NYTimes, September 22, 2007: "Feds Target Blackwater in Weapons Probe By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 12:21 a.m. ET WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday."
The Open-Source War By JOHN ROBB: "Given this landscape, let's look at alternative strategies. First, out-innovating the insurgency will most likely prove unsuccessful. The insurgency uses an open-source community approach (similar to the decentralized development process now prevalent in the software industry) to warfare that is extremely quick and innovative. New technologies and tactics move rapidly from one end of the insurgency to the other, aided by Iraq's relatively advanced communications and transportation grid - demonstrated by the rapid increases in the sophistication of the insurgents' homemade bombs. This implies that the insurgency's innovation cycles are faster than the American military's slower bureaucratic processes (for example: its inability to deliver sufficient body and vehicle armor to our troops in Iraq).
Second, there are few visible fault lines in the insurgency that can be exploited. Like software developers in the open-source community, the insurgents have subordinated their individual goals to the common goal of the movement."
"[Bryan Finoki] Switching from those kinds of virtual cogs in the war machine let’s talk about the more physical gears of retooling the battlefield. Much has been written about the relationship of urban warfare and the sort of ‘perishibility of colonialism’ that we are witnessing in the urbanization of insurgency. You’ve talked about how modern infrastructure has historically been seen as the triumph of man’s ability to control nature, yet in the context of war infrastructure is the most vulnerable component of the city and ultimately the power of modernism. In this scenario the infrastructure becomes a weapon to be turned back onto itself, and the bane of a city’ own existence.
However, this is not merely an informal tactic on just the part of terrorists. Less attention seems to have been given to the ways more formal sponsors of disruption actually function. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on state-backed disruptions of urban infrastructure that are or are not similar from the insurgent disruptions of city systems. John Robb describes an “open-source warfare” used by the insurgents to swarm the more traditional military paradigms of American super power. Could you elaborate on the state-sponsored acts of infrastructural warfare as thy have grown from the WWII bombing campaigns on urban structures in Europe to the more systematic destructive re-landscaping that we find taking place for example in the West Bank or Iraq?.
[Stephen Graham] Actually, state-backed infrastructure disruption is far more damaging than anything that infrastructural insurgents or terrorist could ever hope to achieve. With wholesale carpet bombing of civilians now illegitimate, militaries such as the US and IDF now bring coercive pressures to bear on whole city populations by demodernising cities and deliberately ‘switching off’ the circuits essential to modern urban life. This is justified because urban infrastructures are deemed to be ‘dual use’ in international law. This has been called the strategy of ‘bomb now, die later’ or the ‘war on public health’."
"Underpinning US infrastructural warfare strategy is the notion of the "enemy as a system". A doctrine that developed from the “industrial web” ideas used to shape Allied bombing in World war II, this doctrine was devised by a leading US Air Force strategist, John Warden, within what he termed his strategic ring theory (1995) and has been the central strategic idea driving all major US bombing campaigns since the late 1980s. This systematic view of adversary societies, which builds directly on the industrial web theorisation of US air power strategists in World War II, provides the central US strategic theorisation that justifies, and sustains, the rapid extension of that nation’s infrastructural warfare capability."
"[Stephen Graham] The California case certainly was an extreme example of the corporate takeover of key ‘public’ infrastructure and the possibilities of corporate corruption through deliberate disruption and ‘shock treatment’. It was also a microcosm of the dangers of forcibly reengineering public infrastructures through the application of extreme and completely inappropriate neoliberal ideologies – a saga repeated through many ‘structural adjustment’ policies in the global south and Eastern Europe in the last few decades."
"...In the case of the U.S., this is likely to be backed up by large-scale private military corporations, supported by a small, elite military presence relying on high-tech surveillance and targeting within what the Pentagon is calling the ‘long war.”..."
"...Instead, the US state military, in particular, increasingly shepherd a vast array of private military, security and ‘reconstruction’ corporations – as well as proxy armies. These are utterly unregulated and unscrutinised and able to perpetuate civilian atrocities and absorb their own casualties almost invisibly whilst the western media continues to fetishise about dreams of ‘clean’ war through new technology...."
