Prof. Stephen Graham; Cities as Battlespace: The New Military Urbanism

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An exposé of how contemporary political violence now operates through the sites, spaces and infrastructures of everyday urban life. …

An exposé of how contemporary political violence now operates through the sites, spaces and infrastructures of everyday urban life.

Cities are the new battleground of our increasingly urban world. From the slums of the global South to the wealthy financial centers of the West, "Cities as Battlespace: The New Military Urbanism', a presentation based on the 2010 Verso book 'Cities Under Siege', traces the spread of political violence through the sites, spaces, infrastructure and symbols of the world’s rapidly expanding metropolitan areas.

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  • 1. Cities as Battlespace: The New Military Urbanism
    Stephen Graham
    Global Urban Research Unit
    School of Architecture
    Planning & Landscape
    Newcastle University, U.K.
  • 2. Israel, 2002: A walk on the dark side“In 1998, at the same time that urban geographers were writing that cities are places where identities form, social capital is built, and new forms of collective action emerge, the US Marine Corps explained the phenomenon a bit differently: "cities historically are the places where radical ideas ferment, dissenters find allies and discontented groups find media attention" thereby making cities "a likely source of conflict in the future” Gan Golan (2005)
  • 3. “Today, wars are fought not in trenches and fields, but in living rooms, schools and supermarkets” Seymour Barakat“The city will be the strategic high ground – whoever controls it will dictate the course of future events in the world.” Keith Dickson“The city [is] not just the site, but the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux” Eyal Weizman
  • 4. To understand this new military urbanism, we must address broader modern histories of urban militarism.Deep and complex geneologies: (i) Attempts at pacifying colonised cities (Jaffa)
  • 5. (ii) CIAM’s urban modernism and strategic bombing
  • 6. (iii) Mendelson’s Utah tenements
  • 7. (iv) Urban exterminism and Cold War decentralisation
  • 8. (v) Interstate and defense highway system
  • 9. Foucault’s boomerang
    Mobile exemplars of architectural
    and control technology
    “It should never be forgotten that while colonization, with its techniques and its political and juridical weapons, obviously transported European models to other continents, it also had a considerable boomerang effect on the mechanisms of power in the West, and on the apparatuses, institutions, and techniques of power. A whole series of colonial models was brought back to the West, and the result was that the West could practice something resembling colonization, or an internal colonialism, on itself”
    Michel Foucault, Society Must be Defended, 2003.
  • 10. Historic boomerangs
  • 11. A new military urbanism is emerging, constituted through a complex set of Foucauldian boomerangs These profoundly connect attempts at urban securitisation in ‘Homeland’ cities and colonial, counter-insurgency, urban warfareBoth shaped by a linked idea of permanently and preemptively targeting the everyday sites, circulations and spaces of cities as ‘battlespace’ within ‘assymetric’ or ‘non-traditional’ warfareBlurs war-peace; policing- intelligence-military force; liberal ‘inside’ - illiberal ‘outside’ of nations; local - global
  • 12.
  • 13. Some IIlustrative examples:1. Linked, anti-urban, Manichean, imaginative geographies
  • 14. Cosmopolitanism and ‘’Homeland’: Inner city Orientalism
    Far-Right often see cosmopolitan domestic cities as beyond the authentic spaces of the nation
    Rural areas have “become the heartland of militarism and 'authentic' patriotism” Deborah Cowan
    Law Enforcement agencies and militaries are often bastions of ethno-nationalist, anti-urban right.
  • 15. Such discourses work to render all cities as intrinsically pathological and requiring highly militarised ‘security’Katrina: ‘Iraqification’ of domestic response - ‘Urban Operations’ against ‘insurgents’ to ‘reclaim’ New Orleans
  • 16. Expeditionary urban operations shaped (or at least justified) through domestic urban paradigms
  • 17.
  • 18. Negev: ‘Baladia’ - Fake Palestinian city built for IDF by US Army Corps of Engineers
  • 19. Popular Orientalism: Intrinsically devious cities
  • 20.
  • 21.
  • 22. Whilst mock ‘Arab’ cities pepper the ‘Homeland’,
    mock US cities (bases) dot the fringes of Empire
  • 23. The Ultimate Boomerang?
    Newest Raytheon control systems deliberately use the “same HOTAS [hands on stick and throttle] system on a [ ] video game.”
    Raytheon’s UAV designer argues that ‘there’s no point in re-inventing the wheel. The current generation of pilots was raised on the [Sony] Playstation, so we created an interface that [the pilots] will immediately understand”
    “Inside the trailers, crews don’t get even the sensation of flying that one gets in a flight simulator,” writes Kaplan. “The real tension for these pilots comes from the clash with everything outside the trailers. beyond Nellis is the banal world of spouses, kids, homework, and soccer games not to mention the absurdity of a city where even the gas stations have slot machines. Simply entering or leaving one of the trailers is tremendously disorienting.”
    Quoted in Robert Kaplan , ‘Hunting The Taliban In Las Vegas,’ Atlantic Monthly, Aug 4, 2006,
  • 24. 2. Converging political economies: Security-industrial complexes & the ‘new security economy’2.
  • 25.
  • 26. Normalisation of ‘non-lethal weapons’ against urban publics? ‘Sonic warfare’ hits the high street (Steve Goodman)
