Archive for July 18th, 2012

By David J. Kilcullen

The City as a System

This era’s unprecedented urbanization is concentrated in the least developed areas of Asia, Latin America and Africa.  The data shows that coastal cities are about to be swamped by a human tide that will force them to absorb—in less than 40 years—almost the entire increase in population absorbed by the whole planet, in all of recorded human history up to 1960. And virtually all this urbanization will happen in the world’s least developed areas, by definition the poorest equipped to handle it—a recipe for conflict, crises in health, education and governance, and food, energy and water scarcity.

Rapid urbanization creates economic, social and governance challenges while simultaneously straining city infrastructure, making the most vulnerable cities less able to meet these challenges. The implications for future conflict are profound, with more people fighting over scarcer resources in crowded, under-serviced and under-governed urban areas.

Consider, for example, the interaction between climate change and coastal urbanization. Rural environmental degradation prompts migration to coastal cities, putting more people in low-lying regions, where the slightest sea level rise can cause major disruption. Indeed, the Asian Development Bank estimated in 2011 that drought, desertification and soil salinity, exacerbated by climate change, will prompt millions of rural people across the Asia-Pacific region to migrate to cities over coming decades:

Geography, compounded by high levels of poverty and population density has rendered Asia and the Pacific especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  The region is home to more than 4 billion people and some of the fastest growing cities in the world. By 2020, 13 of the world’s 25 megacities, most of them situated in coastal areas, will be in Asia and the Pacific. Climate change will likely exacerbate existing pressures on key resources associated with growth, urbanization and industrialization.[i]

The food security effects are equally severe, as pollution from coastal urbanization imperils fish stocks, and peri-urban areas surround city cores whose infrastructure is scaled for populations far smaller than they now support. This newly settled peri-urban land was once used for farms, market gardens and orchards, but as cities expand into this space, the distance between the city core and its food sources increases significantly. Food must now be produced further away and transported over ever-greater distances, increasing transportation and refrigeration costs, raising fuel usage and carbon emissions, exacerbating traffic problems, and creating “food deserts” in urban areas. Likewise, many cities are running out of water, a problem that will only increase as populations swell, and as urbanization covers rainfall catchment areas, pushing cities further from their water sources.

The growing size and complexity of cities also strains the infrastructure of governance—police, district administrators, courts, hospitals, schools, and maintenance services. In particular, government presence can be extremely limited in peri-urban areas, allowing the emergence safe havens for criminal networks or non-state armed groups, or creating a vacuum filled by local youth, who do not lack for grievances arising from their new urban circumstances or from their home villages. Even in developed cities like Paris and London, rioting, youth unrest and crime in peri-urban districts reached significant levels on several occasions over the past decade—and in underdeveloped regions the problem is even worse.[ii]

It is useful to think of urban migration from the rural hinterland—driven by rural environmental degradation, energy poverty or conflict—as the supply side of a population-flow system whose demand side includes the problems of urban overstretch, crime, scarcity and conflict just mentioned. The city is a system which, in turn, nests within a larger national and global system, with coastal cities functioning as an exchange mechanism that connects rural hinterlands with urban populations, and with international networks. We can represent this graphically, along with the key trends we have been discussing, as follows: NIC Blog – Kilcullen – City as a system

In this model, the coastal city is the center of a larger system, with rural factors in the city’s hinterland—including environmental degradation, poor rural infrastructure, and rural conflict—prompting rapid urbanization. This creates ad hoc peri-urban settlements where slums and shantytowns displace land formerly used to provide food and other services to the city, and cover the rainfall catchment area for the city’s water supply. The city’s growth puts its infrastructure under stress, so that both the old urban core and the new peri-urban areas experience weak governance, crime, urban poverty, unemployment and conflict. Shortages of food, fuel, electricity and water exacerbate these problems. In turn, the city’s connectedness allows its population to tap into licit and illicit activities offshore, and to connect with global networks, including diaspora populations, an interaction that affects both local and international conflict dynamics.

The data suggest that this is the environment in which future conflict will occur. To recap, this is not a futuristic prediction, but rather a projection of trends that are evident now, and an assessment of their effects on cities as they exist today. There will certainly be outliers—wars in desert and mountain terrain, and state-on-state “conventional” war—but this analysis does suggest the system parameters within which future conflict is likely to occur, and the majority such conflict seems likely to be urban, networked and littoral.