"...First, as Derek Gregory has argued, the voyeuristic consumption by Western publics of the U.S. and UK urban bombing campaigns -- a dominant feature of the ‘war on terror’ -- is itself based on mediated representations where cities are actually constructed as little more than physical spaces for receiving murderous ordnance. Verticalized web and newspaper maps in the U.S. and UK, for example, have routinely displayed Iraqi cities as little more than impact points where GPS-targeted bombs and missiles are either envisaged to land, or have landed, are grouped along flat, cartographic surfaces...."
"...through video games produced by the U.S. military, such as America’s Army and Full Spectrum Warrior, millions of westerners (and others) regularly immerse themselves in stylised renditions of fictional ‘Arab’ cities to fight for ‘freedom’ and cleanse these cities of shadowy ‘terrorists'...."
BLDGBLOG: Of Cars, Dogs, Golf, and Bad Feng Shui: An Interview with Jeffrey Inaba:
"Inaba: You know, some of my other work has been on suburbia, and the thing that we’re more and more convinced by is that the 21st century megacity will be a space – or urban condition – not defined by 20th century concepts of density or urbanity. Instead, it will be determined by two things: the suburb and the favela – the informal. You can think of LA as a proto-condition for this. But the places experiencing new architectural forms, new types of rapid growth, alternative patterns of collective development, extreme forms of communication, and a concern for planning stemming from necessity – these are all now happening in areas that are suburban, in areas that are informal. And that includes favelas. These are the generative elements of the 21st century city."
BLDGBLOG: Favelas are architecturally interesting – but they’re economically generated. In other words, the architecture – the space – comes second. So where does the favela actually come from? Is a favela formed from the bottom-up, as an organic outgrowth of local conditions? Or is it formed from the top-down – as a kind of architectural symptom of globalization and economic inequality?
Inaba: That’s a really good question. You can find conditions in LA that you might think would be more typical of Mexico City, Cairo, or Lagos – and, yeah, I think you can read that through global capital flows, in the sense that now you have informal communities and suburbs next to one another, covering more area of the world than earlier forms of the city – like Manhattan, London, or Paris.
I’m not so interested in whether it’s top-down or bottom-up – or bottom-down, for that matter – but in acknowledging that there is more of it in the world now than there are 20th century downtowns."
Subtopia: The Rule of Law Complex: "A few days ago I came across an AP news piece with a headline that read some 30 Iraqi judges have been killed in Iraq, underscoring need for tight security. The solution, we read, is a “new heavily secured justice complex in eastern Baghdad” better known as The Rule of Law Complex “that began operating last month” and is further described as a “mini-Green Zone” for judges, investigators and their families who are trying to avoid being the target of violence."
Blackwater USA - Iraq - Private Security Contractors - DynCorp International - Triple Canopy - Defense Department - New York Times: "With undisguised disdain, he fixed his gaze across the concrete toward two smaller helicopters taking off from a hangar operated by Blackwater USA — the private security company whose men, while guarding an American diplomatic convoy, were involved last week in a Baghdad shootout that killed at least eight people and, according to an Iraqi government report, as many as 20."
Blackwater Tops Firms in Iraq in Shooting Rate - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — The American security contractor Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials."
"programming took shape as a conscious practice in the immediate post-World War II period. Myth has it that it was derived from the process of downsizing military bases and cutting down on facility redundancies by coordinating different uses in the same space"
- Hashim Sarkis, CASE Book
“The emblematic capital of this transformation is the Green Zone, the American encampment in
Its like designing for a client, except that you expect some democratic variability of use pattern upon handover. A progressive handover seems to be the key, rather than a direct transfer of power (which is one-to-one). How to build this handover variability into the architecture? To maintain what's necessary but allow it to (d)evolve over time into...what?...'democracy' ?
A terrorist using a cellular network to set off a bomb - enacting physical change through the comandeering of an infrastructural network and its deployment in an alternative fashion.
What about hezbollah doing urban planning? How the fuck are they thinking, doing, and organizing this shit? If they can do it, can't anyone? If they can make themselves look good, can't anyone?
