[iDC] Global Slum: Digital Narrative and the New Urbanism

Paul D. Miller anansi1 at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 6 01:52:10 UTC 2007

Hey people - this is a rather interesting article 
I picked up a little while ago. I'm a big Mike 
"City of Quartz" Davis fan, so hey... I just 
thought it might provide some food for thought to 
several of the threads going on the list. About 
half the world's population will be in cities 
within the next couple of decades, and the way 
this drives alot of issues - immigration, 
friction points like water, oil, and of course, 
religion - into direct collision, is pretty 
intriguing. The original term "ghetto" after all 
comes from the venerable Venetian Republic. Look 
what that started! The ghetto is a state of mind 
I guess...


Baghdad 2025
     The Pentagon Solution to a Planet of Slums
     By Nick Turse

In our world, the Pentagon and the national 
security bureaucracy have largely taken 
possession of the future. In an exchange in 2002, 
journalist Ron Suskind reported a senior adviser 
to President Bush telling him:

     "that guys like me were 'in what we call the 
reality-based community,' which he defined as 
people who 'believe that solutions emerge from 
your judicious study of discernible reality.' I 
nodded and murmured something about enlightenment 
principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's 
not the way the world really works anymore,' he 
continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, 
we create our own realityŠ We're history's actors 
. . . and you, all of you, will be left to just 
study what we do.'"

Slowly, step by step, the present White House has 
found itself forced back into at least the 
vicinity of the reality-based community. This 
week we may, in fact, get to hear one of the last 
of this President's great Iraqi fictions.

The same cannot be said of the Pentagon and the 
Intelligence Community (IC). They have settled 
into the future and taken it in hand in a 
business-like, if somewhat lurid, way. It's the 
Pentagon that, in 2004, was already producing 
futuristic studies about a globally warmed world 
from Hell; it's the Pentagon's blue-skies 
research agency, DARPA, that regularly lets 
scientists and other thinkers loose to dream 
wildly about future possibilities (and then, of 
course, to create war-fighting weaponry and other 
equipment from those dreams). It's the National 
Nuclear Security Administration that is hard at 
work dreaming up the nature of our nuclear 
arsenal in 2030.

Typical is the National Intelligence Council, a 
"center of strategic thinking within the U.S. 
Government, reporting to the Director of Central 
Intelligence." In 2005, it was already expending 
much effort to create fictional scenarios for 
2010, 2015, and 2020. Someone I know recently 
attended workshops the Council's long-range 
assessment unit organized, trying to look at the 
"threats after next" -- and this time they were 
deep into the 2020s.

The future -- whether imagined as utopian or 
dystopian -- was, not so long ago, the province 
of dreamers, or actual writers of fiction, or 
madmen and cranks, or reformers and journalists, 
or even wanna-be war-fighters, but not so 
regularly of actual war-fighters, or secretaries 
of defense, or presidents. In our time, the 
Pentagon and the IC have quite literally become 
the fantasy-based community. And yet, strangely 
enough, the urge of our top policy-makers (and 
allied academics and scientists) to spend their 
time in relatively distant futures has been 
little explored or considered by others.

A couple of things can be said about this near 
compulsion. First, it's largely confined to the 
arts of war. There is no equivalent in our 
government when it comes to health care or 
education, retirement or housing. No well-funded 
government think-tanks and lousy-with-loot 
research organizations are ready to let anyone 
loose dreaming about our planet's endangered 
environment, for instance. The future -- the only 
one our government seems truly to care about -- 
is most distinctly not good for you. It's a 
totally weaponized, grimly dystopian health 
hazard for the planet.

Of course, future fictions are notorious for 
their wrong-headedness. All you have to do is 
check out old utopian or dystopian fiction, if 
you don't believe me. The scandal here is not 
that, like most human beings, our soldiers and 
spies are sure to be desperately wrong on most 
aspects of their future fictions. The scandal is 
that we're mortgaging our wealth and our futures, 
whatever they may be, to their bloodcurdling, 
self-interested, and often absurd fantasies.

