War is war; destruction is destruction. You think this is obvious. But war is not destruction, it is victory. To achieve victory, simply appear to give the opponent what he wants and he will go away, or join you in your quest for additional power.
– Datatech Sinder Roze, “Information burns”
This is a surprisingly militaristic statement, especially when we consider Roze’s cyberanarchistic disposition. When considering the possibility of a faction based on Barlow’s Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, the immediate association is not to this sentiment inspired in equal measure by Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and the Machiavellian Prince. As usual when things do not immediately add up, we must conclude that something interesting is going on.
Clausewitz defined the overall aim of a clash of military forces as the disabling of the opponents capacity to continue fighting. The aim is not to kill or destroy them, but to render them ineffective (caught in an untenable situation, starved of supplies or perhaps even just severely outnumbered). Once this is done, the outcome becomes a foregone conclusion, and the rational thing to do for the defeated party is to surrender. Conversely, the rational thing to do for the victorious party is to accept this surrender, and then move on to do whatever it was that motivated the clash in the first place. War is not destruction, it is victory; if victory can be achieved without destruction, then this is the preferred outcome.
Sun Tzu, similarly, did not define victory as merely the military defeat of an opponent on a given battlefield. Famously, he quipped that the general that can win without a single battle is a great leader indeed. Destruction is beside the point, and moreover tends to be a net negative after victory is achieved. Throwing more and more resources into the meat grinder of war to achieve progressively less profitable battlefield success is, in the long run, a losing proposition. When faced with a choice between victory and destruction, choose the former.
This sentiment is at the heart of the Data Angel faction. In order to remain a politically independent entity, they have to successfully (and successively) stave of destruction at the hands of other factions. Much like a Machiavellian prince of a small state, they have to navigate the realpolitik of factions vying for dominance and control. Other factions constantly want things, and Roze’s preferred way to stave them off is to appear to give them what they want. If this can be done by means of a peace treaty, then that would be the best possible continuation of the Angels’ perpetual war against servitude.
Attentive readers will at this point have picked up on the Miltonian sentiment that it is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven. The hell, in this case, is the inherent contradiction of a politically coherent entity built on the opposition to politically coherent projects as such; the risk, as always, being that the final words of Roze’s quote becomes the overall aim of the faction as it moves into the future. Survival requires power, and the more of it you have, they better you become at surviving. The interesting contradiction here is how the Angels will manage to win without accidentally also losing themselves.