Dreams of Omniscience: Urbanisation and the US 'Revolution in Military Affairs'
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Dreams of Omniscience: Urbanisation and the US 'Revolution in Military Affairs'






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Dreams of Omniscience: Urbanisation and the US 'Revolution in Military Affairs' Dreams of Omniscience: Urbanisation and the US 'Revolution in Military Affairs' Presentation Transcript

  • Dreams of Omniscience:  Urbanization and the US ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ Stephen Graham Newcastle University
  • I Dreams Frustrated? Urbanization and the US ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ (RMA) “It is now possible to use America’s military might with a greatly reduced chance of suffering friendly casualties or equipment loss. The reduction of American casualties afforded by the marriage between stealthy aircraft and precision guided munitions has had a profound effect on America’s willingness to intervene militarily. The military must also adapt to its new role as a tool of choice, rather than a tool of last resort” (O’Mara, 2003)
  • Vertical and Imperial Omniscience in an  Ageographical World?
  • Effects-Based Operations
  • Asymmetric/ Unrestricted/  Fourth Generation Warfare
  • Full spectrum operations: ‘MOOTW’
  • From Battlefields to ‘Battlespace’ •  ‘Fourth generation’, ‘networkcentric,’ ‘non-traditional,’ ‘assymetric’, ‘full spectrum’ warfare •  ‘Battlespace’ is “deep, high, wide, and simultaneous: there is no longer a front or a rear” (Blackmore, 2005) •  Multi-scalar: nano to planetary •  Nonlinear, ‘swarming’ forces operating within and through cities, infrastructures, spaces across transnational scales •  All terrain a ‘battlespace’ within permanent state of exception and hyper-militarisation: ‘new normal’ •  Collapse of military-civil distinctions
  • Global South Cities as Prime Battlespaces “For Western military forces, asymmetric warfare in urban areas will be the greatest challenge of this century. The city will be the strategic high ground – whoever controls it will dictate the course of future events in the world” (Dickson, 2002) US: 26 conflicts: 1984 and 2004: 21 have involved urban areas; 10 have been exclusively urban
  • ‘Feral’ Cities in the ‘Non-Integrating Gap’
  • But Fast-Growing Cities  Seen as Interrupters  of Global and Vertical  Networked Omniscience  “In simple terms walls tend to get in the way of today’s battlefield communications and sensor technologies” (Hewish and Pengelley, 2001) “The technologies traditionally ascribed to the current Revolution in Military Affairs phenomenon will have negligible impact on Military Operations in Urban Terrain” (Harris, 2003)
  • RAND: A Consequent  ‘Urbanization of Insurgency’ “Opposition forces will camouflage themselves in the background noise of the urban environment. Weapons hidden beneath a cloak, in a child’s carriage, or rolled in a carpet, can get past security personnel undetected” (DIRC 1997)
  • Forced Proximity and Groundedness •  Ralph Peters: ”The long term trend in openarea combat is toward overhead dominance by US forces. Battlefield awareness [for US forces] may prove so complete, and ‘precision’ weapons so widely available and effective, that enemy ground-based combat systems will not be able to survive in the deserts, plains, and fields that have seen so many of history’s main battles.” The United States’ “enemies will be forced into cities and other complex terrain, such as industrial developments and inter-city sprawl” (1997). ”The long term trend in open-area combat’, writes the leading U.S. ‘urban warfare’ commentator, Ralph Peters (1996, 6), “is toward overhead dominance by US forces.” As a result, he predicts that “Battlefield awareness [for US forces] may prove so complete, and ‘precision’ weapons so widely available and effective, that enemy ground-based combat systems will not be able to survive in the deserts, plains, and fields that have seen so many of history’s main battles.” As a result, Peters argues that the United States’ “enemies will be forced into cities and other complex terrain, such as industrial developments and inter-city sprawl” (1997, 4). Grau and Kipp, (1999 4), concur, suggesting that: “urban combat is i ncreasingly likely, since high-precision weapons threaten operational and tactical manoeuvre in open terrain. Commanders who lack sufficient high-precision weapons will f ind cities appealing terrain […], provided they know the city better than their opponent does and can mobilize the city’s resources and population to their purposes.”
  • Scale Mismatch:  Megacities vs Professional Army
  • Popular Orientalism: Intrinsically Devious Cities
  • Military-Industrial-Entertainment Complex: Participative and Immersive Simulation
  • II Dreams Reclaimed? The ‘Urban Turn’ in the RMA the perception “The time has come to change that the high-tech US war machine fights at a disadvantage in urban areas” (Houlgate, 2004) “Urban areas should become our preferred medium for fighting. We should optimize our force structure for it, rather than relegating it to Appendix Q in our fighting doctrine, treating it as the exception rather than the norm. It is time to tell Sun Tzu to sit down. Instead of fearing it, we must own the city” Lt. Col. Leonhard, US Army (2003) Focus of military technoscience moves from ageographical and global networked power to microgeographical treatment of urban spaces
  • 1. Reconfiguring urban space Cities not a mere backdrop: “Contemporary urban warfare plays itself out within a constructed, real or imaginary architecture, and through the destruction, construction, reorganization, and subversion of space.” (Weizman, 2006)
  •  2. Mobilising The Simulacral Collective
  • A Reverse Urban Beauty Contest
  • Manuel Chaves, who runs the special effects suite built into the urban warfare site at Fort Wainwright, Alaska: “We have a wide variety of special effects smells we can do. For instance coffee, apple pie, dead bodies, burning rubber, diesel fumes. I can do nine different buildings, nine different smells. Generally, if it’s a burning building, we put something really nasty in there like burning bodies.” • 
  • RAND (2006) on Playas, New Mexico: “The architecture of the abandoned town [should be] modified to include walled compounds of the type that US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan must at times isolate and clear.”
