Stephen Smith is a Webdiary contributor. His last piece was Opinion polls - the poll(ution) of ideas and debate. And see Fences will divide Sydney for APEC.
The future of warfare lies in the streets, sewers, high-rise buildings, industrial parks, and the sprawl of houses, shacks, and shelters that form the broken cities of our world. (journal of the US Army War College)
It seems incongruous that constant warnings about the terrorist threat should lead to APEC staging itself in the very place most likely to be a magnet for such acts. However, APEC has good reason for not meeting on some tropical island. Far from seeking to avoid the week long APEC chaos diary, the event seems to have a fetish with securing these set pieces. As I shall argue here, APEC serves the cause of military urbanism.
We can define military urbanism as the way in which global power works to inscribe political violence and war into the planning and design of cities. It is more than an APEC like pause to business as usual. It is the marking of the city as a permanent zone of conflict. What they learn from APEC's laboratory in the CBD they can apply to Sydney's more 'feral' postcodes.
The disruption leading up to and during APEC raises this question. Might strategic parts of cities such as Sydney be developed or redeveloped for militarised readiness? If so, architects and planners would be coopted to design fast emergency access routes and entry points. Of course, none of it would be obvious until they deploy their units next time. But the whole process would be at the cost of public space.
Long after the walls come down, the road show that travels with APEC might not so easily depart. Rather, it hovers and waits over the 'hotspots' it has already mapped out. If terrorists and their cells are invisible for long periods, then military urbanism treats entire communities as 'the enemy'.
Events such as APEC divide and quarantine areas by means of walls; and these walls look the same as the images we are already familiar with in terrain such as the West Bank or Baghdad.
We can hardly miss the reinforced concrete fence snaking its way across much of Sydney's CBD. In fact, the state of emergency extends well beyond. The suburbs are already under scrutiny; and from the height of buzzing jets we are all 'persons of interest'.
Thus, The Australian was able to inform us that, “Police flight crews have been training for APEC since April, targeting 149 hotspots across western and south western Sydney.” Most helpfully, we are told that these spots include railway stations, shopping centres, car parks, roadways, reserves and parks.
Access and freedom of movement is now conditional. There is a separation between the 'Us' and 'Them' sides of the street. As geographer Professor Stephen Graham argues in a conversation with Subtopia, the city divides itself into two classes: "Citizens who are deemed to warrant value and the full protection of citizenship, and those have been deemed threatening as real or potential sources of 'terrorism': in essence, the targets for the blossoming national security state."
APEC obliges with a ready example. Special APEC powers take in a so-called 'excluded persons' list of those banned from entering the city centre. It sounds like the Sheriff in a bad Western. “We hope that will be deterrent sufficient for them to say they will not come into town”, said the NSW Police Commissioner. ”If they chose to, they will be dealt with”, he warned. (It would certainly be foolish to ride into town wearing a black hat.)
A distinguishing feature of military urbanism, then, is the exclusion of certain groups as 'the other' and the consequent ramping up of security. The 'war on terror' now takes in not just broken cities from the endless Third World war we see on the TV news. What has changed is that all cities are now the 'battlespace' of the future. The tactics that flow on from this go by the term Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain - also known by its acronym MOUT. 
As the helicopters clatter overhead, APEC begins to look like another large scale simulation where the actors and real participants are interchangeable. Leaders such as George W Bush move around in their motorcade bubbles, seeing little more than a blur and hearing nothing but the whisper from their ear buds. While they call the security 'temporary', practice makes for quick re-assembly, if not in the CBD then on any page of the UBD. The pieces are all Military IKEA; and the technology already in place via surveillance gear and digital fibre. There is even a touch of the archaic, with inner city street corners dressed with loudspeakers on poles standing silent but ready for an Orwellian voice to announce itself.
As the typical MOUT scenario, we think of broken cities such as Baghdad or Beirut. While these nightmare alleys are the worst of the worst, there is also the prospect that MOUT-lite zones will appear - if they have not already - in the badlands of Greater Sydney.
