Mumford and sons

Megacities and the US ArmyPublic intelligence has made available a new report prepared by the US Army Strategic Studies Group’s ‘Megacities Concept Team’ after a year’s study called Megacities and the United States Army: preparing for a complex and uncertain future (June 2014).

The authors begin by conceding that ‘Megacities are a unique environment that the U.S. Army does not fully understand’, but since the announcement is made under a banner quote from Robert Kaplan‘s The revenge of geography don’t get your hopes up:

‘Crowded megacities, beset by poor living conditions, periodic rises in the price of commodities, water shortages and unresponsive municipal services, will be petri dishes for the spread of both democracy and radicalism, even as regimes will be increasingly empowered by missiles and modern outwardly focused militaries.’

They start by insisting on the critical importance of megacities for ‘global connectedness and order’ and the ‘global economy’ but warn that megacities are also threat platforms:

‘Large migratory populations reduce the transnational signature normally associated with terrorists, criminal, and espionage activities. Operating from megacities allow hostile actors relative freedom of maneuver as they blend in with the local population.’

You might think this would come as no surprise to a military that is scarcely a stranger to urban warfare, but the authors insist that the unprecedented scale of the problem has created a ‘gap’ in the US Army’s doctrine:

‘The Army’s largest and most recent example of urban operations is small in comparison to the challenges ahead. In Baghdad, the Army fought for almost a decade in an urban environment with a population of 6.5 million people. By 2030, there will be 37 cities across the world that are 200-400% larger than Baghdad.’

What they don’t ask is whether contemporary military doctrine – including the so-called ‘surge’ and the urban counterinsurgency models spun by Petraeus and his COIN artists – were even adequate in Baghdad.  What they claim instead is that megacities make it impossible for occupying armies to ‘isolate [physically or virtually] and shape the urban environment’, and so they call for a transformation in military urbanism that treats cities as interconnected complex systems.  Really.  Hence:

‘Regardless of the fragility or resilience of the city, their stable functioning is dependent on systems of finite capacity. When these systems, formal or informal, real or virtual experience demand which surpasses their capacity, the load on the city’s systems erode its support mechanisms, increasing their fragility. These systems are then more vulnerable to triggers which can push the city past its tipping point and render it incapable of meeting the needs of its population.’

outofthemountains_300dpiMuch of this reads like a weak summary of David Kilcullen‘s thesis in Out of the mountains: the coming age of the urban guerrilla (and he at least does consider how well military doctrine fared in Baghdad). But rather than directly consider Kilcullen’s arguments – on which see my posts here and here – the report instead offers a series of one-page case-studies to illustrate a typology ranging from ‘cities that are highly integrated … with hierarchical governance and security systems, to cities that are loosely integrated with alternatively governed spaces and security systems.’

The case-studies include Bangkok, Rio, SãoPaulo, Lagos and Dhaka – but they begin, disconcertingly but perhaps not surprisingly given recent debates about the militarisation of policing in the United States, with New York.

Finally, the conclusion restates the introduction: megacities are important (‘unavoidable’) and the US Army doesn’t understand them.  Evidently not.

There are at least two issues to consider here.  First, the report says that part of its mandate is to present the Chief of Staff of the Army (Ray Odierno) with ‘independent, innovative and unconstrained ideas’: but there is spectacularly little sign of that in these pages.  I’m not surprised that the authors don’t consider (say) Steve Graham‘s Cities under siege: the new military urbanism (though they would undoubtedly learn a lot from it), but to pass over Kilcullen’s work with a single, glancing footnote reference is surely astonishing.  One of the proudest boasts of the architects of the revised counterinsurgency doctrine was its (their) intellectual credentials – ‘the graduate level of war’ – and yet this report fails to engage in any serious and sustained way with a stream of work in urban anthropology, urban geography, urban history,urban sociology and urban studies that has significantly re-shaped our understanding of contemporary urbanism.

Second – and here the critical point might be reversed – I am puzzled at how little attention is paid to military and paramilitary violence by many scholars of ‘planetary urbanism’.  In part, it’s high time to re-visit the genealogy of the ‘new military urbanism’ and to reflect on previous ‘military urbanisms’: the intimate, predatory relationship between cities and military violence is hardly novel, but its changing modalities need careful analysis.  But it’s also high time to think through the ways in which planetary urbanism cannot be reduced to the machinations of the global economy.  I admire Neil Brenner‘s ‘Theses on urbanisation’ [Public culture 25 (1) (2013)] enormously, and agree absolutely that ‘the concept of urbanisation requires systematic reinvention’ (p. 101).  But his arguments, together with the vivid images that illuminate his text, are silent about later modern war.  And yet his theses about ‘concentration and extension’ – not exactly a reinvention – invite a mapping (one among many, to be sure) onto the terrain of military and paramilitary violence.  He concludes:

‘It is the uneven extension of this process of capitalist creative destruction onto the scale of the entire planet, rather than the formation of a worldwide network of global cities or a single, world-encompassing megalopolis, that underpins the contemporary problematique of planetary urbanisation.’

