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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