Small Wars Journal

What Happens When Cities Fall Apart?

Sun, 10/06/2013 - 11:39am

What Happens When Cities Fall Apart? By Geoff Manaugh, Gizmodo.

Military strategist David Kilcullen was in New York City earlier this week to talk about the future of urban warfare at the World Policy Institute here in Manhattan. Gizmodo tagged along to learn more about "future conflicts and future cities," as Kilcullen describes it, and to see what really happens when urban environments fail—when cities fall apart or disintegrate into ungovernable canyons of semi-derelict buildings ruled by cartels, terrorist groups, and paramilitary gangs.

Kilcullen's overall thesis is a compelling one: remote desert battlegrounds and impenetrable mountain tribal areas are not, in fact, where we will encounter the violence of tomorrow. For Kilcullen—indeed, for many military theorists writing today—the war in Afghanistan was not the new normal, but a kind of geographic fluke, an anomaly in the otherwise clear trend for conflicts of an increasingly urban nature…

Read on.

Categories: El Centro


Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 11:07am

In reply to by Condor

Integrity and taking personal responsibility---


Fri, 11/15/2013 - 10:02am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I can't speak for the Army, but I agree and I think integrity across the board within our society has become an issue. There's also very few real "leaders", most are "managers".

Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 2:47am

In reply to by Condor

Condor---that is where integrity kicks in and there is not a lot of it currently at least in the Army officer corp.


Thu, 11/07/2013 - 2:44pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Ah, but speaking truth gets you a one way ticket to Antarctica counting penguins (no offense to the penguins)!

Outlaw 09

Wed, 11/06/2013 - 3:40am

In reply to by Condor

Condor---to begin with---I have a high respect for copter pilots---they flew me when I was wounded ---picking me up and in exchange literally having a copter that looked like a sleeve from the bullet holes to flying into hot LZs to just doing simple resupply missions---hat off for your profession especially the copter pilots from Gary Owens 1Cav.

Your comments cut across a number of things that are important---military culture producing officers that do not understand what they are seeing to military personnel assigned to Iraq that treated all Iraqi's as potential AQ members instead of taking the opportunity to understand a different culture.

I recently read a comment form a person who I professionally respect state that he did not care anymore what the outcome in Iraq is---he spent two years there and it cost him is marriage and he simply does not care anymore---I would fundamentally tend to agree with him but there is something far more important that he missed and it is the following;

1. did the NCA and their advisors send us into a war to "just kick someone's butt"
2. why did the intelligence community truly miss what was ongoing inside Iraq before we arrived and continues to miss analyze the world events especially in the Islamic world
3. how do some people who influenced the surge and led the surge get the right to make money and try to rewrite their legacy's ie Mansoor, Kilcullen and Gen. P while alot of other's struggle with their injuries and PTSD---do they not care about over 4K killed and literally thousands wounded?
4. just how did Iraq contribution to the current military officer culture
5. why did the NCA and the senior military leadership simply ignore the fact that AQ and other world wide insurgent groups do have a strategy and why have we not discussed this strategy
6. just why did the military jump on the COIN concept without fully understanding just what was actually going ie we were in fact in an UW event or what was earlier called guerrilla warfare
7. why has not the issue of detainee torture not been fully discussed
8. why after tens of billion dollars spent on counter IED are we still losing the IED fight---we are great at building empires and spending money but in the end we basically lost the IED war both in Iraq and AFG---why?

I could go on forever but instead of simply turning off and dropping out as the professional friend did--we should learn how to speak truth to power and fully understand just what did happen.

Only when we fully understand Iraq with all the pluses and negatives can we as a country fully understand the world around us and the future---turning off and dropping out helps neither the person themselves nor the country as a whole as we who were there must learn to have a voice regardless of our political leanings.

Speaking Truth to Power has really been missing and still is missing---especially from the group around Kilcullen and Gen. P. Why no senior military leader ever stood up to the NCA and spoke truth to power puzzles me---civilian leadership got it --but senior military leaders have an inherent responsibility for their troops as well---I have not heard a single comment from say Kilcullen and or Gen. P concerning the recent we wanted to kick butt comments.

AND by the way the core problem within the current military culture has been a distinct lack to speak truth to power.


Tue, 11/05/2013 - 8:26pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I've followed your comments with great interest here on SWJ. I agree with most of what you have said over time and you obviously have a wealth of experience which no amount of academia can ever replace. I'm just an old broke down Marine helicopter pilot who did a couple of tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2004/2005. The great majority of my operations were in the Anbar province. It saddens me to think of all the sacrifices that so many great people have given only to find ourselves back at square one. I'm sure you have your fair share of stories about operations that resulted in a lot of good on the front side only to be lost to poor strategy and policy run by people who don't know their head from a hole in the ground. It's a shame so many officers didn't listen to you while you were serving over there. I was severely disappointed in many within the officer corps when I got out, to be disillusioned would be an understatement. There are a lot of hard working great folks out there but somehow the incompetent ones always seem to move up. I never really understood it to be honest. Keep posting, I'm learning a lot. One thing I completely agree with you on, it's often about building relationships and a solid rapport with the indigenous people you will be interacting with. While I didn't have the level of interaction with the locals and the detainees that you did, I learned quite a bit from those I was able to interact with. Even if it was a quick interaction with the locals who were working on base. It often amazed me how many people would walk right by them and not even say hi. I found that even if you could say one or two words in Arabic such as "thank you" or "hi" they immediately took an interest in you and often would tell you quite a bit without even asking.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 5:17pm

Condor---my complaint with the article and Kilcullen's new book is that the insurgency in Iraq was composed of two elements---one being a rural and one being a urban insurgency ----attacks came out of the rural into the cities and city based insurgent groups would pull into the rural areas if pressured in the cities and to rearm and refit and take R&R breaks.

I have a belief that historically one must fully understand the past in order to make assumptions for the future---ie from the surge worked to insurgencies will be fought in cities in the future.

This was on the SWJ journal today and if true 40% of Anbar is under their full control and they are making attacks into the cities---the reverse of what Kilcullen just released as a thesis. Anyone that knows the Iraqi insurgency understands that out of Anbar there are countless rat runs that were developed by both AQI/IAI and they all end in Baqubah/Diyala which was their favorite pullback area during the 2004 to 2010 timeframe.

Even the US never really cleared all the palm groves---the density reminded me often of the jungles of VN.

Now a core problem often written about but largely ignored by Kilcullen and Gen. P is coming to be true ---ie we created the Iraqi security forces in our image with all of our own limitations.

Iraq’s Anbar Province Once Again Becoming A Center For Insurgent Operations


Iraq’s Anbar province used to be one of the centers of the insurgency, and it might be becoming one again. Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha recently told the press that 40% of the governorate was under the control of militants. Today there is a free flow of fighters back and forth across the Syrian border. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is targeting the security forces and local politicians. More importantly, it is attempting to gain control of territory as there have been several assaults upon towns and cities this year. This has occurred despite the Iraqi security forces (ISF) announcing one operation after another. Its tactics of raids and retreats have proven largely ineffective, and the mass arrests that have taken place are counterproductive. Violence is picking up across many parts of Iraq, but Anbar is one specific area where insurgents are attempting to establish a permanent presence.


Tue, 11/05/2013 - 4:40pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I agree. As the saying goes, "there's nothing new under the sun".

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 2:55pm

History has shown us that insurgencies have always occurred in cities as well as in rural areas and both tend to reinforce each other---from China to Cuba, from VN to the Philippines, to Columbia, to Iraq and now to Mexico.

Why is that a new idea/concept?