Nick Turse reports on the recent "Joint Urban Operations" conference, where participants discussed the highly advanced military technologies being contemplated for use in the slums of the global south.
"Duane Schattle doesn't mince words. 'The cities are the problem,' he says. A retired Marine infantry lieutenant colonel who worked on urban warfare issues at the Pentagon in the late 1990s, he now serves as director of the Joint Urban Operations Office at U.S. Joint Forces Command. He sees the war in the streets of Iraq's cities as the prototype for tomorrow's battlespace.
He isn't alone. 'We think urban is the future,' says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. 'Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment.'
The only thing not evidently open to discussion was the basic wisdom of planning to occupy foreign cities for a century to come. Even among the most thoughtful of these often brainy participants, there wasn't a nod toward, or a question asked of, the essential guiding principle of the conference itself.
With their surprisingly bloodless language, antiseptic PowerPoint presentations, and calm tones, these men -- only one woman spoke -- are still planning Iraq-style wars of tomorrow.
The Pentagon has evidently decided to prepare for 100 years more of the same: war against various outposts of a restless, oppressed population of slum-dwellers one billion strong and growing at an estimated rate of 25 million a year. All of these UO experts are preparing for an endless struggle that history suggests they can't win, but that is guaranteed to lead to large-scale destruction, destabilization, and death. Unsurprisingly, the civilians of the cities that they plan to occupy, whether living in Karachi, Jakarta, or Baghdad, have no say in the matter. No one thought to invite any of them to the conference."