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    MOUT 2: Jungle Warfare

    Nick Sowers
    Nov 23, '09 2:59 PM EST

    Sorry to disappoint: I'm not announcing the title of the latest X-Box 360 game. It's just another day on the Branner Fellowship and only two days from the end.


    MOUT 1 appeared way back at the beginning of the year when I posted some pics from my first encounter with Military Operations on Urban Terrain. On what will end up being my final base visit of the year, I again unexpectedly encountered a MOUT site. This past week in Guam, among some fascinating discoveries (thanks to meeting some great people over there), I had the opportunity to explore a former Air Force housing area that closed in the mid 90s. Now this MOUT site sees troops crawling through its busted windows and learning how to better kill people in and around buildings. This is about securing our freedom, remember.


    In the typical fashion of the US military's maniacal acronyms and initialisms, however, they no longer call it MOUT but rather it's UO or Urban Operations. Sounds familiar, like a so-called 'landscape urbanism' office based in New York. It's also worth noting how much more clever and less efficient the British are with an acronym describing the same thing: FISH and CHIPS (Fighting In Someone's House and Causing Havoc In People's Streets). Let's just stick with MOUT since I'll be citing other pieces which use the term.

    My man Subtopes has written on this subject. Have a read of MOUT Urbanism for starters. He writes,

    The essence of MOUT is that it prepares one for the conditions of an elsewhere; it is an active ghost town this way empowering its subjects to descend on cities the other side the world and enact their will wherever they see fit.

    The key there for me is "active ghost town" for I am thinking about the ghost towns we continually produce, and not just military ones. Can we use dead malls or unfinished housing subdivisions for some other kind of simulation, in between Hollywood and urban warfare? Boomtowns, even resort towns in the off-season could be rented by the military. We needn't erect new MOUT sites when the global economic downturn is readily producing them.


    BLDG BLOG has also had stuff on the subject. In the first link Geoff is looking at how MOUT is "a cross between Dick Cheney and Archigram" producing instant cities and such. The second link is a preview to a lecture titled "Feral Cities" that he gave at the beginning of the year, in which Geoff laid out a fascinating set of questions:

    If a growing majority of the human population has now been urbanized, moving into what are often incorrectly described as "cities," what will warfare mean – and how will it be practiced – in these increasingly complex spatial environments? If urban insurgency is, indeed, the future of the global battlefield, as many theorists have proposed, how does the changing nature of urbanism itself help to redefine war? Conversely, how does insurrection work to redefine the space of the modern city?
    Finally, if the future of war can be seen as Military Operation on Urban Terrain – or MOUT – what mutations will we see when that one key variable, the
    urban, is redefined?

    Geoff is pointing out how simulation is not just a mock-up of the real but rather it is producing the real. It may not be far-fetched when urban planners take a look at strategy reports from MOUT facilities in order to write an anti-insurgent 3-dimensional zoning code. There is consistency in this inquiry with what he and Nicola Twilley's research/studio on Landscapes of Quarantine is looking at right now. Basically take a threat ('terrorist' or epidemic) and examine the security products which result from the effort to contain this threat.


    MOUT is interesting as a mode of architectural simulation like a model of a war-zone. The geographer in me wants to attack the important issues of neo-colonialism and the consequences of building mock-cities of countries we are at war or might be at war with in the near future. But the architect, in the spirit of Bunker Recycling Services, is just fascinated by the potential uses of former military bases.

    While not bunkers or even overtly of a military nature, these buildings and the sites on which they sit are every bit as difficult to recycle. Military space gets mired in issues of local politics, environmental cleanup, aging infrastructure, etc. When the buildings are no longer of operational use and the jungle continues to creep up, what can be done? In Panama, I saw the jungle neatly manicured while the buildings themselves were a wreck. Bosque San Patricio, a former housing area in the middle of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is now a nature conservation park, totally overgrown except for the streets. Here on Guam, the more of a wreck the buildings and landscape, the better a simulation it is of a war-zone. There is already some evidence of this wreck being curated:


    The housing area is divided between a set of one-story bungalows and a group of six three-story barracks. I begin to wonder if the site should be labeled MOST: Military Operations on Suburban Terrain. Perhaps that says something about the wars we plan to wage. Gated communities might become the medieval walled cities they always wanted to be.


    There is also a mock US military base or fortified outpost in the form of plastic imitation Jersey barriers such as those found in Iraq. The weird thing about this structure is how it overlaps with the housing area, as if that is the intention of things, like floating fortresses and instant cities as Bryan and Geoff, respectively, would look at them.


    We discovered some noteworthy artifacts. First there were the human targets, painted black. (Later we spotted another one that someone put on the side of the road, advertising a garage sale.) Then we found some standard restroom signs with Arabic stenciled over them. Last I checked there isn't any jungle in Afghanistan, but there is in Indonesia... And Guam, after all, is going to be ever-sharper the tip of the American spear in the Pacific. More on that later.

    The working title for this suckah was MOUT 2: The Ruins of Empire, but as my eyelids are hanging heavy in this gamer cafe in the Philippines, I feel my ambition overrunning me. Ruins of Empire is the subject of a grander post or set of posts which will help set the framework for my thesis. I did just say that word didn't I...bring that shit on.

    • 1 Comment

    • Yep, getting close to the time when you need to tell us where this all has led to..

      I for one am very eager...

      Nov 23, 09 3:03 pm  · 

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