After all, they're running a giant, massively 
profitable business operation off fictional 
futures, while creating their own armed reality 
at our expense. Tomdispatch this month is focused 
on the imperial path, the Pentagon, and 
militarization. This week two splendid 
researchers and writers, Nick Turse and Frida 
Berrigan, are considering the futures the 
Pentagon has in mind for us. Today, Turse 
explores the dreams Pentagon planners are 
propounding about future war-fighting in the 
burgeoning slums of our planetary mega-cities and 
the high-tech gear and weaponry that is being 
produced for those dreams. Tuesday, Berrigan will 
focus on major American weapons systems being 
prepared for a planet that will never exist.


     Baghdad 2025
     The Pentagon Solution to a Planet of Slums
     By Nick Turse

     So you think that American troops, fighting 
in the urban maze of Baghdad's huge Shiite slum, 
Sadr City, add up to nothing more than a horrible 
mistake, an unexpected fiasco? The Pentagon begs 
to differ. For years now, U.S. war planners have 
believed that guerrilla warfare is the future -- 
not against Guevarist focos in the countryside of 
some recalcitrant, possibly-oil-rich land, but in 
growing urban "jungles" in the vast slum cities 
that increasingly dot the planet.

     Take this urban-labyrinth description, for 
instance. "Indigenous forces deploying mortars 
transported by local vehicles and ready to 
rapidly deploy, shoot, and re-cover are commonŠ 
[Meanwhile,] an infantry company as part of the 
US rapid reaction forces has been tasked with 
theŠ mission to secure several objectives 
including the command and control cell within a 
100 square block urban area of the capitalŠ"

     Is it Baghdad? It's certainly possible, since 
the passage was written in 2004 with urban 
warfare in Iraq's capital already an increasingly 
grim reality for Washington's military planners. 
But the actual report -- by an official from the 
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency 
(DARPA), the Pentagon's blue-skies research 
outfit -- focused on cities-of-the-future, of 
2025 to be exact, as part of "a new DARPA thrust 
into Urban Combat."

     Fear of urban warfare has long been an aspect 
of American military planning. Planners remember 
urban killing zones of the past where U.S. forces 
sometimes suffered grievous casualties, including 
in Hue, South Vietnam's old imperial capital, 
where "devastating" losses were incurred by the 
Marines in 1968; in the Black-Hawk Down debacle 
in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993, where local 
militias inflicted 60% casualties on Army 
Rangers; and, of course, in the still-ongoing 
catastrophe in Iraq's cities.

     In fact, military planners cannot have been 
shocked to find themselves fighting in the 
streets and alleyways of Baghdad (as well as 
Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, Najaf, and Tal Afar) 
these last years. Prior to the Bush 
administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq, American 
newspapers were full of largely military-leaked 
or inspired fears that, as Rajiv Chandrasekaran 
wrote in the Washington Post in late September 
2002, Saddam Hussein "would respond to a U.S. 
invasion by attempting toŠ draw U.S. forces into 
high-risk urban warfare." It was feared that the 
taking of "fortress Baghdad," as then Defense 
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld termed it, might prove 
costly indeed.

     On April 8, 2003, however, the Washington 
Post reported that "U.S. Army troops rolled into 
Baghdad" and conventional wisdom in and out of 
the administration held that "victory" -- the 
very name given to the first major base the U.S. 
established in Iraq, "Camp Victory" right at the 
edge of Baghdad International Airport -- was 
close at hand.

     That was then, of course. Last October 8th, 
exactly 3 years and 6 months later, the Post 
confirmed that the worst pre-invasion fears of 
military planners had, in fact, come true - even 
if somewhat belatedly and with Saddam Hussein 
imprisoned somewhere in the confines of Camp 
Victory. The "number of U.S troops wounded in 
Iraq," wrote reporter Ann Scott Tyson, "has 
surged to its highest monthly level in nearly two 
years as American GIs fight block-by-block in 
Baghdad." In fact, aside from the huge Sunni 
stronghold of Anbar Province, Baghdad had, by 
then, become the deadliest location for U.S. 
troops in Iraq and urban warfare in a slum city, 
involving snipers, IEDs, suicide car bombs, and 
ambushes of all sorts had, it seemed, become 
America's military fate.

