combat conducted in urban areas such as towns and cities
- As previous work has pointed out, the nuking of a sufficiently large city would be enough to generate a global-scale nuclear autumn. Take Los Angeles, for example, a city that extends for 500 square miles. The explosion and resulting fires would send an estimated 5.5 million tons of ash and soot into the stratosphere, causing sunlight, temperatures, and rainfall to temporarily decrease around the world. Globally, this would result in diminished growing seasons for the next half-decade, and temperatures would be the lowest in a thousand years. In some parts of the world, rainfall would be down by as much as 80 percent.
- George Dvorsky, "‘Limited’ Nuclear Strikes Could Still Wreak Climate Havoc", Gizmodo, (7/14/17).
- City fighting also places enormous challenges on ground forces. Fighting in urban terrain generally favors the defenders, who can place snipers in windows and hide down narrow alleys.
Even with precision munitions, it is difficult to use air and artillery power in a dense urban battle. Much of the fighting falls on the shoulders of the individual soldiers, who have to clear the city block by block.
- Jim Michaels, “Iraqi forces in Mosul see deadliest urban combat since World War II”, USA Today, ( March 29, 2017).
- A single pipe broken by a high-impact explosive weapon can deprive 100,000 people of water. That same weapon may also destroy the neighbourhood’s sewage system, causing thousands to fall ill and placing further strain on already overstretched hospitals.
Local economies collapse and populations flee, leaving fewer doctors and engineers, and no money to pay the salaries of those who remain. The acute pain caused by one attack triggers a ripple effect of long-term suffering that leaves no part of life unscathed.
- The US now has training camps featuring imitation “Arab” urban districts, and has picked up the Israeli practice of entering a dense neighbourhood not via the street, but by crossing through homes – a parallel pathway to the street, running from one interior room to another by carving holes in contiguous walls, and dealing with the inhabitants as they come across them.
They have learned, above all, that the city itself has become an obstacle. And while it is true that they can simply bomb a city to pieces – as we’ve seen with the bombing of Aleppo and other cities by Syria’s government and its allies – we have not recently seen the total destruction of the Hiroshima nuclear attack or the fire-bombing of Dresden.
- Saskia Sassen, “Welcome to a new kind of war: the rise of endless urban conflict”, The Guardian, (30 Jan 2018), last modified on (11 May 2018).
- Urban warfare remains characterized by slow, massive destruction. Yet 50 years ago, there were no computers, no internet, no GPS, no UAVs, no digital communications, no night-vision devices, and no precision strikes. Two facts account for the lack of change in tactics. First, cities are constructed of steel and concrete, with streets providing the open spaces, which are usually linear. Any fighter in the open is quickly cut down. No technology can accurately detect and count humans inside buildings and tunnels. So the attacker must advance by blasting through the sides of buildings and slowly, slowly search every room. Second, tens to hundreds of thousands of civilians can be trapped in the cities. The terrorists in Mosul have prevented the civilians from leaving in order to use them as shields.
- Bing West, “Urban Warfare, Then and Now”, The Atlantic, (Jun 30, 2017).