Small Wars Journal

Objective Metropolis: The Future of Dense Urban Operational Environments

Objective Metropolis: The Future of Dense Urban Operational Environments by Jerome J. Lademan and J. Alexander Thew, Modern War Institute

As the global population evolves toward a denser, more urban-centric environment, the battlefield landscape will likely follow suit.  Where the US armed forces of the twenty-first century once militarily dominated the rural landscapes of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq, the fight for military objectives will increasingly focus on population centers in the decades to come.  Of course, urban operations are not new to the US soldier or Marine.  Brave Americans have fought valiantly from the Battle of Hue City in Vietnam to Mosul in the ongoing fight against ISIL.  However, the cities of tomorrow will present new challenges where titanic populations and infrastructure density will combine with near-instantaneous flow of information to create a leviathan of complexity for the armed forces.

Current doctrine does not address the unique fabric of crowded urban areas of operation, though ongoing research, directed by the chief of staff of the Army, aims to address these shortfalls.   A 2014 Strategic Studies Group (SSG) report maintains that the US Army stands ill prepared to respond to and operate within complex cities, even as these areas become increasingly strategically significant.  Specifically, the SSG report argues, “the problems found in megacities (explosive growth rates, vast and growing income disparity and a security environment that is increasingly attractive to the politically dispossessed) are landpower problems.  Solutions, therefore, will require boots on the ground.”  Given this assessment, prioritizing the study of cities and their internal structures is vital to preparing the force to fight and win future wars…

Read on.