Published on February 24, 2014
Vertical Geopolitics: The Underground as Target Stephen Graham, Newcastle University
I Geopolitics as a ‘Flat Discourse’ “Geopolitics is a ﬂat discourse. It largely ignores the vertical dimension and tends to look across rather than to cut through the landscape. This was the cartographic imagination inherited from the military and political spatialities of the modern state” Eyal Weizman (2002).
II Burrowing and Aerial Hegemony • “The orbital weapons currently in play possess the traditional attributes of the divine: Omnivoyance and omnipresence” Paul Virilio (2002) • ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’: US air and space near-hegemony on air and space surveillance • Vertical, penetrative gaze and killing power • Move towards ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’, ‘persistent surveillance’ and ‘persistent area dominance’: robotised destruction linked to networked sensors and GPS • Combined with rise in ‘asymmetric war: US forces and allies vs. non-state insurgents and militia
III Three Aspects: (i): Verticalised, Urbanised, War • Ralph Peters (1997) ”The long term trend in open-area combat is toward overhead dominance by US forces. Battleﬁeld awareness may prove so complete, and precision weapons so widely-available and effective, that enemy ground-based combat systems will not be able to survive in the deserts, plains, and ﬁelds that have seen so many of history’s main battles.” The United States’ “enemies will be forced into cities and other complex terrain, such as industrial developments and inter-city sprawl” • City a refuge from orbital and aerial hegemony e.g. urban insurgencies in Iraq
(ii) Burrowing and the ‘War on Terror’ • Underground warfare not new. But subterranean realm reviviﬁed as space beyond the gaze and killing power of RMA technology • Feature of all circuits, organizations and activities deemed illicit, illegitimate or threatening under the banner of the ‘war on terror’: ‘illegal’ immigration, covert border crossings, non-state insurgencies, smuggling and weapons R and D and nuclear programmes of ‘axis of evil’ states
Surveillance and the Subterranean “So, as global surveillance becomes more pervasive enabled by open markets and advances in satellite technology, and with alarming mass exoduses of immigration pounding the newly fortiﬁed borders of the 1st world -- in some sort of epic labor backlash to the hypocrisies of a globalized world economy (where borders are dissolved for the ﬂow of capital) -- will we see a greater underground network of secret tunnels and escape routes develop? Improvised border crossings and insurgency bunkers, an illicit infrastructure of underworld populations burrowing down deep below the radar? Is the urbanism of the next century a subtopian network of illicit colonizers and underground settlements able to slip past the God-eye of rampant global panopticonism, and hijack the world economy?” Brian Finoki, Subtopia Blog
Brian Finoki: “border or escape tunnels are merely the ﬂedgling appendages of a leviathan bunker system much too great to imagine connecting together inside a hollowed earth” • US Mexico Border: Drug smuggling tunnel inside a warehouse in San Diego just outside the airport in Tijuana, Mexico. The 21st discovered in four years. Opened in to "one of the longest and most sophisticated crossborder tunnels ever discovered.” • Between 3,789 feet long and 89 feet deep. • “This makes the fourth tunnel discovered this month along the Tijuana-San Diego border, and, yet, you get the sense that investigators have merely only scratched the surface of what's beginning to look like an epic subterranean labyrinth of dank corridors, trapped whispers, and lots of lonely long turns.” Finoki
Logical Response to IDF “Besieging Cartography” in Occupied Territories • Undeniably risky but lucrative business for teams of Palestinian construction workers and refugee entrepreneurs. • “ It is interesting to gauge the increased visibility of these tunnels as Hamas makes its political move from the underground to a greater institutional position on the surface of Palestinian society.” Finoki
Used to Justify a Politics of Surface Erasure and Urbicidal war
A Major Feature of Iraqi insurgency
Western/ Israeli Militaries: Urban Warfare and Tunnel Warfare Training/ Doctrine/Weaponry • (Re)Learning lessons of past • Developing new robotic systems
III The US Counter Underground Facilities (CUGF) Program • Rumsfeld, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001 “It is one of the interesting things that, given the end of the Cold War and the relaxation of tension and the increase in proliferation and the availability of dual-use capabilities, that a lot of countries have done a lot of digging underground” • J.D. Crouch, Bush’s assistant Secretary of Defense, in February 2002: “Without having the ability to hold those [underground bunker] targets at risk”, “we essentially provide sanctuary” • Palpable anger that globe-spanning US power can be defeated by the simple act of digging and pouring concrete.
Natanz Enrichment Facility, Iran
3 Elements: (i ) Deepening The Penetrative Gaze
Low Altitude Airborne Sensors System (LAAS) • Extract such basic information as the amount of electrical power being used by occupants of the underground installation. (According to Darpa researchers, power usage can be determined from the type and amount of efﬂuents being emitted from vent holes.) • "We really need to address the classiﬁcation problem," said Duckworth. "Can we separate hospital from hostile bunker when both are on emergency power?” • Software using sophisticated proprietary algorithms will take the raw data from the sensors, along with the information developed from individual analysis of that data and use it all to generate a "hit" list ranked by probabilities.
(ii) ‘Bunker Busting’ Bombs
(iii) 2002 Nuclear Posture Review • S p r i n g 2 0 0 3 S e n a t e , w h i c h h a s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, approved development of a “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” approved with “mini nuke” warhead • In July 2005, the US Senate sanctioned $4 million to revive the Robust Earth Nuclear Penetrator (RNEP) research programme. • Will detonate 30m underground: use blast, shockwave and vibration to destroy underground facilities and equipment • “a 1kT nuclear explosion, buried 30m underground, will destroy heavy equipment within about 160m of its burst while light equipment will only be destroyed if the tunnel is within the rupture zone.” Gordon, Jane’s Weekly, 2002
Drawing from 1960s ‘Plowshare’ Program • Planned to use nuclear explosions to widen the Panama Canal, construct a new sea-level waterway through Nicaragua, cut paths through mountainous areas for highways, and connect inland river systems.
• To actually destroy an alleged military complex 1000ft underground, for example, the Stanford physicist Sidney Drell has estimated that a ‘bunker busting’ nuclear warhead would need to be at least 100 kilotons in size (or more than six times the size of the Hiroshima bomb). Even if it was exploded deep underground, such a bomb would release over 1.5 million tons of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere with a capacity to kill or devastate a huge urban population (ibid.).
Conclusions • Exploitation and targeting of subterranean critical, but neglected, aspect of contemporary political geographies and geopolitics • Need a critical, vertical geopolitics or (geo)politics of verticality • Understand how vertical omnipotence of US and allies, and the burrowing amongst those deemed illegitimate or enemies, interact within the context of the ‘war on terror’, the ‘new normal’ and growth of ‘network centric warfare’ • Part of wider recasting of everyday urban sites and spaces as militarised battlespace, as discourse of ‘national security’ merge with those of ‘public safety’ • Also targeting of urban subterranean bu non-state terrorist agents (Tokyo gas attacks; London tube bombings etc) and the securitisation of urban subterranean. • Also how the very act of subterranean burrowing is delegitimised and portrayed as intrinsically dark, evil, cowardly whilst, at the same time, the US itself undergoes one of the biggest subterranean bunker programmes since Cold War
Above all, any act to directly target aerial gaze is the ultimate threat and is punished massively
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