Implications

This analysis of the future conflict environment suggests that the recent U.S. shift away from protracted stabilization and counterinsurgency operations, toward conventional conflict, conflict prevention and military-to-military assistance, is somewhat unrealistic. American policy-makers, not for the first time, have expressed a strong preference for avoiding messy conflicts like those of the past decade. Nonetheless, as we have seen, policy-makers’ preferences seem to have little effect on the frequency of overseas interventions, a historical pattern which suggests that the United States is likely to undertake one major stabilization or counterinsurgency operation (on the scale of Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam) every generation, and smaller operations every (on the scale of Bosnia or Kosovo) every five to ten years, for the foreseeable future.

While this pattern is likely to endure, the environment in which such interventions occur is shifting. The three megatrends of urbanization, littoralization and connectedness suggest that conflict is increasingly likely to occur in coastal cities, in underdeveloped regions of the Middle East, Africa, Latin America andAsia, and in highly networked, connected settings. Adversaries are likely to be non-state armed groups (whether criminal or military) or to adopt asymmetric methods, and even the most conventional hypothetical war scenarios turn out, when closely examined, to involve very significant “irregular” aspects.

Whether irregular or state-based, adversaries in the future conflict environment will exhibit hybrid characteristics (combining state and non-state, domestic and international, military and criminal and licit and illicit elements) and these adversaries will be able to nest within the complexity of urban environments, as well as within legitimate national and international systems.

The implications for the military are reasonably obvious, if difficult to act upon in the current fiscal environment. Capabilities such as Marine amphibious units and naval supply ships, as well as facilities for expeditionary logistics in urbanized coastal environments are fairly obvious requirements, as are rotary-wing or tilt-rotor aircraft, precise and discriminating weapons systems, and the ability to rapidly aggregate or disaggregate forces to operate in a distributed, small-unit mode while still being able to concentrate quickly to mass their effect against a major target. Combat and construction engineers, civil affairs units, intelligence systems capable of making sense of the clutter of urban areas, and constabulary (gendarmerie)-type and coast guard capabilities are also likely to be important. The ability operate for a long period in a city without drawing heavily on that city’s water, fuel, electricity or food supply will be important also.

The implications for civilian agencies of government are equally obvious—the casino online ability to expand social services, city administration, and rule of law into peri-urban areas are clearly important, as are investments in infrastructure to guarantee supplies of fuel, electricity, food and water. Less obvious, but equally important, are investments in governance and infrastructure in rural areas, as well as efforts to mitigate the effects of rural environmental degradation that cause unchecked and rapid urban migration. Given the prevalence and increasing capability level of threat networks, policing capabilities will need to embody a creative combination of community policing, constabulary work, criminal investigation and special branch (or police intelligence) work, potentially in close collaboration with the military. And local city managers, district-level officials and ministry representatives may need capabilities that allow them to operate in higher-threat, opposed governance environments.

The implications for businesses, civil society and the public go well beyond either of these rather narrowly scoped considerations. In the first place, the environmental shifts outlined above represent far more than a future theory of conflict—indeed, they are a “theory of everything” in the sense that the three key megatrends identified here (urbanization, littoralization and connectedness) will affect every aspect of life on the planet in the next few decades, and will not solely affect conflict. Caerus Associates’ systems design approach for developing urban resiliency and mapping conflict[iii] and the IBM Smarter Cities project[iv] are two examples of businesses and civil society organizations taking a holistic approach to the city as a system, and thereby seeking to anticipate and address the full range of future issues that cities will confront.

More broadly, the city-as-a-system approach described earlier can be applied as a methodology to identify how complex problems that may appear unrelated—rural soil salinity, urban crime, piracy and diaspora-sponsored terrorism, for example—interact with each other in the context of a given city or threat network. Taking this approach may allow planners to identify emergent patterns within the complex adaptive system of a relevant city, make sense of the system logic, and thus begin to design tailored interventions. These would begin in a consciously experimental way, seeking to identify and reveal the complex interactions between different parts of systems, and among systems nested in larger systems, but would rapidly increase in effectiveness, as each experimental intervention would generate new data that would enhance the effectiveness of the next.