Exactly so; but ‘creative destruction’ is more than a metaphor and its processes frequently involve new (even ‘creative’) modes of war-making.

Similarly, I’ve also learned much from Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, ‘The urban age in question‘ [International journal of urban and regional research 38 (3) (2014)], but here too war is conspicuous by its absence.  I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that so many major inquiries into the urban condition – ones that figure in their intellectual pantheon – should have been undertaken in the aftermath of the Second World War and its systematic assault on cities and their populations.

1101380418_400So let me end with an extract from a conversation I had with Stuart Elden [ACME 10 (2) (2011)] that will also explain the title of this post:

‘In The Culture of Cities, published just one year before the Second World War broke out, [Lewis] Mumford included ‘A brief outline of hell’ in which he turned the Angelus towards the future to confront the terrible prospect of total war. Raging against what he called the ‘war-ceremonies’ staged in the ‘imperial metropolis’ (‘from Washington to Tokyo, from Berlin to Rome’: where was London, I wonder? Moscow?), Mumford fastened on the anticipatory dread of air war. The city was no longer the place where (so he claimed) security triumphed over predation, and he saw in advance of war not peace but another version of war. Thus the rehearsals for defence (the gas-masks, the shelters, the drills) were ‘the materialization of a skillfully evoked nightmare’ in which fear consumed the ideal of a civilized, cultivated life before the first bombs fell. The ‘war-metropolis’, he concluded, was a ‘non-city’.

After the war, Mumford revisited the necropolis, what he described as ‘the ruins and graveyards’ of the urban, and concluded that his original sketch could not be incorporated into his revised account, The City in History, simply ‘because all its anticipations were abundantly verified.’ He gazed out over the charnel-house of war from the air — Warsaw and Rotterdam, London and Tokyo, Hamburg and Hiroshima — and noted that ‘[b]esides the millions of people — six million Jews alone — killed by the Germans in their suburban extermination camps, by starvation and cremation, whole cities were turned into extermination camps by the demoralized strategists of democracy.’

I’m not saying that we can accept Mumford without qualification, still less extrapolate his claims into our own present, but I do think his principled arc, at once historical and geographical, is immensely important. In now confronting what Stephen Graham calls ‘the new military urbanism’ we need to recover its genealogy — to interrogate the claims to novelty registered by both its proponents and its critics — as a way of illuminating the historical geography of our own present.’

And in recovering that genealogy we might also illuminate its geography: both are strikingly absent from Megacities and the US Army.

Mapping Aleppo – and more

Mapping Aleppo

I’ve posted about mapping the war in Syria and its spillover effects before (see here and here), but most of these projects cover a wide area with varying degrees of reliability.  Now News from Laleh Khalili of a report from David Kilcullen‘s Caerus Associates (with the American Security Project) on the civil war in Aleppo, “Mapping the conflict in Aleppo, Syria”, which provides a much more fine-grained view of what is happening on the ground.  You can download the report here or view the interactive version via First Mile Geo here, and you can read an account of the project from Wired‘s Greg Miller here.

Caerus has also joined with the Pentagon’s Center for Complex Operations to produce a special supplement of PRISM (vol.  4, 2014) on the Syrian conflict, which includes an essay by Kilcullen and Nathaniel Rosenblatt on ‘The Rise of Syria’s Urban Poor: Why the War for Syria’s Future Will Be Fought Over the Country’s New Urban Villages’; the whole issue is available on open access here.

These interventions are important and interesting for several reasons.

First, the report is based on exacting local fieldwork.  Acknowledging that local people in conflict zones develop vitally important stocks of local knowledge as a means of survival, the report also accepts that this ‘information-rich environment remains analytically poor.’  For that reason, the field teams ‘provided training and cloud-based tools to help local actors collect locally understood knowledge about their conflict for rigorous analysis.’

