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Re: <nettime> Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai
mazzetta on Fri, 5 Dec 2008 04:23:51 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai


Saskia Sassen ha scritto:
> i agree--my starting point, when i try to open a field is: what are we  
> trying to name when we use the term: globlaization, citizenship, the  
> nationale, etc.
> The project i am developing now asks this about terms like "war" and "city."
>
> both  are words deeply embedded in particular, albeit globally  
> present, histories. Further, the current instances we have been  
> describing here, resist the conventional meanings: so it is easy to  
> use terms such as terrorism becasue this is a war that does not fit   
> war as in word war 2 (though of course, there were lots of instances  
> that fit into today's "terrorism" bit.
> Question then is whether  these current situations are anomalous  
> (which i think is the easiest way out of a problematic, and I resist  
> going that way), or become heuristic (in the sense of producing  
> knowledge about  the terms themselves: war and city.
>   

I think, dealing with wars, that we're seeing anything anomalous
Following changes in western warfare, the frontline disappeared well 
before the appearance of 21th century "terrorism", this has driven 
changes in fights much more than any brainstorming on how to wage war 
against an overwhelming power
Most, i cannot see main differences between the so-called islamic 
terrorism and others fightings formerly seen in action. As different 
palestinian approaches weren't so original, we can consider qaeda-style 
actions as non-original at all. Just remember many national resistances 
in the 20th century and you'll find many examples that suggest we're not 
seeing nothing new or original. Suicide attack tactics too are not new, 
nor original. Just note, then, that despite a billion of potential 
"terrorists", the attacks as in Mumbai, London or 9/11, have resulted in 
a very small number, that is to say that there cannot be a broad 
consensus on this kind of operation, nor lots of people ready and 
trained to do it.
More, 9/11 has been a unicum in its magnitude, but it was an upgrading 
of former attempt at WTC on 1993.Other terrorist attacks waged by 
"islamist", also had nothing more than an ordinary Columbine or an 
Oklahoma bombing. Nothing new, nothing "ethnic".

What is new, or at least evolving, is what martin Shaw defines "The new 
western way of war", the transition from the industrial warfare against 
national actors, to a modern range of conflicts against groups or 
enemies. We didn't have a war -against- Iraq or Afghanistan, but wars 
chasing small enemy elites. The western way of war is played on three 
main battlefields, adding to the military one those represented by media 
and economy. You can wage a framed limited war, when you win public 
opinion and when you do not upset your economy waging war.

Winning the military confrontation was not enough for USA, when it's 
been defated by the collaps of its poor propaganda, Bush' administration 
knew it had lost the war despite the huge effort in courting the 
economic environment had been succesfull untill then. On the other front 
the same awareness boosted military efforts and draw new people and 
energy in the fight, even if it's evident they could never overcome US' 
armies on battlefield. Asymmetrical war is such on the economic and 
media battlefield too, modern western warfare needs to keep economy 
running as always, while on the enemy field there's only the economic 
need about funding militants. Western propaganda, moving from supposed 
good reasons, cannot lie without loosing moral authority, a problem that 
the "bad guy" evidently have not, dealing with western public opinion.

Obviously in this frame "the enemy" relies more in rocking media and 
economy battlefields, important victories can be achieved with small 
military operations aimed at "soft targets", well covered by media, 
financial knots and roaring cities fit perfectly the need about shooting 
at media and economy, but i cannot see it as a war to cities o 
peculiarly inside them

But it's not so easy at war, nor for the bad guys, and even they've been 
able to rock western propaganda, they're loosing consensus between their 
supporters, even if they already are a flag for many people suffering 
wars globalization and occupation, they loose their grip on public 
opinions exactly as their enemies do, maybe because they're so similar.

Coming to city, undoubtedly is where tensions rise and sometimes 
explode, but dealing with war and cities I'd draw a line between wars 
waged by an alien entity and wars & conflicts generated inside the 
cities, or civil wars. As underlined by Mike Davis in -Planet of slums- 
there are lot of people reasoning on how to wage war -in- a city, more 
than to a city, presuming large revolts from inside.

War is an ancient human activity, often practiced by little men, in my 
opinion is more than mature and I cannot see any shift towards 
fundamental evolutions, Falluja has been destroyed as Dresda or other 
cities and you already cannot win war against a city without destroying 
it, the other single option drives to a mutual endless entrapment in 
which the city is jailed, but not won. That's to say that if i cannot 
see any evolution, apart from mere technical ones, in waging war to a city.
I'm much more worried about plannings on new ways to control cities and 
their inhabitants, drafted from a inner perspective by people thinking 
to the city as the main battlefield of a domestic fight for power and 
privileges

m


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