  • Yodaville ‘Urban Target Complex’, Arizona
  • Digital/Hybrid Simulations of ‘Target’ Cities
  • 3D Virtual Reality  Surveillant-Simulations e.g. Virtual Iraq
  • Peopling: The ‘Crowd Federate’
  • Hybrid Simulations: ‘Augmented Reality’
  • Simulated Future Insurgencies:  ‘Urban Resolve’ - Jakarta/ Baghdad 2015
  • 3. Unveiling Orientalised Space: Surveillance Systems for ‘Unconventional War Targets’ •  Defense Science Board (2004) US forces need another “Manhattan Project” for tracking and locating targets in ‘assymetric’ urban warfare to “locate, identify and track people, things and activitiesin an environment of one in a million”
  • Jordan Crandall: ‘Armed Vision’:  “Tracking is an anticipatory form of seeing”
  • Combat Zones That See: Persistent Urban Surveillance •  Observing ‘change’ rather than ‘scenery’ •  Identify purported notions of urban ‘normality’ against the ‘abnormal’ behaviours and patterns that can then be assessed as targets. •  CTS “explores concepts, develops algorithms, and delivers systems for utilising large numbers (1000s) of algorithmic video cameras to provide the close-in sensing demanded for military operations in urban terrain.” •  “Will produce video understanding algorithms embedded in surveillance systems for automatically monitoring video feeds to generate, for the first time, the reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeting information needed to provide close-in, continuous, always-on support for military operations in urban terrain”
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Radar Airships
  • The ‘Visibuilding’ Programme
  • 4. Dreams of Robotised War
  • Armed Ground Robots  •  2025”.
  • Gordon Johnson, Leader, ‘Unmanned Effects’, US Army’s ‘Project Alpha’: “if it can get within one meter, it’s killed the person who’s firing. So, essentially, what we’re saying is that anyone who would shoot at our forces would die. Before he can drop that weapon and run, he’s probably already dead. Well now, these cowards in Baghdad would have to play with blood and guts every time they shoot at one of our folks. The costs of poker went up significantly. The enemy, are they going to give up blood and guts to kill machines? I’m guessing not”
  • ‘Smart Dust’: Fantasies of Robotised Urban War “Several large fans are stationed outside the city limits of an urban target that our [sic] guys need to take. Upon appropriate signal, what appears like a dust cloud emanates from each fan. The cloud is blown into town where it quickly dissipates. After a few minutes of processing by laptop-size processors, a squadron of small, disposable aircraft ascends over the city. The little drones dive into selected areas determined by the initial analysis of data transmitted by the fan-propelled swarm. Where they disperse their nano-payloads.” Defense Watch 2004
  • “After this, the processors get even more busy. Within minutes the mobile tactical center have a detailed visual and audio picture of every street and building in the entire city. Every hostile [person] has been identified and located. Unmanned air and ground vehicles can now be vectored directly to selected targets to take them out, one by one. Those enemy combatants clever enough to evade actually being taken out by the unmanned units can then be captured of killed by human elements”
  • “Behind the fighters, military police and intelligence personnel process the inhabitants, electronically reading their attitudes toward the intervention and cataloguing them into a database immediately recoverable by every fire team in the city (even individual weapons might be able to read personal signatures, firing immediately upon cueing. Smart munitions track enemy systems and profiled individuals. Drones track inhabitants who have been ‘read’ as potentially hostile and ‘tagged’” Defense Watch, 2004
  • Conclusions •  The ‘Urban’ Turn in RMA is a distillation of stark bio/geopolitics of exception, technophiliac ideologies of permanent war, sci-fi omnipotence fantasies + supply-push •  Complex intersections of imaginative geographies, popular geopolitics, surveillance, simulation and entertainment •  Cities ‘battlespace’; residents ‘targets’; war=forced and persistent reorganisation of urban space •  Technophiliac and robotic fantasies especially seductive to politicians and theorists of ‘NetWar’ and RMA after Iraq: The Pentagon’s idea of the ‘Long War’
  • But… •  Highly contested within US military (especially after Iraq) •  Unlikely to begin to reach levels of military effectiveness and control in what are essentially unwinable wars/ unconquerable cities •  As with all imaginative, colonial geographies, ‘urban’ turn in RMA says much about domestic urban fantasies, political economies and preoccupations •  ‘Insides’ and ‘outsides’ blur together: simulationsurveillance-corrections-military complex; Katrina as ‘urban operation’; biometric ‘gating’ of Iraqi cities ; similar surveillance/simulation technologies for ‘homeland’ cities •  RMA “tells us more about Modern Western society than it does about any objective assessment of military options” Jeremy Black
  • Above all a (Geo)Politics of Verticality & Visibility,  Tracking and (Attempted) Unveiling
  • The Politics of Response