From September 16, 2013 to January 6, 2014, we collected four types of information: a monthly survey of perceptions among 560 residents in Aleppo’s 56 neighborhoods, biweekly location and status data for bakeries (a key indicator of humanitarian conditions due to the centrality of bread in the Syrian diet), biweekly location and status data on security checkpoints (a key indicator of security, territorial control and public safety conditions), and a monthly neighborhood-level assessment filled out by our enumerators. These four data streams not only allowed the research team to detect and visualize shifts in the environment in near-real time, but also provided an extremely rich source of insights on the geo-social dynamics at play. All field research was conducted in Arabic.

First Mile Geo notes that it will make the data available to organisations ‘for responsible use’: see Open Data here.

KILCULLEN Out of the mountainsSecond, Kilcullen’s analytical argument (he is described as ‘Principal Investigator’ for the Mapping project) is, naturally enough, fully conformable with the thesis he develops at length in his latest book, Out of the mountains: the coming age of the urban guerrilla (2013); the report reveals the grisly details of contemporary siege warfare and urbicide – central themes in the book, where Kilcullen notes the work of  Steve Graham and Eyal Weizman – and gestures towards a future ‘feral city’ (how I hate that phrase) broken into multiple fiefdoms where gangs and militias exact violence and provide rudimentary services to the residents:

‘The inability of opposition groups to aid residents of neighborhoods they control suggests Aleppo – and Syria as a whole – will become a mosaic of small, intersecting fiefdoms, each providing assistance to its respective neighborhood without regard to macro-level concerns for national governance and reconciliation. Growing warlordism may be particularly acute in Aleppo, where economic rent-seeking opportunities will attract armed gangs who will attempt to seize control of its neighborhoods. These “conflict entrepreneurs” will have little incentive to end a conflict from which they derive power, prestige, and profit. Even in the event of peace, Aleppo’s strategic location will help these actors establish roots for illicit networks that may endure well beyond the present conflict. Moreover, as a non-capital city, Aleppo will not benefit from national government attention. Instead, Aleppo’s future may resemble that of similarly conflict-plagued second cities in the Middle East, such as Mosul in Iraq or Benghazi in Libya. These cities are plagued by warlordism and dominated by illicit economies. They have quickly become safe havens enabling terrorist networks to plan, recruit, and launch attacks.’ 

I’ve posted about Out of the Mountains here, when I promised an extended commentary: Laleh and I will be working on a joint examination of Kilcullen’s larger thesis in the near future, so watch this space. We already have Mike Davis‘s thumbnail view:

‘Although an enemy of the state, I must concede that this is a brilliant book by the most unfettered and analytically acute mind in the military intelligentsia. Kilcullen unflinchingly confronts the nightmare of endless warfare in the slums of the world.’

Here, incidentally, it’s revealing to read Kilcullen’s theses alongside Neil Brenner‘s ‘Theses on urbanisation’, Public culture 25:1 (2013) 85-114, which makes a series of suggestive proposals – but from which war is strikingly absent.  So Kilcullen’s thesis certainly demands serious scrutiny, particularly by those who think that the future of war is somehow encapsulated in the drone.  In my previous note, I joined Geoff Manaugh in being sceptical about the ‘aerial-algorithmic’ interventions that attracted Kilcullen in a series of talks based around the book, but ‘Mapping the conflict in Aleppo’ reveals a much more substantial interest in ‘the facts on the ground’, local actors and local knowledge.  (And here a good counter-text would be the brilliant work of AbdouMaliq Simone; see also his blog, Villes-Noires, here).  So, as I say, watch this space.

First Mile Geo ALEPPO

But there’s a third reason this matters.  I’ve been reading and thinking about Jeremy Crampton, Sue Roberts and Ate Poorhuis‘s ‘The new political economy of geographical intelligence’ – a fine essay in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104: 1 (2014) 196-214 – and I’ll be returning to this in the next day or two.  They emphasise the importance of satellite imagery in the production of US geospatial intelligence, whereas I’ve been developing a different (though related) argument about  the importance of satellite communications for the ‘everywhere war’.  In both cases, there is an intimate relation between ‘milsat’ and ‘comsat’, the military and commercial sectors, which will come as no surprise to those who’ve been plotting the extending contours of the military-industrial complex.

