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22  Race & Class 51(3)

academics from various disciplines, the report considered an extraordinarily wide range of possible futures, in an attempt to anticipate the ‘discontinuities, insecurities and volatilities’ that its authors saw as inherent to the early twenty-first century.32

Some of these predictions were uncontroversial. Few readers, even then, would have dismissed the possibility of a ‘failure of the global financial system’ or even a resurgence of ‘anti-capitalist ideologies, possibly linked to religious, anarchist or nihilist movements, but also to populism and the revival of Marxism’.33 But the report also considered ‘strategic shocks’ that would not have been out of place in the fictional worlds of William Gibson or J. G. Ballard, such as the possibility that ‘synthetic telepathy’ would facilitate ‘mind-to-mind or telepathic dialogue’ and the invention of information and entertainment devices that could be ‘wired directly to the user’s brain’.34 Another scenario posited that advances in genetic research might lead to the ‘super-enhancement of human attributes, including physical strength and sensory perception’ – a development that could make it possible for ‘dictatorial or despotic rulers’ to ‘buy longevity’.35 Nor did the authors discount the possibility that the enemies of the West might invent an unspecified super-weapon or ‘magic bullet’ that would be ‘effective against a wide range of targets and against which established countermeasures are ineffective’.36

If some of these futuristic possibilities went further than their US counterparts, the report shares the generally pessimistic mood of US military futurism in its prediction of a deteriorating security climate characterised by ‘endemic internalised violence’, terrorism and the spread of ‘ungoverned spaces’ across the world.37 In addition to the usual threat of ‘Islamist terrorism’, the authors consider the possibility that ‘the middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx’.38 Like the alienated Chelsea professionals in J. G. Ballard’s Millennium People, these middle-class rebels might turn to violence out of boredom and form a ‘terrorist coalition of the willing’ made up of ‘reactionary and revolutionary negationists, such as ultranationalists, religious groupings and even extreme environmentalists’ that would use modern communications technology to engage in ‘Rapid MassMobilisation’ and summon up violent ‘flash mobs’ in cities across the world.39

Feral cities Like many military futurists, the authors of Strategic Trends are particularly preoccupied with the security implications of explosive urbanisation in the global South and warn that rural migrants to the slums and shantytowns of Third World cities may lose their traditional markers of cultural and religious identity and fall prey to criminal gangs, nationalists and religious zealots. Some of the larger conurbations may experience ‘mega city failure’, leading to ‘Endemic Urban-Based Irregular Conflict’ so that western armies may be forced to confront ‘future adversaries who have highly-developed urban survival and combat skills’ operating from ‘sprawling towns and cities which will already have experienced endemic lawlessness and high levels of violence’.40 Such ‘ungoverned’ cities may Matt Carr: Slouching towards dystopia: the new military futurism  23

form a ‘shadow international system’ associated with ‘criminality, terrorism, disorder and insurgency, fuelled by nominal or actual grievance, deprivation and resentment, or simply in reaction to market forces or boredom’.41

This image of the city as the primary battleground of the future is a key element in the military dystopia. In these images of the ‘broken’ cities of the future, military futurism really shows its debt to science fiction, in its fusion of contemporary urban battlegrounds such as Mogadishu and Fallujah, the blighted slums of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Port-Au-Prince with the ravaged cinematic cityscapes of Robocop, Escape from New York, Mad Max and video games such as Shadowrun: feral cities, whose designers promise exciting virtual combat in ‘decaying urban wilds, war-torn cityscapes, and cancerous megabarrens’ in which ‘the usual rules and constants of civilized society don’t apply’.42

Compare this depiction with the image of the twenty-first century city contained in a widely discussed 2003 article in the US Navy War College Review entitled ‘Feral cities – the new strategic environment’ by Richard K. Norton, a former naval commander and national security analyst:

Imagine a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles. Once a vital component in a national economy, this sprawling urban environment is now a vast collection of blighted buildings, an immense petri dish of both ancient and new diseases, a territory where the rule of law has long been replaced by near anarchy in which the only security available is that which is attained through brute power. Such cities have been routinely imagined in apocalyptic movies and in certain science-fiction genres, where they are often portrayed as gigantic versions of T. S. Eliot’s Rat’s Alley. Yet this city would still be globally connected. It would possess at least a modicum of commercial linkages, and some of its inhabitants would have access to the world’s most modern communication and computing technologies. It would, in effect, be a feral city.43

These environments, Norton argued, were likely to become an increasingly common battlespace for the US military in the future. Infested with ‘criminals, armed resistance groups, clans, tribes, or neighbourhood associations’, these cities would ‘exert an almost magnetic influence on terrorist organizations’ so that ‘relatively small groups might acquire weapons of mass destruction’ without being detected.44 Since the feral city ‘would be in effect a toxic-waste dump, poisoning coastal waters, watersheds, and river systems throughout their hinterlands’, the elimination of these groups would require major combat operations in which casualties ‘from pollutants, toxins, and disease may well be higher than those caused by the enemy’.45

Where are these cities to be found? In addition to Black Hawk Down Mogadishu, Norton mentions potential future contenders such as Mexico City, Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro. Writing in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, he also suggests that some Iraqi cities such as Nasiriyah might already have reverted to ‘feraldom’. Such cities, Norton argued, would constitute ‘one of the