     DARPA's Future War on the Urban Poor

     In his tour de force Planet of Slums, Mike 
Davis observes, "the Pentagon's best minds have 
dared to venture where most United Nations, World 
Bank or State Department types fear to goŠ [T]hey 
now assert that the 'feral, failed cities' of the 
Third World --especially their slum outskirts -- 
will be the distinctive battlespace of the 
twenty-first century." Pentagon war-fighting 
doctrine, he notes, "is being reshaped 
accordingly to support a low-intensity world war 
of unlimited duration against criminalized 
segments of the urban poor."

     In fact, this past October the U.S. Army 
issued its latest "urban operations" manual. 
"Given the global population trends and the 
likely strategies and tactics of future threats," 
it declares, "Army forces will likely conduct 
operations in, around, and over urban areas -- 
not as a matter of fate, but as a deliberate 
choice linked to national security objectives and 
strategy, and at a time, place, and method of the 
commander's choosing." Global economic 
deprivation and poor housing, the hallmarks of 
the urban slum, are, the manual asserts, what 
makes "urban areas potential sources of unrest" 
and thus, "[i]ncreases the likelihood of the 
Army's involvement in stability operations." And 
"idle" urban youth (long a target of security 
forces in the U.S. homeland), loosed in the 
future slum city from the "traditional social 
controls" of "village elders and clan leaders" 
and prey to manipulation by "nonstate actors" 
draw particular concern from the manual's authors.

     Given the assumed need to be in the urban 
Iraqs of the future, the question for the U.S. 
military becomes a practical one: How to deal 
with these uppity children of the third world. 
That's where DARPA and other Department of 
Defense (DoD) dreamers come in. According to 
DARPA's 2004 report, what's needed are "new 
systems and technologies for prosecution of urban 
warfareŠ [and] new operational methods for our 
soldiers, Marines, and special operations forces."

     Today, DARPA, and other Pentagon ventures 
like the Small Business Innovation Research 
Program (in which the "DoD funds early-stage R&D 
projects at small technology companies") and the 
Small Business Technology Transfer Program (where 
funding goes to "cooperative R&D projects 
involving a small business and a research 
institution") are awash in "urban 
operations-oriented programs." These go by the 
acronym of UO and are designed to support 
tomorrow's interventions and occupations. The 
Director of DARPA's Information Exploitation 
Office put it this way:

         "[They are aimed at] conflicts in high 
density urban areasŠ against enemies having 
social and cultural traditions that may be 
counter-intuitive to us, and whose actions often 
appear to be irrational because we don't 
understand their context."

     These programs include a wide range of 
efforts to visualize, map out, and spy on the 
global mega-favelas that the U.S. has, until now, 
largely scorned and neglected. A host of unmanned 
vehicles are also being readied for surveillance 
and combat in these future "hot-zones," while all 
sorts of lethal enhancements are in various 
stages of development to enable American troops 
to more effectively kick down the doors of the 
poor in 2025.

     Urban Planning, Pentagon-style: Spider-Men and Exploding Frisbees

     So let's try to fill out that futuristic 
combat scenario in the planet's urban jungles 
with a little futuristic detail. Current 
UO-oriented systems under development include:

     VisiBuilding: This is a program aimed at 
addressing "a pressing need in urban warfare: 
seeing inside buildings" by developing technology 
that will allow U.S. forces to "determine 
building layouts, find anomalous quantities of 
materials," and "locate people within the 
building." According to Edward Baranoski of 
DARPA's Special Projects Office, Visibuilding 
will allow "a lot of opportunity to stake out 
buildings and really see inside." Think of it as 
a high-tech military Peeping Tom system that lets 
U.S. troops spy inside foreign homes and make 
judgments about whatever they might deem 
"anomalous" inside. While VisiBuilding is in 
development, troops will have to be content with 
"Radar Scope" which allows them to "sense through 
12 inches of concrete to determine if someone is 
inside a building."