Saskia Sassen, territory etc...
infrastructure as indeterminate, state of the art, and homogenous
shanghai, sao paolo, chicago are the 'sources' of knowledge economy...
specialized differences: hong kong and shanghai are different kinds of financial centers
these global cities are an assemblage that work as an infrastructure for the global economy
tensions between indeterminacy and specificity
me: maybe formal and tectonic indeterminacy with programmatic specificity
This is a copy of the Thesis Proposal (rough...) I submitted a little while ago.
Advisor: Timothy Hyde
My thesis project will address the contemporary global proliferation of lawlessness. I will propose an architecture and a way of architecting that can effectively engage this lawless context. I will arrive at this proposal through the research of agents, productions, and techniques that are already engaged, successfully or not, with such lawlessness.
Lawlessness thrives in/on lawless zones. Zones explicitly beyond the reach of civil law. Zones outside of state control, or no longer exclusively or effectively under state control. Emerging or decaying, fleeting or permanent, conscious constructions or haphazard byproducts.
Warzones represent one extreme of lawlessness, zones outside the control of civil law, with their own complex legal structures, created by states outside of (but perhaps overlapping with) the territory of states themselves. Other examples might include: private security zones, airports, international waters, the internet, multinational corporations, megacities, gangland, no-man’s land…
In the end, though, I am interested in the architecture, the structures, of these zones. Structures that might define, comprise, support, conceal, locate, describe, choreograph, influence, coexist with, emerge from these zones of lawlessness. Architectures unique to a particular lawless zone or common to all. I am interested in the physical entities (and attendant processes and techniques) that are the definition, corollary, product, or byproduct of a particular lawless context or to lawlessness in general.
Currently, these architectures of lawlessness are considered unknown, irrelevant, or incidental to contemporary architectural discourse and practice. Architectural discourse and practice have become dangerously complacent in ignoring (willfully or otherwise) the proliferation and subsequent importance of such zones and their architectures (existing, emergent, implied, or potential). As a result, discourse is unable to successfully consider such zones, and practice unable to engage them. Architecture (as discipline and practice) remains locked in an increasingly anachronistic relationship with aging, ineffective powers that hold little or no purchase over or effectiveness within the expanding lawless zones. Architecture is becoming increasingly powerless and irrelevant, unable to recognize, much less engage, an increasingly large percentage of the world’s spaces.
This situation must be remedied if architecture is to remain the primary means of shaping the world around us.
The contemporary conditions of lawlessness are neither new nor unique. Nor are they uncharted or unnavigable. I will therefore turn to cotemporary and historical scenarios as precedent from which architecture can learn. I will be researching groups that engage such lawless zones and exercise agency within or over them, the techniques and practices they use to do so, and the results or products of their engagement that have some impact on or relationship with these zones.
I might observe the example of the US military as it restructures itself to function in newly redefined warzones, outsourcing to paramilitary corporations such as Blackwater and cooperating with non-governmental organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres. Research might involve looking at a Field Manual, a piece of hardware, a strategy, or an ideological shift. I might investigate pirates and privateers, terrorists and mercenaries, missionaries and explorers as agents that operate with varying degrees of efficacy or success within lawless zones…
The intent is to find precedents that will allow for the assembly of an architecture of lawlessness, a means for architecture as a discipline to exist within, engage with, and ultimately influence the structures of these zones of lawlessness.
Random helpful quotes-of-the-week:
“If organization, as reflected in architecture and urbanism, possesses disposition, the means to aggress or collude, it may also be an adversary or a competitor. It may be brittle or stretchy. Its software or hardware is capable of political manipulation or violence, and also capable of storing or unleashing this agency in its inception, planning, and building as well as its occupation. As it mixes with overt or covert lawlessness, architecture possesses the means to war.”
“…effective activism will now rarely look like classic resistance. Rather resistance may come cloaked in its opposite, just as capital can be cloaked in the costumes of resistance…the various masquerades of resistance need not correspond to those of a tragic counterculture with its principled self-valorizations – righteous dispositions they share with war.”
“Political practices often gravitate to one of several well-rehearsed roles: the earnest public servant, the political theorist, or the strident activist…”
“Piracy is a useful construct here – one that yields a continuum of characters from the privateer and military entrepreneur to the terrorist and murderer: enough variations on the confidence game to provide reflections of diplomats, viceroys, orgmen, and elected officials.”
Keller Easterling, Enduring Innocence, pgs 7-11