an outgroup, which is sufficient for delegitimization.

The ongoing political and military conflict consolidated several countries in the Arab world in the fight against one common enemy. This unity of interests rendered other internal disputes less significant, as the conflict magnified the shared cultural elements and societal characteristics, contrasting them with the ones belonging to the enemy. As the plan of combat envisioned by Israeli Air Forces stemmed from the surprise factor, the promptness of the counter-attack from the unified opposite side signaled consolidation, to which the second stanza also alludes (Goodman, 2018). The song references the “us versus them” attitude that can be traced in several lines, although it seems to remain rather unpronounced. The song under consideration may provide an example of the connecting capacity of a common threat by establishing a clear division between the ingroup and the outgroup.

Taking into consideration that the text was written by people who were not directly engaged in the military actions of the conflict, “Six-Day War” reflects the perception that the servicemen were embroiled in a war against their will. The song generally outlines the course of the conflict’s events and results in an overtly pacifistic message. Until this day, attempts to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute and bring stability to the region do not cease. Peace is the most prominent element of the Six-Day War ethos in the text since several lines references reluctance to fight, the perceived abruptness of the conflict, and its destructive effects.


Bar-Tal, D. (2013). Intractable conflicts: Socio-psychological foundations and dynamics. Cambridge University Press.

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Colonel Bagshot. (1971). Six Day War [Song]. On Oh! What a Lovely War [Album]. XL; Cadet Concept Records.

Goodman, M. (2018). Catch-67: The left, the right, and the legacy of the Six Day War. Yale University Press.


“Six Day War” by Colonel Bagshot

At the starting of the week
At summit talks, you’ll hear them speak
It’s only Monday
Negotiations breaking down
See those leaders start to frown
It’s sword and gun day
Tomorrow never comes until it’s too late
You could be sitting taking lunch
The news will hit you like a punch
It’s only Tuesday
You never thought we’d go to war
After all the things we saw
It’s April Fools’ day
Tomorrow never comes until it’s too late
We’ll all go running underground
And we’ll be listening for the sound
It’s only Wednesday
In your shelter dimly lit
Take some wool and learn to knit
‘Cause it’s a long day
Tomorrow never comes until it’s too late
You hear a whistling overhead
Are you alive or are you dead?
It’s only Thursday
You feel a shaking of the ground
A million candles burn around
Is it your birthday?
Tomorrow never comes until it’s too late
Though that shelter is your home
The living space you have outgrown
It’s only Friday
As you come out to the light
Can your eyes behold the sight
It must be doomsday
Tomorrow never comes until it’s too late
Ain’t it funny how men think
They made the bomb, they are extinct
It’s only Saturday
I think tomorrow’s come, I think it’s too late
I think tomorrow’s come, I think it’s too late
I think tomorrow’s come, I think it’s too late

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