     Camouflaged Long Endurance Nano Sensors: This 
"real-time ultra-wideband radar networkŠ will 
detect, classify, localize, and track dismounted 
combatantsŠ in urban environments." In 
translation, a system of palm-sized, networked 
sensors will monitor an area, day in, day out for 
weeks at a time. This is what DARPA likes to call 
"persistent surveillance." The U.S. military has 
headed down this particular surveillance path 
before via the ill-fated McNamara Line and 
various people-sniffer devices, all of which 
proved incapable of differentiating between armed 
combatants and civilians in Vietnam era. On this 
score, there's little reason to believe anything 
will change in future alien urban slums, despite 
the increasing technological sophistication of 
such systems.

     UrbanScape: This program aims "to make the 
foreign city as 'familiar as the soldier's 
backyard'" by providing "the warfighters 
patrolling an urban environment with an 
up-to-date, high resolution model of the urban 
terrain that can be viewed, manipulated and 
analyzed." Specially-outfitted unmanned aerial 
vehicles (UAVs) and Humvees are to gather data 
about a target city and then translate it into 3D 
visuals. These images will then be available to 
troops for use in navigating through and 
conducting combat operations in tomorrow's 
labyrinthine slums.

     Heterogeneous Urban RSTA Team: With the apt 
acronym of HURT, this program will network 
together a squadron of small, low-altitude UAVs 
sending video footage to hand-held devices for 
the immediate use of urban RSTA (reconnaissance, 
surveillance, and target acquisition) troops. 
This high-tech system is designed, according to 
DARPA's director, Dr. Anthony J. Tether, to 
provide U.S. forces with "unprecedented awareness 
that enables them to shape and control [a] 
conflict as it unfolds." It is meant to improve 
the odds when American counterinsurgency warriors 
take on "warfighters in a MOUT [Military 
Operations on Urban Terrain] environment" or any 
rag-tag slum militia of tomorrow. If a report by 
the Pentagon Channel News is to be believed, HURT 
will be operational by 2008.

     The Air Force is, in turn, seeking the 
"ability to continuously track, tag, and locate 
(TTL) asymmetric threats in urban environments 
using sensors across the tiers of airborne 
assets." What they envision is a slew of UAVs 
loitering long-term above hostile cities and 
slums, ready at a moment's notice to spot a 
target and begin tracking it. Such "targets" 
might be "commercial vehicles" or individuals 
identified through a "hyperspectral imaging HSI 
video camera" that allows for "the frequency 
spectrum of clothes, hair, and skin [to] be 
exploited" thus providing "targeting level 
accuracy to weapon delivery assets." Think of it 
as the high-tech urban hunter-killer system for 
the neo-colonial future. While the Air Force sees 
this as a way to target and kill "anti-occupation 
forces" in Baghdad 2025, they also envision it 
doing double duty in the Homeland where, they 
say, "law enforcement require[s] urban target 

     Nano Air Vehicle: Imagine a world in which 
mechanical gnats infest a city, buzzing through 
people's homes, intruding on their lives, filming 
whatever they choose with tiny cameras and 
transmitting the data back to U.S. troops. This 
program aims to "develop and demonstrate an 
extremely small (less than 7.5 cm), 
ultra-lightweight (less than 10 grams) air 
vehicle systemŠ to provide the warfighter with 
unprecedented capability for urban mission 

     Additionally, there's the Multi Dimensional 
Mobility Robot (MDMR), which "will traverse 
complex urban terrain"; the Micro Air Vehicle 
(MAV) a small, vertical take-off and landing UAV 
that will be "employable in a variety of 
warfighting environments" including "urban 
areas"; and the intriguing but shadowy Urban 
Hopping Robots program whose project manager, Dr. 
Michael Obal, declined to answer Tomdispatch's 
inquiries about the project. Jan R. Walker of 
DARPA's External Relations office told 
Tomdispatch in an email that there is "very 
limited information available on the Urban 
Hopping Robots program," but suggested that the 
"program is developing a semi-autonomous hybrid 
hopping/articulated wheeled robotic platform that 
could adapt to the urban environment in real-time 
and provide the delivery of small payloads to any 
point of the urban jungle while remaining 
lightweight, small to minimize the burden on the 
soldier." The proposed hopping robot, she noted, 
"would be truly multi-functional in that it will 
negotiate all aspects of the urban battlefield to 
deliver payloads to non-line-of-sight areas with 

