The changing nature of war

Strength and weakness, threat and security have become now, essentially, extraterritorial issues that evade territorial solutions.

(Bauman 2002:83; original emphasis)

Second, the above two sets of transformations need to be seen in the context of radical changes in the nature of war and organized political violence since the end of the Cold War. Some of these post Cold-War changes are now very familiar:

• the proliferation of asymmetric struggles pitching US and western forces, with their monopoly of high-tech, precision targeting, against low-tech adversaries;

• a greatly reduced frequency of state-vs-state wars with standing armies, and a consequent huge growth of civilian casualties in relation to military ones;

• an increasingly hegemonic presence of US forces around the world who seek to consolidate and protect the resource and geopolitical underpinnings that sustain the network power of the globe-spanning US-dominated "Empire" (Hardt and Negri 2000);

• a sustained effort by the US military to utilize its hegemonic position in the strategic use of information technologies, and intelligent machines and orbital power to radically reorganise the reach and power of its strike capabilities (the so-called Revolution in Military affairs or RMA). This is being justified so that the United States military can achieve "Full Spectrum Dominance" whilst fighting a range of adversaries in major

"theatre wars" simultaneously (Project for the New American Century 2000; Hirst 2001); and

• an increasing emphasis in geopolitical struggle on what Tim Luke (2003) has called "culture war". This emphasizes global media representation, propaganda, signs, and the 24/7 consumption of war by quasi-voyeuristic viewers over TV and internet networks (Der Derian 2001). Dochterman (2002:1) argues that this new type of war boils down to an "information war, in which the television and internet become something akin to live, continuous and violent advertisements for the power of the military-technological apparatus of the United States and its allies".

With the on-going urbanization of terrain in many geopolitical conflict zones, we should also stress that, increasingly, wars are being fought out, within, and through the domestic spaces, and infrastructures, of everyday urban life. "Today, wars are fought not in trenches and fields, but in living rooms, schools and supermarkets" (Barakat 1998:11). This is crucial because, as we have noted, civilian urban populations are especially vulnerable to war because their lives are sustained by multiple, networked systems which continuously link them to distant sources of food, energy, water and other goods and services. Cities are especially vulnerable to the stresses of conflict, suggests Sultan Barakat (1998:12):

City-dwellers are particularly at risk when their complex and sophisticated infrastructure systems are destroyed and rendered inoperable, or when they become isolated from external contacts.

Finally, war and geopolitical struggle are increasingly being fought through the infrastructures of everyday urban life. The 9/11 attacks are, of course, the paradigmatic case here, as they involved the instant transformation of banal capsules of everyday interurban mobility into mechanisms of mass, mediatized, murder (Luke 2003). But, as we shall see, a proliferating range of strategies of state violence are being developed which seek to project political pressure through the systematic demodernization of networked urban life in adversary societies and cities.

Theoretically, civilians are protected from being directly targeted in war (for example, by Article 8(2)(b) (iv) of the International Criminal Courts Statute). However, in effect, the widespread targeting of dual-use infrastructures denies this legal protection. "Such discrimination turns to fiction when extended to electrical grids, water supplies, and other infrastructure that are the sinews of everyday life" (Smith 2002:361).

Whilst the military and civilian casualties during formal times of war may be reducing, the long-term civilian deaths which result from attacks on the crucial infrastructures that sustain urban life—what Blakeley (2003 a) has called "structural violence" or the "war on public health"—are increasing. As Smith (2002:362) argues, "while the security community views sanctions and attacks on infrastructure as limited remedies, students of human rights find them drastic indeed". King and Martin (2001:2) suggest that "the growing centrality within war of targeting everyday infrastructures are making war safer for soldiers and much riskier for civilians. The problem is not badly aimed guns [i.e. "collaterial damage"], but rather the increasingly severe public health consequences of war" (2001:2). And Ashford believes that these military strategies of

"bomb now, die later" (Blakeley 2003a:3) conveniently hide the long-term degradation and killing from the capricious gaze of the global media:

The insidious effects of destroying the water supply, sewage system, agriculture, food distribution, electricity, fuel systems and the economic base for an entire country are not obvious until starvation and disease create a humanitarian crisis that cannot be ignored. In fact, far from sparing the innocent, this deliberate strategy disproportionately kills the very young, the very old, and the very weak.

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