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Re-Doing Kabul

By : Ajmal Maiwandi, A. Fontenot

Historically war has influenced the design of the city. From ancient Chinese cities to the medieval city with its small narrow streets and fortifications, the city has been a catalyst onto which the imprint of the uncertain and volatile history of conflict has left its trace. The shift from war being fought in battlefields to the unfolding of conflict in the city itself, directed at the city, marks a new era of the fragmentation of nation-states toward the emergence of various new identities struggling for power. From the use of bomber planes in the Second World War to the video game technology of the Gulf War, it has become clear that the city no longer has the same relationship to warfare. The complex enigmatic world of weapons technology has overcome the simple stone, steel and concrete city and has imposed a new matrix of targeting which circumscribes the physical complexity of the city and delivers destruction with pinpoint precision. This antiseptic digital distancing is a strong contrast to the ‘blood and guts’ imagery, which shocked the American public and provoked the pacifist movements of the 1960’s. On the contrary, enlistment for the military in the United States has dramatically increased and the wars of the future promise rocketing TV ratings and vast economic opportunities in unrelated sectors of the economy. War has also become a game of un-equals. The Nuclear arms race insured for the past fifty years that no industrialised country could risk 'going nuclear' during a war. In the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union used the world as an interactive chessboard, avoiding direct confrontation with each other. The major centres of conflict today are a legacy of this covert game. Many other third-world countries have provided the stage and actors for the battle between Capitalism and Communism. Since the fall of the Soviet block and the end of the Cold War, the West has lost interest in these distant places, but the cycles of conflict continue and without sustained aid to help develop alternative economies and education, they turn on each other, as in the case of Yugoslavia, or against the nations which once exerted control over them, as happened in Chechnya. Direct confrontation between the Superpowers of the world, as witnessed in WWII, will probably never happen again on that scale. The future will continue to see many small conflicts where the so-called archaic world will battle the architects of a new world order. In this conflict the city will become the new frontier and its diversity and intensity the new target. One of the squares on the chessboard of Superpower foreign policy is Afghanistan and for the past ten years the conflict there has raged over the control of the capital city of Kabul.

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