     Z-Man: Copyright infringement was probably 
the only thing that stopped this DARPA program 
from being called the "Spiderman Project." 
Basically, Z-Man seeks to "develop climbing aids 
that will enable an individual soldier to scale 
vertical walls constructed of typical building 
materials without the need for ropes or ladders." 
The Pentagon is aiming to find methods similar to 
those employed by "geckos, spiders, and small 
animals [to] scale vertical surfaces, that is, by 
using unique biological material systems that 
enable controllable adhesion." This weaponized 
wall-crawler, assumedly capable of creeping into 
some 2025 apartment window in Baghdad, Beruit, or 
Kerachi "carrying a combat load," definitely is 
not meant to be your friendly neighborhood 

     Modular Disc-Wing (Frisbee) Urban Cruise 
Munition: Yes, you read it right, the Air Force 
has green-lighted Triton Systems, Inc. to create 
"a MEFP [Multiple Explosively Formed 
Penetrator]-armed Lethal Frisbee UAV." That is, a 
flying disk that will "locate defiladed 
combatants in complex urban terrain" and 
annihilate them using a bunker-buster warhead. 
Unlike your run-of-the mill Wham-O, however, this 
"frisbee" will probably be thrown using a device 
resembling a skeet launcher.

     Close Combat Lethal Recon This deadly, 
loitering explosive expressively for use in urban 
landscapes will expand a soldier's killing zone 
by reaching "over and around buildings, onto 
rooftops, and into open building portals." Think 
of it as a smart grenade or, according to DARPA 
Director Tether, "a tube-launched cruise munition 
that can be used by a dismounted infantryman in 
an urban area to attack a target, perhaps spotted 
by a UAV, which is beyond his line of sight. It's 
like a small mortar round with a grenade-size 
explosive in it. A fiber-optic line unreels from 
its back end and provides the data link that 
allows the soldier to see the video from the 
munition's camera and to fly it into the target."

     Training for Tomorrow's Urban Occupations

     Just a cursory glance at last year's Pentagon 
expenditures makes clear the heavy emphasis on 
training the men and women who are slated to use 
DARPA's high-tech urban weapons against 
slum-dwellers in the coming years. In March 2006, 
the Army signed a nearly $25 million contract 
"for construction of a combined arms collective 
training facility/urban assault complex" at Fort 
Carson, Colorado. In August, the Navy inked an 
$18.5 million deal for the "design and 
construction of a combined arms military 
operations in urban terrain facility" at 
Twenty-nine Palms, California. In September, the 
Army approved a contract for the construction of 
an Urban Assault Course at Fort Jackson, South 
Carolina. In November, the Navy awarded a 
$12,500,000 contract for construction of a 
"Special Operations Force Military Operations on 
Urban Terrain Training Complex" at San Clemente 
Island, California. And in December 2006, the 
Army agreed to pay $11,838,998 for a new 
"Military Operations Urban Terrain Facility" for 
Fort Irwin, California.

     The Pentagon has even exported its urban 
warfare training centers to sites closer to 
tomorrow's prospective targets, such as the 
Army's custom-made MOUT facilities at Bagram Air 
Base, Afghanistan and at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. 
In November 2006, the Army awarded General 
Dynamics a $17 million contract to construct an 
urban combat training site as part of the King 
Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in 
Jordan -- a facility which will, according to an 
Army spokesman, be available to "all friendly 
nations that support the War on Terror."