Those contours have snared all sorts of other institutions, of course, which is why James Der Derian talks about MIME-NET (the military-industrial-media-entertainment network) and I’ve talked about MAIM-NET (the military-academic-industrial-media network).  The role of universities in the development of military capabilities and military knowledge (and ultimately the production of military violence) is no less surprising, of course, and in fact there’s a session on ‘Geography and the military’ organised by Eric Sheppard at the AAG conference in Tampa (an appropriate location for several reasons) to debate these issues.  But it should now be clear that the production of these geographical knowledges is not confined to the military and civilian intelligence agencies, the academy and large corporations but also includes a host of much smaller private contractors devoted to ‘geographical intelligence’.  They come in different shapes and sizes, and with different agendas.  Caerus, for example, describes itself as a ‘strategy and design firm’ that helps clients ‘understand and thrive in complex, conflict-afflicted, and disaster-affected environments’.  But there are many others, and it’s important not to lose sight of their role in what the US military would call ‘shaping the battlespace’…

Urban guerrillas

I’ve noted David Kilcullen‘s adventures into geography before, and the entanglement of his vision of counterinsurgency with the humanitarian present – here and here – and over at Gizmodo Geoff Manaugh (of the always interesting and enviably imaginative BLDGBLOG) has an interesting commentary on Kilcullen’s new book, Out of the Mountains: the coming age of the urban guerrilla (Hurst/Oxford University Press USA, 2013.  An extended excerpt is available here, if you scroll down, and a presentation on “The city as a system: future conflict and urban resilience” from last year is available here.

KILCULLEN Out of the mountains

Back to Geoff:

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.

The very title of Kilcullen’s book—Out of the Mountains—suggests this. War is coming down from the wild edges of the world, driving back toward our lights and buildings from the unstructured void of the desert, and arriving, at full force, in the hearts of our cities, in our markets and streets. There, conflict erupts amongst already weak or non-existent governments, in the shadow of brittle infrastructure, and what Mike Davis calls “the nightmare of endless warfare in the slums of the world” in his blurb for Kilcullen’s work, becomes uncomfortably close to reality.

Strictly speaking, Geoff’s commentary derives from a talk Kilcullen gave at the World Policy Institute, one of a large number of public appearances to promote the book on both sides of the Atlantic; here is a transcript of his talk at Chatham House, and here is his presentation to the New America Foundation last month, introduced by Peter Bergen:

Geoff is not completely convinced by it.  Some of the themes will be familiar to most readers – the bleeding of war into crime has been a staple of the ‘new wars’ thesis, for example – and you can hear distant echoes of Saskia Sassen‘s ideas about cities and later modern war.  More particularly, Steve Graham‘s brilliant work on the new military urbanism addresses many of the same issues Kilcullen raises – as Kilcullen notes himself – though he does so in a markedly different vocabulary: Geoff and I have crossed swords over this before, but while he describes “feral cities” as ‘one of my favorite phrases of all time’ I think it’s dehumanizing – though I do understand that’s exactly not Geoff’s intention).

Geoff is also (I think rightly) sceptical about the aerial-algorithmic intervention that Kilcullen touted at the WPI:

‘During the Q&A, Kilcullen briefly mentioned the work of Crisis Mappers, who have developed tools for visually analyzing urban form using satellite photos. According to Kilcullen, they are able to do this with an astonishing degree of accuracy, diagnosing what parts of cities seem most prone to failure. Whether this is due to empty lots and abandoned buildings or to infrastructural isolation from the rest of the city, the factors that determine “ferality” in the built environment is a kind of aerial application of the Broken Windows theory.

The implication—conceptually fascinating, but by no means convincing, at least for me—was that we could, in theory, develop a visual algorithm for identifying environments tending toward failure, and thus find a way to intervene before things truly fall apart. Teams of architects with their own dedicated satellites could thus scan the cities of the world from above, algorithmically identifying urban regions prone to collapse, then intervening with a neighborhood redesign.’

Have we learned nothing from almost a decade of remote-surveillance ISR and algorithmic counterinsurgency in which maps and metrics substitute for meaning?  And while the attacks in Nairobi confirm the city as a continuing arena of military and paramilitary violence in the twenty-first century, they surely can’t be directly assimilated to a ‘feral city’ thesis (though Kilcullen does his best here)?  We’ll see: I’m part way through the book, and will post a more considered response when I’m done.