The future conflict environment is likely to be characterized by rapid population growth, increasing urbanization, accelerating littoralization, and greater connectedness. The future of conflict—like the future of most things on the planet—is likely to be urban, littoral and networked. Thinking of the city as a system seems to make the most sense as a way to understand this environment, and the irregular, hybrid and nested threats that we are likely to encounter within it. The implications for the military and for civilian government are fairly obvious, but in broader terms a city-as-system approach may also allow urban planners, city managers, businesses and communities themselves to understand their environment and develop tailored interventions to deal with it.

We are still likely to experience wars between nation-states, and conflict in remote areas such as mountains, jungles and deserts will still undoubtedly occur. But the trends are clear: more people than ever before in history will be competing for scarcer and scarcer resources, in poorly-governed areas that lack adequate infrastructure, and these areas will be more and more closely connected to the global system, so that conflict will have immediate wider implications. The future is hybrid and irregular conflict combining elements of crime, urban unrest, insurgency, terrorism and state-sponsored asymmetric warfare—more Mumbai, Mogadishu and Tivoli Gardens—and we had better start getting ready for it.

David J. Kilcullen is the Chief Executive Officer of Caerus Associates, and the author of The Accidental Guerrilla and CounterinsurgencyThis post is excerpted from a forthcoming article in the Fletcher Forum on World Affairs.


[i] See Asian Development Bank, Climate-Induced Migration in Asia and the Pacific, September 2011, online at http://beta.adb.org/features/climate-induced-migration-asia-and-pacific

[ii] Widespread rioting and civil unrest in outlying and peri-urban areas struckParis (and several other French cities) in 2005 and again in 2007 and 2010, while large-scale rioting and looting occurred in parts ofLondon in 2011.

Urbanization and American National Security

It has long been the case that American foreign policy is most successful when it reaches beyond governments to societies (think Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin shaping French attitudes).  The diversification of major power centers in other countries will require our government to shift its focus away from making policy in capitols, simply because capitols will no longer be the place where decisions get made in other countries.  We are ourselves emblematic of this diversification, the separation of our seat of government from our financial capital having been a conscious one to prevent centralization of power.  Natural forces further diversified the geography of American society: entertainment centered in Hollywood; literature in Boston and New York; manufacturing in what is now, sadly, the rust belt; computers in silicon valley and Redmond, Washington.
But our foreign policies have not yet adapted to these changes.  It will not be adequate to talk to government ministers, yet that remains predominantly how we conduct our foreign policy.  There are over twenty cities of more than a million people in which our State Department has no representation; where there are Embassies, they are literal bastions of American power inhospitable (because of security precautions) to engagement with civic groups.  The Foreign Service spends nearly all of its resources on language training, yet the overwhelming majority of our diplomats lack the facility to participate in live debates in the native languages of the countries in which they are posted.  This is the result of a system that prizes generalists; the nature of change in the international order demands specialist skills that we neither recruit or develop in our diplomats.
While the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review acknowledges these shortcomings (even if it is somewhat breathless about the newness of developments that are not really new), State has not followed through with spending and managerial effort to redress them.  Moreover, State still treats shaping attitudes in other countries as a special skill — “public diplomacy” — rather than the most important reason for posting diplomats abroad.  As a society, we are predisposed to understand messy, small-ball mosaics of power and organization; as a government, we are typically too lazy or ignorant to operate that way.  That must change.  We must understand the complexity of other societies and navigate them effectively to build public support, not just engage the governments in power, if we want to remain successful in the international order Global Trends 2030 identifies.
A second major effect of urbanization for American national security will be in the area If you cancel yourappointment more than twice the driving permit fee will be forfeited. of immigration.  We have long been the beneficiary of other countries’ deficiencies, drawing their talent.  Richard Rosecrance identified in the mid-1990s the importance amidst globalization of winning the competition for talent.  Rosecrance argued that the online casino’s traditional elements of state power shifted with a country’s level of development, from controlling territory that produced commodities, to controlling trade that created wealth from manufactured goods, to enabling virtual corporations focused on product design, marketing, and financing (Rosecrance, The Rise of the Virtual State, Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996).  States with the highest level of development would compete for intellectual capital, a factor of production that cannot be compelled by force but must be attracted by opportunity and incentive.
Marx famously said that religion is the opiate of the masses; suburban life as practiced by Americans may likewise be an opiate of the masses.  That is, what most people in the world want is the boring pleasantness of their own house, spending their time taking kids to sports practice and discussing traffic or a local eyesore with their neighbors.  It has a pacifying tendency on behavior, but it is predicated on a standard of living, societal and governmental infrastructure that has been beyond the reach of most countries.  If people don’t need to leave other online casino canada countries to enjoy the benefits we have, we will get less of the world’s intellectual and entrepreneurial talent coming to us.
And immigration has been the way America compensates for our incapacities.  We import much of our scientific and technical expertise, overcoming the paucity of science education in our own children with the attractiveness of our higher education systems and job opportunities.  As the Economist cautioned in its reporting on London, so here: we are making policy choices that disincline people to choose us, whether because of our homeland security policies or nativist “lump of labor” ideas that jobs are limited and must be preserved from export.  As the rest of the world comes to have the urban and suburban advantages we enjoy, we need to end our complacency and get serious about competing for the world’s talent.  And we need to strengthen our own domestic base, most especially in education.
The third effect of urbanization I would note for American national security results from is who is modernizing: it is the so-called developing world.  As Amartya Sen has put it, the greatest beneficiaries of globalization are the world’s poor. Countries that are urbanizing are those that have been poor and are growing wealthy.  This is to be applauded, not only as a moral good, but as an expansion of opportunity for countries that may take a greater interest in global issues and have the resources to participate in shaping them.  The United States needs more countries to share the burden of sustaining the global order that has served and the world so well.  In the 1940s and 1950s, America believed decolonization would produce a wave of new allies for our policies.  On that basis, we refused Churchill’s pleas to sustain their empire, refused to support our closest allies in a war against Nasserite Egypt.  If we welcome the arrival of countries that have pulled themselves out of poverty, remain a voice for the truths we hold to be self-evident, and emphasize accountable governance, the international order of 2030 has the potential to be even more beneficial to American interests than the one we now enjoy.

