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New Left Review 44, March-April 2007


As Bush pours extra troops into Baghdad, Pentagon strategists plan for the urban future of warfare. Stephen Graham surveys the emerging network of US military training facilities—Potemkin battlefields and slum simulacra designed to replicate the alleyways of the global South.

STEPHEN GRAHAM

WAR AND THE CITY

Western military strategy was long premised on the avoidance of urban combat, with air strikes the preferred method of subduing large conurbations. Cities were seen as targets, not battlefields. But today, the cityscapes of the global South have emerged as paradigmatic conflict zones. Since the end of the Cold War, America’s militarized thrust into the Middle East and Central Eurasia has focused Pentagon planners’ attention on the burgeoning Arab and Third World cities that are now deemed de facto sites of current and future warfare for us forces. While the ‘revolution in military affairs’ emphasized overhead dominance, the losing battle for the streets of Iraq has sharpened the Pentagon’s focus on battles within the micro-geographies of slums, favelas, industrial districts and casbahs, as well as on globe-spanning stealth and surveillance technologies. [1] Mike Davis, ‘The urbanization of Empire: Megacities and the laws of chaos’, Social Text, vol. 22, no. 4, 2004, pp. 9–15.

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