Baghdad 2025, The Pentagon Solution to a Planet of Slums

Received by mail from “Left Coast” on January 8, 2007, giving the link to this article on Tom Dispatch.com, by Nick Turse:Excerpts: … 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 reality… We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’ …

… 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 …

… 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 …

… 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 warfare… [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 areas… 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” … (Read more, the whole long, on Tom Dispatch.com).

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