I want to be where the people are
June 3, 2019 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Why US troops ‘flattened’ Raqqa and Mosul, and why it may herald an era of ‘feral city’ warfare. In 2004, Richard J. Norton wrote an influential paper, Feral Cities [US Naval War College Review], in which he defined a "feral city" as a city of more than a million, which no longer was under the rule of law of a larger state, and yet maintained an international level of influence.

In 2004,
But renewed urban combat is hardly the only global urban crisis. In a World Policy Journal article published this spring, the national security experts Peter Liotta and James Miskel argued that the "failed state," which received so much attention in the 1990's, is being supplemented by the emergence of failed cities, where civil order succumbs to powerful criminal gangs. From Brazil to South Africa, these gangs pose a variety of nontraditional security threats -- from unchecked black-marketeering and the smuggling of people, guns and drugs to public-health breakdowns and alliances with terrorists.

Richard Norton, a Naval War College scholar who has developed a taxonomy of what he calls feral cities, says that there are numerous places slipping toward Mogadishu, perhaps the only fully feral city nowadays.
Are the guerrillas coming Out Of The Mountains, will people in cities find Guerrillas in the Midst of globalized, interconnected, networked urban structure and infrastructure? And who is already taking advantage of these areas? And how will military forces conduct a 'flour-floor war'? Welcome to
the grim future of urban warfare

Out of the Mountains
Kilcullen’s overall thesis is a compelling one: remote desert battlegrounds and impenetrable mountain tribal areas are not, in fact, where we will encounter the violence of tomorrow. For Kilcullen—indeed, for many military theorists writing today—the war in Afghanistan was not the new normal, but a kind of geographic fluke, an anomaly in the otherwise clear trend for conflicts of an increasingly urban nature.

The title of Kilcullen’s book—Out of the Mountains—suggests this. War is coming down from the wild edges of the world, driving back toward our lights and buildings from the unstructured void of the desert, and arriving, at full force, in the hearts of our cities, in our markets and streets. The recent siege in Nairobi and the Mumbai attacks, to name only two examples that came up in Kilcullen’s discussion, are evidence of the urbanization of violence and war.
The Most Effective Weapon On The Modern Battlefield Is Concrete

Is Combat In Cities Really Inevitable? Maybe the city isn't the threat - Cities Under Siege. Maybe we'll just end up Muddling Through
posted by the man of twists and turns (10 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The Pentagon as Global Slumlord Mike Davis, 2004 - "The American military has long been preparing for a grim future fighting in the sprawling slum cities of the Third World. Now, it seems, that future is rushing toward us."

Planet of Slums: An Interview with Mike Davis (pt. 1)
BLDGBLOG: I don’t know – they leveled Fallujah, using tank-mounted bulldozers and Daisy Cutter bombs –

Davis: But the city was soon re-inhabited by the same insurgents they tried to force out. I think the slum is universally recognized by military planners today as a challenge. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a great leap forward in our understanding of what’s happening on the peripheries of Third World cities because of the needs of Pentagon strategists and local military planners. For instance, Andean anthropology made a big leap forward in the 1960s and early 1970s when Che Guevara and his guerilla fighters became a problem.

I think there’s a consensus, both on the left and the right, that it’s the slum peripheries of poor Third World cities that have become a decisive geopolitical space. That space is now a military challenge – as much as it is an epistemological challenge, both for sociologists and for military planners.

Planet of Slums:An Interview with Mike Davis (pt. 2)
BLDGBLOG: What would a biosecure world actually look like, on the level of architecture and urban design? How do you construct biosecurity? Do you see any evidence that the medical profession is being architecturally empowered, so to speak, influencing the design of “disease-free” public spaces?

Davis: Well, sure. It’s exactly how Victorian social control over the slums was defined as a kind of hygienic project – or in the same way that urban segregation was justified in colonial cities as a problem of sanitation. Everywhere these discourses reinforce one another. What really has been lacking, however, is one big epidemic, originating in poverty, that hits the middle classes – because then you’ll see people really go berzerk. I think one of the most important facts about our world is that middle class people – above all, middle class Americans – have lived inside a historical bubble that really has no precedent in the rest of human history. For two, three, almost four, generations now, they have not personally experienced the cost of war, have not experienced epidemic disease – in other words, they have lived in an ever-increasing arc not only of personal affluence but of personal longevity and security from accidental death, war, disease, and so on. Now if that were abruptly to come to a halt – to be interrupted by a very bad event, like a pandemic, that begins killing some significant number of middle class Americans – then obviously all hell is going to break loose.

The one thing I’m firmly convinced of is that the larger, affluent middle classes in this country will never surrender their lifestyle and its privileges.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:42 AM on June 3 [11 favorites]

It's a return of the city state (and if you think those weren't run by criminal gangs you might want to reread your history).
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:27 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]

I've just started reading Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down, his account of the Battle of Mogadishu, and the things that Bowden talks about in the book--how badly the US forces (who were composed largely of America's fighting elite, such as the Rangers, Delta Force, and other special operations groups) understood the city that they had already been conducting operations in for some time, and how that bit them in the ass--seem to have not sunk in very well. The patent idiocy and perversity of the "we had to destroy this village to save it" is only getting larger in scale.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:35 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]

A while ago we watched the BBC production of World's Busiest Cities. All very exciting and bustling and astonishing and the presenters were suitably awe inspired and upbeat. Me, all I could think of was how little it would take to send any one of these into chaos. War is only one member in the Fab Four of the Apocalypse.

Mind you, I used to live in Rome, the first million man city, with evidence all around of how badly things can go down, so....
posted by BWA at 10:57 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]

There's a series of scifi books called The Frontline Series by Martin Kloos, and on his future Earth the population has exploded and lives in ridiculously crowded tower blocks. As the series progresses, America's poor people get more and more unruly, and the police and Territorial Army are less able to keep control in these areas. The violence and destruction make Blackhawk Down seem positively optimistic in terms of the squalor and destruction.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:36 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]

TIL the phrase Nakatomi Space and that it's not a TV Tropes term.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 2:40 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]

I think one of the most important facts about our world is that middle class people – above all, middle class Americans – have lived inside a historical bubble that really has no precedent in the rest of human history.

posted by ryanshepard at 2:48 PM on June 3 [8 favorites]

Where to begin?
I live in one of these cities where there are full on firefights between police and gangs every single goddamn day and have done so for the past 7 years.
The state and its institutions are as much a part of the problem as a solution.
Brazil: Rivers of Blood
Peace Is War, Security Is Hazardous, and Citizens Are the Targets of the State
posted by adamvasco at 5:46 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]

Just to add some substance to my above post. It is not just bang bang lets go home for tea.
434 people had already been killed by Rio's police by mid May this year. Some gangsters the rest just poor, brown and black and innocent.
No judge no jury. That´s about 5 a day.
This is what's going down somewhere in the city as I write on this cool wet morning. On sunny days the governor has Police helicopters in the air with snipers firing into the favelas.
These the guys they are after.
posted by adamvasco at 5:11 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]

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