John Robb over at Global Guerillas had a post on the Role of Cities in 5GW (Fifth Generation Warfare) and he does make some excellent points, but more could be said about two issues. His post begins:
Saturday, October 21, 2006
THE ROLE OF CITIES
During the years between world wars one and two, strategists like J.F.C. Fuller contemplated the role of cities in light of his work on the emerging theory of maneuver warfare (3GW). They speculated that cities, particularly large ones in a strategic locations, could be used to dampen or stop the rapid advance of maneuver forces seeding chaos in their rear areas. This analysis proved out, particularly in the steppes of Russia, as cities proved their ability to first slow and then bleed maneuver forces dry. Within the context of emerging theories of system disruption, that are emerging as this war slowly ramps-up, cities play an entirely different role. As the events in Baghdad are proving daily, cities can be engineered to radiate instability rather than dampen it. This is accomplished through acts that leverage three attributes of modern cities. These include:
- Extreme mobility and interconnectedness (for example, high rates of automobile and cell phone ownership).
- Complete reliance on high volume infrastructure networks.
- Complex and heterogeneous social networks that are held together under pressure.
First, the understanding of cities as a vector of insurgency is nothing new. The Polish Resistance understood this effect very well, and used it to maximum extent in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Of course, most in the West have not really studied this extensively, although Norman Davies’ excellent book Rising ’44 The Battle for Warsaw gives a quite detailed account, (and also properly describes the inaction on the part of USA, England and the Soviets in assisting the ’44 Uprising) A very telling quote is the diary entry of the Nazi Governor-General Hans Frank:
“In this country we have one point from which all evil emanates. That point is Warsaw. If we didn’t have Warsaw in the General-Government [General-Government was the name of the Nazi occupied Poland -ef ] we wouldn’t have four-fifths of the difficulties with which we must contend.”
The other item that should be discussed is the issue of primary loyalties, and how that relates to the structure of a city. Cities are, in reality, collections of neighborhoods each with it’s own identity. This is much more true in traditional European cities, and is also very true in older cities of the Middle East. These primary loyalties grow out of the development of the city based on primary ergonomic factors: the need for humans for supporting networks (such as water distribution) and the comfortable walking distance of average adult person.
Leon Krier had identified a radius of about 2,000 feet as describing the maximum size of a neighborhood, which had originally developed around wells or other public water gathering points, but today is more likely to be centered on a public mass transit points, markets or even institutions, such as places of worship, or even libraries. As the Global Guerilla stresses rise on these neighborhoods, I believe they will prove much more resilient as sources of legitimate power and authority than most observers presently realize, and one of the ways to make the chaos of the USA’s exit be less chaotic may well be to empower these agencies, rather than try to fight them. Once they are in a position of power, more responsibility and negotiating sophistication may grow within those emergent structures. But they need to experience power in order to understand the nature of their responsibility.
Yes, there exist risks in this approach, but it may be the last best chance to avoid the continuance of what is now a total civil war. I don’t think this will change the eventual out come, but it may make it just a little less bloody, and the achievement of even a small decrease in the human cost of this failure is a small victory.