Kori Schake is a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. She has served in a variety of positions with the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State, and the National Security Council staff. Her recent publications include State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department(Hoover Institution Press, 2012) and Managing American Hegemony: Essays on Power in a Time of Dominance (Hoover Institution Press, 2009).

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Urbanization and the Global Climate Dilemma

By Will Rogers 

Urbanization and climate change may be the two most important trends to shape global development in the decades ahead. On the one hand, urban cities have the potential to serve as engines of change, driving economic growth in some of the world’s least developed countries and pulling more people out of poverty than at any other time in history. On the other hand, climate change could undercut all of this by exacerbating resource scarcity and putting vulnerable communities at risk from sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms.

Today, roughly 80 percent of economic growth comes for urban centers. Much of this comes from what experts refer to as the “urban advantage:” cities typically concentrate the full spectrum of economic opportunities that are not readily available in rural areas. This includes everything from social services such as education and healthcare, more reliable access to water, sanitation services and electricity, to industries and transportation hubs that are lynchpins for commercial development.

Simply put, countries have more opportunities for economic growth as they urbanize. According to a 2010 study from United Nations Human Settlements Program, “The prosperity of nations is intimately linked to the prosperity of their cities. No country has ever achieved sustained economic growth or rapid social development without urbanizing (countries with the highest per capita income tend to be more urbanized, while low-income countries are the least urbanized).” Of course, how much a country benefits from urbanization depends on policies developed at the local level. Indeed, urban politics can make or break the benefits of urbanization if local policymakers fail to adopt policies that break down socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic and religious barriers.

Nevertheless, urbanization affords tremendous economic opportunities and most of the future benefits will accrue to the world’s developing and least developed countries. As Drew Erdmann wrote earlier this week, “For the first time in over 200 years, the majority of the world’s economic growth during this decade will occur in emerging markets, not the developed economies of the ‘West.’” This may help foster a modicum of stability in some of the world’s most unstable states, countries like Haiti, whose urban population is projected to expand from 52 percent in 2010 to 70 percent by 2030, according to United Nations statistics.

Yet climate change may ultimately undermine the economic benefits of urbanization in some parts of the world. Urban centers place substantially more pressure on natural resources than rural communities given their population density and the attendant demands on water, agricultural, energy and other resources. And although urban planners can apply innovative solutions to help manage these resource constraints – such as waste water recycling systems – climate change could exacerbate resource trends in ways that nbso online casino may hamper the effectiveness of these creative technologies, slowing or stalling economic growth in some of these emerging economic centers.

