Stephen graham switching societies off: war, infrastructure, geopolitics
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Stephen graham switching societies off: war, infrastructure, geopolitics



A detailed look at how contemporary war involves the devastation of the essential civilian infrastructures of cities by state militaries. The presentation also looks in depth at the devastating ...

A detailed look at how contemporary war involves the devastation of the essential civilian infrastructures of cities by state militaries. The presentation also looks in depth at the devastating and often hidden effects of these actions on urban civilians



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Stephen graham switching societies off: war, infrastructure, geopolitics Stephen graham switching societies off: war, infrastructure, geopolitics Presentation Transcript

  • Switching Societies Off War, Infrastructure, Geopolitics Stephen Graham Department of Geography Durham University
  • (1)The Geopolitics of Forced Disconnection
        • "There is nothing in the world today that cannot become a weapon" (Liang and Xiangsui, 1999)
        • "If you want to destroy someone nowadays, you go after their infrastructure. " (Phil Agre, 2001)
        • Neglected : falls between IR and urban research
  • (2) War in a “Weirdly Pervious World”
    • 3 Starting points:
    • (i) Increasing vulnerabilities of ‘networked societies’
    • "The world struggle against terrorists will continue because our global economy simultaneously creates many possible weapons and angers many possible enemies" (Luke)
    • Soon "people won't be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide" (Bill Joy).
  • (ii) Changing political economies of infrastructure development
    • ” The dismantling and dismemberment, some would say vivisection of [the] Large Technical Systems" Rochlin
    • taken for granted becomes provisional.
    • assumed to be guaranteed becomes immutable
    • deep symbols of modernity and progress are reorganised as fleeting, ephemeral, systems.
  • (iii) Changing nature of war
    • Single hyperpower, “new wars”, assymetric ‘frontier land’ warfare, 24/7 mediatisation
    • ‘ Revolution in Military Affairs’ (RMA)
    • War being urbanised and fought through everyday technics and socio-natures
    • "City-dwellers are particularly at risk when their complex and sophisticated infrastructure systems are destroyed and rendered inoperable, or when they become isolated from external contacts" Barakat
  • (3) Two-Sides : (i) ‘Cyber-Terror’ Discourse
    • ‘ Netwar’ : asymmetric, distanciated conflict
    • Coordinated, unseen, and distant attacks by terrorists (especially al-Qaeda)
    • Everyday technics agents of mass murder and ‘decyborganisation’
    • ‘ Always on’ economy: Cascading effects, ‘swarming attacks’
    • “ Electronic Pearl Harbor’
    • Threat enhanced by deregulation
  • But (So Far) Largely Chimerical
    • 1996-2003: 217,394 ‘security incidents’ (Carnegie Mellon) not a single one can be defined as cyber terror
    • Accessing computer network does not translate to control of the infrastructure
    • Still require human intervention
    • Accustomed to failure
    • "Hoaxes and myths about information warfare contaminate everything from official reports to newspaper stories" (Smith, 1998).
    • "If terrorism is an act of violence to achieve political objects, how useful will terrorists find a weapon whose effects may not even be noticed, or, in the case of economic attacks, where damage might be gradual or cumulative?”
    • (Lewis, 2003)
  • (ii) State-Backed Infrastructural War
    • Much more neglected
    • US increasingly uses elaborate infrastructural warfare strategies to sustain global military hegemony
    • ‘ Vertical geopolitics’ : air and orbital/space power to sustain urban demodernisation and disconnection
    • Also central to Israeli strategy of ‘Urbicide’
    • John Warden’s “Enemy as a System ”. Basis for US doctrine : “ Strategic Ring Theory”
    • Legitimises civilian infrastructures as ‘dual-use targets’
    • Ritzer "by declaring dual-use targets legitimate military objectives, the Air Force can directly target civilian morale".
    • Edward Felker’s (1998) embellishment of Warden
    • Infrastructure, rather than a separate 'ring' of the 'enemy as a system', in fact pervades, and connects, all the others to actually " constitute the society as a whole"
    • "If infrastructure links the subsystems of a society," he wrote, "might it be the most important target ?" (1998).
  • Difficulty in communicating with non-combatants Inability to prepare and process some foods Disruption to water supply, treatment facilities, and sanitation Increased numbers of non-combatants requiring assistance Hygiene problems Disruption in some transportation and communications services Rising rates of malnutrition Shortage of clean water for drinking, cleaning and preparing food No electronic access to bank accounts/money Rising disease rates Increased reliance on battery-powered items for news, broadcasts, etc. Inoperable hospital electronic equipment Decreased Situational Awareness Increased requirement for night vision devices Some stoves/ovens non operable Decreased mobility Increased requirement for power generating equipment No refrigeration Greater logistics complexity Erosion of command and control capabilities No light after dark or in building interiors Third Order Effects Second Order Effects First Order Effects
