Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 11

URBAN INDIVIDUAL belligerent protects his own while seizing the initiative to attack his opponent’s. Because he saw the army as the real source of Russian power, Kutuzov made the hard choice to preserve his forces rather than protect the capital. At that time, Moscow counted 270,000 inhabitants. Now, the inhabitants number twelve million. In 1800, 3 percent of the world population lived in cities. That ratio now stands at 50 percent, and trends indicate it will grow to 60 percent by 2030. Taking into account the growth of the world population from one to eight billion in the same period, this means that the number of city dwellers will increase more than one hundred fifty-fold in just over two centuries.3 The scope of this evolution raises the question as to whether the relative importance of armed forces and cities as sources of power has remained unchanged. One way to answer that question is to analyze what the incumbent Russian rulers consider the most dangerous threat to their country and regime at this moment. Two centuries after Borodino, the Kremlin states that Moscow is once again under threat of an imminent attack. In May 2014, Russian authorities organized an international security conference entirely devoted to color revolutions.4 During the conference, Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov—chief of staff of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation—explained his view on the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych earlier that year: “Color Revolutions have become the main lever for the realization of political ideas. … They are based on political strategies involving the external manipulation of the protest potential of the population, coupled with political, economic, humanitarian and other non-military measures.” 5 In an earlier publication, he wrote that “the rules of war changed substantially. The role of nonmilitary methods to achieve political and strategic objectives increased, and their effectiveness, in some cases, exceeded that of armed force.”6 In the eyes of the Kremlin, this type of regime change can happen at any time in Moscow. Mass demonstrations in Mosc ow could be as threatening to Putin as they proved to be to Yanukovych in Kiev. President Putin therefore firmly stated, “We see that the wave of so-called ‘color revolutions’ led to such tragic consequences. … For us, this is a lesson and a warning, and we must do everything necessary to prevent something like this from happening in Russia”7 Although the Kremlin’s interpretation of recent events indicates it refuses to differentiate between spontaneous protests and orchestrated subversion, it MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 also shows the Kremlin considers urban mobilization a power equivalent or superior to conventional military force. Gerasimov’s estimate of the relative importance of armies and cities clearly is the complete opposite of Kutuzov’s. Other events corroborate this estimate. In megacities like Cairo, Baghdad, and Gaza, military force proved inadequate to contain popular mobilization. As urbanization continues, this trend will only exacerbate. However, the increased role of cities in armed conflicts is not due to the cities themselves but to the way their numerous inhabitants interact. This article holds that the source of power in future armed conflicts is the protest potential of urban individuals. Therefore, rendering the enemy powerless requires its isolation from urban constituencies at the outset of operations. This calls for a renewed understanding of the first foundation of unified land operations: initiative.8 To substantiate this thesis, the article first explains the process of urbanization in the context of conflicts and war. Next, it describes how urban-based belligerents use megacities as strategic power sources rather than advantageous tactical battlegrounds. It further analyzes why gaining overwhelming popular support is the decisive action in megaurban conflict. Finally, it derives the military implications from that analysis. Urbanization Twenty-first century megacities counting several million inhabitants are not simply enlarged versions of early nineteenth century cities with less than one hundred thousand residents. Urbanization does not merely mean that cities expand but that the urban character of the environment becomes the defining parameter of life itself. In 1800, cities were small but densely populated areas governed by a rudimentary administration and protected by a fortified perimeter. The defense of a city relied completely on the value of the perimeter as an obstacle. Once breached, the city was lost. Protracted resistance inside the perimeter was impossible. As the effectiveness of firepower against fortifications increased, the importance of cities in wars dwindled. By contrast, contemporary megacities are large areas with a high population density where life depends on administration. Perimeters in the shape of beltways enhance rather than impede access to the center. However, this does not mean that these cities are defenseless. On the contrary, the defensive value of a megacity stems from the 9