The Daily Telegraph, in covering an APEC drill, described a state of alert that was not so much unique to Sydney in September, but already part of a pattern of events:
Angry crowds yelled and abused officers as explosions and fireworks went off around them. Many scenes were reminiscent of some of the force's toughest challenges over the years, including the riots at Redfern, Macquarie Fields and Cronulla.
Indeed, in his Subtopia interview, Stephen Graham points out that the urban sprawl of the Third World does not stand far from the metro skylines of the West. Rather, the favelas, barrios (and all such local names for slums) have much in common with the 'internal colonies' of inner urban cores in US or UK cities, or the Parisian banlieues. As Graham argues, there are wealthy urban enclaves in all nations, but also counterpoint 'no go' areas. For these are places the state regards as “Hobbesian spaces housing the dangerous, racialised other”. Closer to home, well we might say: welcome to Redfern or Punchbowl.
Events such as APEC represent the cross over between war industries and policing; and the link extends its way to event management, border control and entertainment. They all “work to permeate and normalise cultures of war and militarism”, says Graham. Here, he says, separations between the 'inside' of nations and the 'outside' begin to fall away.
APEC, then, is part of a 'world series' - a security spectacle than encompasses G8 summits, Olympics, World Cups etc. Each event, as Graham describes, is “set up and policed by cosmopolitan roaming armies of specialists”.
Let us now follow the circuit to Sydney's APEC summit. Here we find, prior to APEC, sporting metaphors running rampant. The Daily Telegraph delighted in the mise en scene of APEC training drills taking place at the Mount Panorama motor racing course. Like a riotous Top Gear segment, there were burning cars; and in the photo gallery, 3 of 8 shots seemed to flash back to images of Glasgow airport's burning jeep.
The newspaper went to great lengths to extend the sporting analogy that extra yard. The cops were labeled as the “Dog Squad” as a tribute to their attendance at a Rugby League match. As we read here:
Unruly fans at tonight's Bulldogs-Eels blockbuster will risk an up close and personal preview of the police riot squad's tactics for this month's APEC summit.
In the blurring of these lines between simulation and reality, is it possible that APEC needs a fix of small doses of violence? At the recent North American leaders' summit in Montebello, Quebec, protesters exposed a group of police 'agents provocateurs' trying to incite violence. The use of small hand held cameras helps to expose such dirty tricks; and you can see the YouTube video of the incident here. The fake 'protesters' are wearing exactly the same boots that the police arresting them are wearing; the duct tape on the boots is an attempt at 'anarchist chic'.
At Montebello, Naomi Klein noted the use of surveillance as infotainment. Security shut off protest from the leaders. But bizarrely, inside their enclave, they could watch it all live on screen. Camera tents in the crowd also invited people to send a message to the meeting. As Klein says, it was “Big Brother meets, well, Big Brother”.
Images like these can be instantly loaded to the network. Such networks - news, social media or surveillance - all compete for the best shots from the closest angle. Do they compete? Or are the pictures all complicit? And while we watch the evening news - or YouTube - does our consumption of these images imply consent for what might take place? By watching, we make no distinction between ways and means. Surveillance is just another face of Facebook. Just more file sharing.
As we see from the marginalisation of genuine protest, the city has become a stage set for projecting out media product. Instead, it needs to be a living space enlivened by the flow of people through it. By effective measure, we need to reclaim the public space under our feet.
As a community, are there any positive actions we may take part in to reclaim our ground?
The solution, I believe, is to plan, legislate and gazette zones and corridors of public access. These would be equivalent to national parks or heritage sites. After what has been the greening of the streets, we must act to protect the modern face of the city. In this respect, we need to uphold the concept of the cosmopolitan, open city. In this popular urbanism, meetings, market stalls and art spaces would be accessible and welcoming for all. And they would remain so without exception.
 We can define the term MOUT as all military actions that are planned and conducted on a terrain where man made construction affects the tactical options available to the commander.
Posts by Bryan Finoki at Subtopia and Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG help us track this theme. To know what it must attack, the US military turns urban sprawl into simulation models. Thus, by 2010, the US plans to have over sixty MOUT training zones around the world. One such place is the Zussman Village at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It has a 30-acre quasi-city where soldiers learn to attack districts built in Military Arabesque style.