     American Terminators vs. Drug-Dealing Serial-Killer Guerillas

     As both the high-tech programs and the 
proliferating training facilities suggest, the 
Pentagon views the foreign slum city of tomorrow 
as a dystopian nightmare and the bloody 
battlespace to be feared and controlled in the 
coming decades. Beyond this, the Pentagon 
exhibits a palpable fear of urban disorder of any 
sort. In response, it is creating its own 
Hollywood-style solutions to its Hollywood-esque 
Escape From New 
vision of the Third World city to come.

     For example, the Navy/Marine Corps recently 
launched a program seeking to develop algorithms 
to predict the criminality of a given building or 
neighborhood. The project, titled "Finding 
Repetitive Crime Supporting Structures," defines 
cities as nothing more than a collection of 
"urban clutter [that] affords considerable 
concealment for the actors that we must capture." 
The "hostile behavior bad actors," as the program 
terms them, are defined not just as "terrorists," 
today's favorite catch-all boogiemen, but as a 
panoply of nightmare archetypes: "insurgents, 
serial killers, drug dealers, etc." For its part, 
the Army's recently revised "Urban Operations" 
manual offers an even more extensive list of 
"persistent and evolving urban threats," 
including regional conventional military forces, 
paramilitary forces, guerrillas, and insurgents 
as well as terrorists, criminal groups, and angry 
crowds. In fact, even the threat of computer 
"hackers" are mentioned.

     To do battle in dystopian mega-cities where 
serial killers, druglords, hackers, and urban 
guerillas may have joined forces, DARPA is intent 
on developing a program worthy of a 
direct-to-video sci-fi thriller. In a recent 
solicitation, it offered a vision of a 
human-robot military SWAT team busting down doors 
in a favela of the future. It reads:

         "The challenge is to create a system 
demonstrating the use of multiple robots with one 
or more humans on a highly constrained tactical 
maneuverŠ One example of such a maneuver is the 
through-the-door procedure often used by police 
and soldiers to enter an urban dwellingŠ [where] 
one kicks in the door then pulls back so another 
can enter low and move left, followed by another 
who enters high and moves right, etc. In this 
project the teams will consist of robot platforms 
working with one or more human teammates as a 
cohesive unit. The robots should be under 
autonomous control rather than 

     This scenario of tomorrow already seems well 
launched. The military has, in fact, been 
obsessed with the idea of sending to war 
heavily-armed, tele-operated robots - such as the 
Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance 
Detection System, or SWORDS Talon, a small, 
all-terrain tracked vehicle, used by the U.S. 
military since 2000, that can be outfitted with 
M240 or M249 machine guns, Barrett 50-caliber 
rifles, 40 mm grenade launchers, and anti-tank 
rocket launchers.

     Pentagon to Global Cities: Drop Dead

     This past fall, the Pentagon's U.S. Joint 
Forces Command engaged in a $25 million, 35-day, 
computer-based simulation exercise involving more 
than 1,400 soldiers, marines, airmen, and 
sailors. A year in the making, "Urban Resolve 
2015" had one simple goal -- to test concepts for 
future "combat in cities" -- and, not 
surprisingly, it was set in Baghdad 2015. An 
article put out by the Pentagon's American Forces 
Press Service was quick to say, however, that the 
virtual exercise really could be taking place in 
"any urban environment." And the reason why was 
clear in the words of Dave Ozolek, the executive 
director of the Joint Futures Lab at the Joint 
Forces Command. Urban zones, he said, are "where 
the fight is, that's where the enemy is, that['s] 
where the center of gravity for the whole 
operation is."

     While the Joint Forces Command may already be 
war-gaming the 2015 Battle for Baghdad, right now 
it looks like the U.S. military will have trouble 
hanging on there for even a couple of more years. 
Still, if present plans become reality, odds are 
U.S. military planners will be attempting to 
occupy some city, in some fashion, come 2015 and 
2025. In the future, as the Army's new Urban 
Operations Manual puts it, "every Soldier -- 
regardless of branch or military occupational 
specialty -- must be committed and prepared to 
close with and kill or capture threat forces in 
an urban environment."