  • (4) Case Study 1: Systematic De-electrification - Serbia 1999
    • NATO strategy "designed to demolish, destroy, devastate, degrade, and ultimately eliminate the essential infrastructure of the country" (Clark)
    • Between the 13th and 31st of May highly classified weapons used, known as BLU-114 'Soft' Bombs
    • Short-circuited 37 electrical transformers, plunging large swathes of Serbia into a blackout for four days
    • By May 24th "the foundations of the elementary well-being of ordinary men, women and children have already been destroyed" (Cohen in Nation ).
    • Lt. General Michael C. Short: "had airmen been in charge, it would have been done differently. I felt that on the first night [of the bombing] the power should have gone off, and major bridges around Belgrade should lave gone into the Danube, and the water should have been cut off"
  • Case Study 2: ‘Bomb Now, Die Later’ : The ‘War on Public Health’ in Iraq -- 1991-2003
    • "Destroying the means of producing electricity is particularly attractive because it can not be stockpiled" (Bolkcom and Pike, 1993)
    • Gen. David Deptula 1991: “hey, your lights will come back on as soon as you get rid of Saddam !"
    • General Buster Glosson 1991 : ”I want to put every [Iraqi] household in an autonomous mode and make them feel they were isolated… We wanted to play with their psyche"
    • ” There was considerable discussion of the results that could be expected from attacking electric power. Some argued that … the loss of electricity in Baghdad and other cities would have little effect on popular morale ; others argued that the affluence created by petro-dollars had made the city populations psychologically dependent on the amenities associated with electric power"
    • (Keaney and Cohen, 1993)
    • In 1991 88% electric power capacity destroyed
    • 20 generator sites 100% destroyed
    • Turbine halls repeatedly bombed despite being banned in ROE (‘easy targets’ and many spare ‘planes hanging around)
    • al-Hartha power plant in Basra bombed 13 times
    • At wars’ end 4% pre-war supplies left
  • Sanctions, Bombing, and 2003 Invasion Added to Humanitarian Disaster
    • Apocalyptic demodernisation of highly urban-industrial nation
    • Water and sanitation collapse
    • Fully predicted by U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in 1991
    • 111,000 civilian deaths attributable to postwar adverse health effects
    • Between 1991 and 1998 over 500,000 excess deaths amongst Iraqi children under five
  • Case Study 3: Towards State Computer Network Attack (CNA)
    • "The challenge is to break into the computer systems that control a country's infrastructure, with the result that the civilian infra-structure of a nation would be held hostage" (Church, 2000).
    • Joint Warfare Analysis Center at Dahlgren (Va.). Major General Bruce Wright: "a team at the Center can can tell you not just how a power plant or rail system is built, but what exactly is involved in keeping that system up and making that system efficient"
  • (5) Conclusions : Demodernisation, Democracy, Geopolitics
    • Everyday urban technics emerging as key geopolitical sites
    • Binaries breaking down: civil/military, inside/ outside, war/peace, local/global, domestic/ international
    • Potentially boundless and continuous landscapes of conflict, risk and unpredictable, distanciated attack
    • War increasingly becomes a strategy of deliberate de-cyborganisation and demodernisation through orchestrated assaults on everyday, networked, technics
    • “ War, in this sense, is everywhere and everything. It is large and small. It has no boundaries in time and space. Life itself is war" (Agre, 2001)
    • (i) “States of Emergency” and Militarisation: ‘temporary’ suspension of civilian polities and strategies to secure ‘critical infrastructures’ and spaces in ‘homeland’
    • ” Security thus imposes itself of the basic principle of state activity" (Agamben).
    • (ii) Dualisation : networked homeland with ‘Critical Infrastructure Protection’ for western ‘political beings’ vs. demodernisable global peripheries sustaining ‘bare life’ ?
    • Added “accumulation by dispossession”
    • Demodernisation in Iraq & Palestine: vicious circle with Orientalist discourses about ‘premodern’, ‘barbarian’ ‘terrorist nests’..
  • Finally, and crucially, US Military Strategy increasingly integrates the two domains
    • Huber and Mills : “cities like New York must now learn to watch and track everything that moves" whilst US forces “fight a never-ending succession of micro-scale battles, spreading military resources across vast expanses of empty land penetrating deep into the shadows of lives lived at the margins of human existence”
    • “ Properly deployed at home, as they can be, these technologies of freedom will guarantee the physical security on which all our civil liberties ultimately depend. Properly deployed abroad, they will destroy privacy everywhere we need to destroy it.[…] At home and abroad, it will end up as their sons against our silicon. Our silicon will win"