Kilcullen, counterinsurgency and the cultural turn

David Kilcullen‘s role in the development and implementation of US counterinsurgency will be familiar to many readers, and I’ve already noted his subsequent project to drive ‘military humanism’ still deeper into the ‘humanitarian present’.   Here he is at Columbia University’s Hertog Global Strategy Initiative in May 2012 on “The future of conflict and everything else”:

“Everything else” turns out to be a grab-bag geography.   Kilcullen starts by rehearsing Obama’s determination not to embark on major counterinsurgency or large-scale, prolonged ‘stability operations’ [which is how Obama characterises Afghanistan and Iraq], but insists that the sort of ‘overseas contingencies’ in which the US involves itself cannot be reduced to presidential will and that they have, historically, involved regular interlacings of military and civilian intervention.  (In fact, Kilcullen’s Caerus Associates joined with the Center for a New American Security to map US civilian intervention in crises and disasters since the end of the Cold War).

Then he turns to the environment in which the US ‘is likely to be operating’ in the near future. Kilcullen emphasizes the importance of urbanization, ‘littoralization’ (‘a fancy geographer’s term’, apparently) and networking in shaping future conflicts [Olivier Kramsch at Nijmegen takes a bow at 18.04 for – unless I’m mis-hearing – predicting in 2006 the geography of the Arab uprisings].  It’s an extraordinarily schematic and impressionistic set of mappings that recalls the Models in Geography diagrams of the mid-60s.  The master-diagram is copyright (wait until you see it), but you can download the Powerpoint slide here: just scroll down to NIC Blog – Kilcullen.

Now fast forward to 1.03.25: During the Q&A Kilcullen concedes that the criticisms of COIN and in particular the Human Terrain System made by the American Anthropology Association “have been quite justified in a lot of cases”, and that “There’s a clear role for the academy in making sure that people in the military don’t do stupid shit…” (1.04.12).

Perhaps they (we) might start by reminding them of the follies of 1960s spatial science.  As Oliver Belcher knows better than me, the US military have become ever more interested in that style of modelling and its successors – if you want a taste, purse your lips and check out the Cultural Geography Model, which is derived from Kilcullen’s earlier construction of a ‘conflict ecosystem’ thus:

The Cultural Geography Model (from Jonathan K. Alt, Leroy Jackson and Stephen Lieberman, ‘The Cultural Geography Model: an agent-based model for analysis of the impact of culture in irregular warfare’

Counterinsurgency and the humanitarian present

Laleh Khalili – whose work on the new and old classics of counterinsurgency,  on the gendering of counterinsurgency, and on the location of Palestine in global counterinsurgency – is indispensable, has just alerted me to the fate (Fate?) of one of its principal architects, David Kilcullen.

In The accidental guerilla and other writings, Kilcullen – Petraeus’s Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser in Iraq – repeatedly turned to bio-medical analogies to advance a bio-political vision of counterinsurgency: insurgency as a ‘social pathology’ whose prognosis can be traced through the stages of infection, contagion, intervention and rejection (‘immune response’).  In an interview with Fast Company, Kilcullen now explains that he

“came out of Iraq with a real conviction that we tend to think that a bunch of white guys turning up with a solution fixes all the problems. It doesn’t work like that. You actually have to really build a collaborative relationship with the people on the ground if you want to have any hope of understanding what’s going on.”

Kilcullen’s contract ended when the Obama administration came into office, and he founded Caerus Associates.  The company advertises itself as ‘a strategy and design firm’ that works to ‘help governments, global enterprises, and local communities thrive in complex, frontier environments.’  It claims to ‘bring the system into focus’ by providing ‘strategic design for a world of overlapping forces — urbanization, new market horizons, resource scarcity and conflict — to build resilience and capacity.’   The company explains its ‘strategic design process’ here, and Kilcullen’s vision of systems analysis is sketched here.  This may sound like the rapid-fire buzz-words that corporate start-ups typically shoot at their clients, but Kilcullen provides Fast Company with a sawn-off version (it’s really hard to avoid these metaphors…):

“We’re two-thirds tech, one-thirds social science, with a dash of special operations… We can go out in a community and say, ‘Let’s map who owns what land,’ or ‘Let’s map who owes the local warlord money,’ or ‘Let’s map the areas in the city where you don’t feel safe.'”