     The way the Pentagon seems to envision the 
future, its human-robot expeditionary forces will 
spend increasing amounts of time dropping in on 
Third World super-slums armed not only with heavy 
weaponry, but also with gadgets galore. They will 
be able to read instant 3D maps of the buildings 
they're approaching and watch real-time video of 
the most intimate activities in the urban zone 
they've been tasked to subdue.

     As tiny flying UAVs blanket an impoverished 
neighborhood, a squad of special-ops Spidermen 
and Geko warriors will crawl and slither up 
apartment-building walls, while teams of robots 
are simultaneously hopping through first floor 
windows, and Terminator-Human teams are kicking 
down front doors to capture an enemy drug 
kingpin. Nearby "angry crowds" of 
politically-minded youth will be engaged by 
heavily-armed tele-operated SWORDS Talon robots, 
while a few up-armored cyborg troops, at a safe 
distance, fire their loitering smart grenades at 
a gathering crowd of armed slum-dwellers who 
believe themselves well hidden and protected in 
nearby alleyways.

     Of course, no matter the fantasies of 
Pentagon scientists and planners, such futuristic 
solutions will not replace U.S. reliance on 
massive firepower, even in labyrinthine cities, 
as was true with Tokyo during World War II, 
Pyongyang during the Korean War, Ben Tre in 
Vietnam, and the Sunni city of Fallujah during 
the current war in Iraq. As Major Tim Karcher, 
the operations officer for the Army's Task Force 
2-7 Cavalry, recalled of the American assault on 
Fallujah in November 2004, "We sat there for a 
good six or seven hoursŠwatchingŠ this death and 
destruction rain down on the city, from AC-130 
[gunship]s to any kind of fast-moving aircraft, 
155 [millimeter] howitzers. You name it, 
everybody was getting in the mix."

     Given the military's fear of sending large 
numbers of American troops into the enemy- 
friendly landscape of the urban mega-slum, where 
significant casualties are almost unavoidable, 
this form of Pentagon-preferred urban renewal is 
unlikely to be replaced, no matter what 
technologies come down the pike.

     The Military and the Metropolis

     Cities are obviously on the Pentagon's hit 
list - today, it's Baghdad; tomorrow 2015 or 
2025, if military planners are right, it could be 
Accra, Bogotá, Dhaka, Karachi, Kinshasa, Lagos, 
Mogadishu or even a perenial favorite, Port au 
Prince. Regardless of the exact locale, Pentagon 
strategists looking into the DARPA crystal ball 
of the future have determined that urban slums 
will be a crucial battleground, and slum-dwellers 
a crucial enemy.

     Yet the outlook for the U.S. military is not 
upbeat -- even with high-tech exploding frisbees, 
spider-man suits, terminator-like robots, and 
urban training facilities galore coming on line. 
In the wars begun since the U.S. high command 
moved into its own self-described virtual "city" 
-- the Pentagon -- a distinct inability to 
decisively defeat any but its weakest foes has 
been in evidence.

     Korea in the early 1950s, Vietnam in the 
1960s and 70s, Lebanon in the early 1980s, 
Somalia in the early 1990s were all failures. 
More recently, victory in Afghanistan has proved 
worse than elusive and a ragtag insurgency in 
Iraq has fought the Pentagon's technological 
dominance and superior firepower to a standstill. 
While able to cause massive casualties and 
tremendous destruction, the Pentagon war machine 
has proven remarkably ineffectual when it comes 
to achieving actual victory.

     Now, the Pentagon has decided to prepare for 
a fight with a restless, oppressed population of 
slum-dwellers one billion strong and growing at 
an estimated rate of 25 million people per year. 
To take on even lone outposts in this multitude 
-- like any of the 400 cities of over 1 million 
people that exist today or the 150 more estimated 
to be in existence by 2015 -- is a fool's errand, 
a recipe for both carnage and quagmire.

     Nick Turse is the associate editor and 
research director of Tomdispatch.com. He has 
written for the Los Angeles Times, the San 
Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, the Village 
Voice, and regularly for Tomdispatch.

Copyright 2007 Nick Turse

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