But the real climate challenge may stem from development in fragile areas along world’s coastlines. Indeed, many of the global megacities (those with populations over 10 million) are located on the coast: Tokyo, Jakarta, Shanghai, New York City, Mumbai, Bangkok and Lagos, to name a few. Their locations are borne out of necessity: 90 percent of global commerce is done by sea. So while urbanizing along the coastline allows countries to more easily tap into global trade, coastal cities may be vulnerable to sea level rise and more frequent and intense typhoons, hurricanes and other extreme weather events that could result from climate change.

Sea level rise could be particularly damaging to urban economic development. Surging seas can crumble coastal infrastructure, such as electricity systems and road online casino ways, and infiltrate ground water aquifers that supply city water and support local agriculture. Moreover, sea level rise may drive up insurance rates, driving people into bankruptcy while also creating socioeconomic gaps in some cities. These challenges are not abstract or distant either: one need only look to the south of Washington, to Norfolk, Virginia, where sea level rise has already dislocated some communities, while forcing city officials to invest millions of dollars to hold back the sea near the naval station.

Typhoons, hurricanes, nor’easters and other extreme weather events may become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change and pose dangers to urban centers. The density of some coastal cities portends extreme challenges for first responders and others charged with responding to weather-related natural disasters. Indeed, the scale of these disasters could be quite staggering, and may even overstretch the capacity of emergency personnel if they are not adequately prepared to respond. Although one cannot definitively point to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina as an example of climate change, the effects of the storm provide a vivid illustration of the magnitude that such a disaster could have in a densely crowded urban community. As a result of this reality, some large cities have started examining how climate change may affect them in the coming decades. In 2010, for example, New York City published its own study from the New York City Panel on Climate Change that looked explicitly at these challenges.

Even absent climate change, it is difficult to disregard the inherent vulnerabilities associated with densely crowded urban cities, particularly those along the coast. In his book, Monsoon, Robert D. Kaplan writes that, “[N]ever before have the planet’s most environmentally frail areas been so crowded,” particularly in countries like Bangladesh, India and elsewhere, where hundreds of millions of people are packed together at or just above sea level. “This means that over the coming decades more people than ever before, in any comparable space of time save for a few periods like the fourteenth century during the Black Death, are likely to be killed or made homeless by Mother Nature,” Kaplan observes.

Looking for Opportunities

There are some opportunities that U.S. policymakers and others can pursue to help dampen the impact of potential climate disruptions on urban cities.

  • Enhancing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Training: The United States should develop more robust relationships with countries around humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to help more vulnerable countries and their cities develop the institutions, tools and procedures for responding to natural disasters. This does not have to be just traditional military-to-military cooperation either. Fire departments and other first responder organizations from U.S. cities can exchange expertise with other officials in cities around the world. And some of this is ongoing already, whether it’s around flood or wildfire response, and may just need to be scaled up.
  • Improving Climate Change Science at the Local Level: Many countries do not have the tools or techniques to assess how climate change may affect their cities. As a result, there is a significant opportunity for the United States to bolster its science and technology cooperation with countries that will enhance their understanding of local level climate impacts. The United States could leverage its National Labs and others in academia to help support and develop sound climate science that will provide better fidelity about how climate change is projected to manifest itself in urban centers. Better projections will enable cities to become more resilient, which may also help dampen political and social disruptions.

The bottom line: U.S. officials need to analyze urbanization and climate change together. These two trends have the potential to shape global development in fundamental ways in the decades ahead. Understanding how these trends may affect each other will put policymakers in a better position for adapting to potential challenges and harnessing opportunities that will become present in the future.

Will Rogers is the Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a non-partisan national security and defense policy think tank in Washington. The views expressed herein represent his personal views and do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of any organization with which he is affiliated.

The national security implications of the new urbanization are profound.

To begin this Blog’s discussion of this critical topic, today we have three new contributions:

In “City as a System: Future Conflict and Urban Resilience,” David Kilcullen of Caerus Associates explores how the landscape of conflict will become increasingly urban and that strategists and operators alike should understand cities as casino online a system.

In “Urbanization and American National Security,” Kori Schake of the Hoover Institution discusses urbanization’s implications for American policy and practice, at home and abroad.

In “Urbanization and the Global Climate Dilemma,” Will Rogers of the Center for a New American Security argues that national security practitioners must view urbanization and climate change as two interlinked phenomena.

I hope that readers find the insights of these diverse perspectives stimulating.  More to come in the days ahead!