This chimes with Kilcullen’s famous description of contemporary counterinsurgency as ‘armed social work’, and in an interview with the International Review of the Red Cross published in September 2011 Kilcullen extended his vision of ‘military humanism’ beyond insurgency thus:

‘The methods and techniques used by illegal armed groups of all kinds are very similar, irrespective of their political objectives. So whether you’re talking about a gang in the drug business in Latin America, or organized crime in the gun-running or human smuggling business, or whether you’re talking about an insurgency or perhaps even a civil war involving tribes, you will see very similar approaches and techniques being used on the part of those illegal armed groups. That’s one of the reasons why I believe counter-insurgency isn’t a very good concept for the work that the international community is trying to do. I think that the idea of complex humanitarian emergencies is actually a lot closer to the reality on the ground. You almost never see just one insurgent group fighting an insurgency against the government anymore. What you typically see is a complex, overlapping series of problems, which includes one or more or dozens of armed groups. And the problem is one of stabilizing the environment and helping communities to generate peace at the grassroots level – a bottom-up peace-building process. And that’s not a concept that really fits very well with traditional counter-insurgency, which is about defeating an insurgent movement and is a top-down, state-based approach. What you have to do is create an environment where existing conflicts can be dealt with in a non-violent way.’

This is a remarkable passage for several reasons: the focus on ‘techniques’ not ‘objectives’, which works to de-politicize and de-contextualize a range of different situations in order to generalize about them, the appeal to a collective “international community” whose only interest is a generic “peace”, and hence the passage to what Eyal Weizman calls ‘the humanitarian present’. I think that’s also a colonial present, not surprisingly: ‘humanitarianism’ was often the velvet glove wrapped around the iron fist of colonialism.  But what Weizman sees as novel about the present is the way in which its ‘economy of violence is calculated and managed’ by a series of moral technologies (the term is Adi Ophir‘s) that work to continue and legitimize its operation.  In other words, there is today an intimate collusion of the ‘technologies of humanitarianism, human rights and humanitarian law with military and political powers’.

Despite  the reference to ‘special operations’ in the Fast Company interview – something which makes me think that Obama would have found Kilcullen’s continued advice invaluable – Kilcullen insists that it’s a collaborative process:

“We specialize in working with communities that are under the threat of violence in frontier environments, and I think to some extent that distinguishes us a little bit from other people. Sure we can give a slick presentation in a hotel room, but what we can also do is walk the street in dangerous places, engage with communities, and figure out what needs to happen. It’s not us figuring it out, it’s them telling us, but often we find that no one’s ever been there and asked them before.”

‘Dangerous places’, ‘frontiers’: this is still the language of adventurism.  It recalls Zygmunt Bauman‘s ‘planetary frontierland’, and even more Mark Duffield on the ‘global borderlands’:

‘The idea of the borderlands … does not reflect an empirical reality.  It is a metaphor for an imagined geographical space where, in the eyes of many metropolitan actors and agencies, the characteristics of brutality, excess and breakdown predominate.  It is a terrain that has been mapped and re-mapped in innumerable aid and academic reports where wars occur through greed and sectarian gain, social fabric is destroyed and developmental gains reversed, non-combatants killed, humanitarian assistance abused and all civility abandoned.’

It’s not surprising, then, that in the IRC interview Kilcullen should make so much of establishing ‘the rule of law’: ‘It’s a set of rules which has predictable consequences and allows the population to feel safe, and helps them know what they need to do in order to be in a safe place.’  He makes it clear that, in many (perhaps most) circumstances ‘bottom-up, community-based law, which can be transitional justice, or customary law, applied by traditional courts or religious courts, is as effective and possibly even more effective in the initial stages than central-state structures.’   But this ignores the multiple ways in which law (including international humanitarian law) is not apart from conflict but is almost always a part of conflict: as Weizman has it, ‘international law develops through its violation.  In modern war, violence legislates.’

One could say much the same about maps.  Mapping is not a neutral, objective exercise; mapping is performative and its material effects depend on the constellation of powers and practices within which it is deployed. Kilcullen’s injunction – “Let’s map” – glosses over who the ‘us’ is, who is included and who is excluded, and the process through which some mappings are accorded legitimacy while others are disavowed.  This is also one of Weizman’s central claims, not least in his exposure of the torturous mappings that issued in the  Hollow Land of occupied Palestine.

Weizman’s particular focus in his discussion of the humanitarian present is Gaza, and this winds me back to Laleh Khalili’s work which brilliantly re-reads counterinsurgency in occupied Palestine contrapuntally with US counterinsurgency practices elsewhere.  Her Essential Reading on Counterinsurgency was published by Jadaliyya, and her forthcoming book, Time in the shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford University Press, October 2012),  engages with a Medusa’s raft of counterinsurgency adviser-survivors, including Kilcullen and Andrew Exum (Abu Muqawama).

And so a final question: how would ‘strategic design’ and a ‘collaborative process’ help the people of Gaza?  Whose ‘rule of law’ is to be established?  And which maps chart a road not only to peace but to justice for the people of Palestine?