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May 12, 2006


mark safranski

"the Pentagon discovered that this technology isn't applicable to the slum periphery, to the labyrinthine, unmapped, almost unknown parts of the city which lack hierarchies, lack centralized infrastructures, lack tall buildings. There's really quite an extraordinary military literature trying to address what the Pentagon sees as the most novel terrain of this century, which it now models in the slums of Karachi, Port au Prince, and Baghdad. A lot of this goes back to the experience of Mogadish"

Curtis LeMay would have disagreed. This situation depends critically on our political unwilingness to use total war methods.It is not like there weren't bad parts of London, Berlin or other European cities in WWII. We simply didn't care and firebombed Dreseden to ashes.

That being said, the point is valid so long as the political situation prevails and was part of Western history.French politics had been critically affected by the ability of slum dwellers to barricade their streets until Napoleon III flattened them and built broad avenues. Hitler too opened up the area aound the Reich chancellry to thwart revolution.

Remove the international media from an urban combat zone, cut or jam electronic communication links and a greater scope of force will be used in the future. Political attitudes at home may change in the aftermath of a catastrophic terror attack by Islamists. What was once intolerable to the American public might very well be demanded in way of retaliation against " them".


There's truth to what Mark states. If the US people ever get really pissed off by a large scale WMD terrorist attack (that's the imaginery line in the sand I think), then of course you can carpet bomb a city into oblivion.

However, I don't think you'll ever cut off the media access in a warzone in this day and age. Too many sources and capabilities to transmit information.

And like it or not, we are Goliath, so when we enter the third world slums, the moral level of warfare is very apprarent to me as being the critical battleground.

John Robb

Total war is dead guys. From here on out, everything is limited. When I eventually get this effing book out, you will be able to read my argument on the topic.

phil jones

Worth looking where the slums come from.


Mark, just as a matter of interest, if the US does go the total war (ie. mass killing civilians) route, will you still find that there's any moral difference between it and the terrorists?

If so, on wht grounds? Are you just going to try to argue that "we're better because they started it".


Well yes, extended total war is dead.

The "spasm" were we nuke a city is total war, just with limited duration.

mark safranski

"Mark, just as a matter of interest, if the US does go the total war (ie. mass killing civilians) route, will you still find that there's any moral difference between it and the terrorists?"


I'm *not* advocating adopting total warfare tactics or finding them morally laudable, I'm saying that they could be resuurected if the political circumstances that currently prohibit them change.

And I'd agree with John that extended total war between major states is a thing of the past. I'm talking about temporary " spasms" ( a good term, Andy)

If I recall, William Lind suggested something similar, citing the Assad regime's devastation of Hama.


That's exactly where it came from, Mark.

You can only perform a "spasm" within 48 hours of a massive terrorist attack...after that you lose at the moral level.


USJFCOM is working to improve urban warfighting capabilities.

U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) and its partners from 12 countries kicked off the latest event of a series of experiments here today to help improve the warfighters' ability to operate and control the urban environment and isolate the adversary.

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