Concrete in Urban Warfare & Peacebuilding
After reading a fascinating paper titled, Concretising conflict by Deen Sharp I have been reflecting on my work in Iraq and other conflict contexts. The more thought I gave it, the more I realised that concrete was an obvious common denominator I've been taking for granted. Surprising really, I see myself as an advocate for the conservation of concrete buildings with cultural significance. Thanks to Sharps's paper, I have reached out to West Point's Modern War Institute, where they have delivered a new course in Urban Warfare Planning using concrete among other tools for hostile urban management. Sharp quotes from the paper written by John Spencer ( also a great paper to read called THE MOST EFFECTIVE WEAPON ON THE MODERN BATTLEFIELD IS CONCRETE)
Spencer explains, No other weapon or technology had done more to contribute to achieving strategic goals of providing security, protecting populations, establishing stability and eliminating the terrorist threat’
Interestingly Sharp picks out these two quotes by Spencer (Chair of Urban Warfare Studies and the Modern War Institute at West Point), "The centrality of concrete walls to the conduct of the war is articulated, Spencer notes, by the miniature concrete barriers given to senior leaders as gifts to represent their tours: ‘Concrete is as symbolic to their deployments as the weapons they carried".
It follows then if the military is recognising the symbolic nature of concrete to the point where they are awarding ex-combatants miniature concrete facsimiles of separation walls like the above image, then peacebuilding professionals should be giving it equal consideration. What impact has the concrete tapestry of urban war had on the local communities and humanitarian aid works? How have people taken ownership of their post-conflict layer of control? what memories do they evoke, are they obstructing peace within an urban sense of place?
I am suggesting to the West Point's Modern War Institute, that their exciting new course could be even better by developing a strategy where peacebuilding and post-conflict placemaking can benefit too.
Frazer Macdonald Hay