  • 27. Israel as global exemplar“Many of the country's most successful entrepreneurs [ are now] using Israel's status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of twenty-four-hour-a-day showroom--a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war.” Naomi Klein
  • 28. ‘Global’ cities, neoliberal financialisation and the distant projection of violence
    “One of the fundamental determinants of [modern] experience,” suggests Frederic Jameson, “can be found in the way imperialism masks and conceals the nature of its system.”Frederic Jameson
    Critical research necessary to “alert us to one of the more ominous accomplishments of “our” urban culture: The barbaric killing of cities in the new and old colonies.” Stefan Kipker and Kanish Goonewardena
  • 29. New military-industrial-academicsecurity/simulation complexes
  • 30. 3. Urban design boomerangs: Related Shifts to a Passage-Point Urbanism- Jittery Camps and Archipelagoes of Enclaves
    “The new bunker is a passage from one point to another”
    Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer
  • 31. Green-Zones ==== Security Zones (Jeremy Nemeth)
  • 32.
  • 33.
  • 34.
  • 35. Urban design principles: The new blast zone
  • 36. 4. Mobile exemplars as shop windows for legal, physical and technological aspects of the new military urbanism
  • 37.
  • 38.
  • 39. Pre-emptive geographies: anti-democratic legal suspensions, criminalisation and pervasive ‘terror labelling’ (Gan Golan)
  • 40. Complex overlaps with broader legal geographies of ‘revanchist’ urbanism, ‘zero tolerance’ &pre-emptive exclusion and criminalisation
  • 41. 5. Deep anti-urban obsession with trying to permanently unveil cities through new surveillance assemblages‘Technophilia’: Latest military-standard surveillance equipment increasingly normalised in everyday policing of domestic cities
  • 42. Targeting & ‘armed vision’: Jordan Crandall
    Fantasy of being “switching on and off to distinguish between friend and enemy.” Bottomley and Moore)
    “Tracking is integral” to the emerging modes of governance and sovereign and military power based on anticipatory seeing” (Crandall 1999)
    “While civilian images are embedded in processes of identification based on reflection, militarised perspectives collapse identification processes into “Id-ing” - a one-way channel of identification in which a conduit, a database, and a body are aligned and calibrated” (1999)
    Represents “a gradual colonization of the now, a now always slightly ahead of itself” (1999).
  • 43.
  • 44.
  • 45. ‘‘Video analytics’: Pre-emptive, algorithmic definition of urban ‘normality’ and putative ‘threat’
    u
  • 46.
  • 47.
  • 48. Biometric boomerangs: An “evolving global norm of securitized identity” John Measor and Benjamin Muller
  • 49. Data ‘mining’ and data ‘fusion’
  • 50.
  • 51.
  • 52.
  • 53. 6. Global ‘homelands’? National borders increasingly merge into urban sites and transnational infrastructures
    ‘Homeland security’ is now “an away game. We don’twant [threats] to get in our airspace, on our land or close to our shoreline in the maritime domain. So we are working very hard with the other regional combatant commanders so as to roll up the bad guys, capture or kill them and interrupt their attacks.”
    US Navy Admiral Tim King
  • 54.
  • 55. Containersecurity initiative
  • 56. NSA’s internet surveillance
  • 57. ‘Function creep’ & computerised automobility: Congestion charge zones morph into ‘Security Zones’
  • 58.
  • 59. 7. Securitisation of everyday urban infrastructures: Biopolitics of urban, logistical societies Infrastructural terrorism
  • 60. Water…
  • 61. Streets…
  • 62. Parallelled by much more stealthy, invisible, and deadlystate infrastructural warfare
    "If you want to destroy someone nowadays, you go after their infrastructure"
    (Phil Agre, 2001)
  • 63. Switching cities off: “Bomb now, die later” “The war onpublic health”e.g. Gaza, 1967-, Lebanon, 2006, Iraq, 1991
  • 64. Beyond the Master Narratives: Important Caveats
    Technophiliac desire but strategic failure:. In Iraq & Afghanistan “America’s military fantasy [ ] morphed into its military nightmare: a cumbersome high-tech army of soft American kids bogged down in Iraqi cities fighting a low-tech and determined insurgency” Christian Parenti
    Internally contested
    Seductive technophilia of master narratives masks messy situated & improvised practices, failures and ‘kludges’
    Often of very limited effectiveness in cities
    Nevertheless technophiliac dreams of omniscience, omnipotence & automation underpinning the new military urbanism areremarkably resilient
  • 65. Some concluding questions:
    Normalising the techniques and imaginaries of the new military urbanismtends to sustain fetishise certain risks; obfuscate others.
    Anti-democratic, anti-cosmopolitan, anti-urban: Manichean abstractions translate difference into othering, othering into targeting, targeting into violence…
    Brings danger that allure of security technologies linked to archipelagoes of camp-like architectures work to create “islands of order” amidst an urban ‘sea’ of violence, desperation and horror? Bülent Diken and Carsten Bagge Laustsen
    What becomes of the ‘right to the city’ and the politics of urban citizenship in a world of (attempted) ubiquitous borderings?
    Above all, how can a multiscaled counterpolitics centred on cosmopolitan ideas ofplanetary urban security challenge the mythologies sustaining securocratic war and ubiquitous bordering?
  • 66. Counter-geographies: Expose, jam, challenge Foucauldian boomerangs underpinning the new military urbanism…Populate and people urban abstractions
  • 67.
  • 68.
  • 69.
  • 70. System 77 ‘civil counter-reconnaissance group’: Austria