Invoking the Hyperwar

This post is a kind of postmortem on cloister4.com, and not really of note otherwise.

Where to begin? I have a hard time truly defining what this project is supposed to be, to me. I can definitely tell you what it’s supposed to be about, though: the “hyperwar”, cities, and simulation. What any of those mean in this context are up for debate. The product of the three is a fully armed sort of urban horror.

Hyperwar

Loosely (and personally) defined, the hyperwar is a transduction—the grim specter of a future conflict, the hideous exhumed Yaldabaoth of the Baudrillardian “apotheosis of simulation”, a title which he gave to the infinitely inhibited, politically contingent promise of nuclear exchange. It is alternately defined as a war of uncertainty (see: Gerasimov doctrine), a multi-domain war in both real and cyberspace, asymmetric war in the megacity, or a war of such explosive ferocity that it startles even the forces engaged in fighting it. The hyperwar is all of these at once, because it’s not here yet. It withdraws, is occulted, is uncertain.

That uncertainty informs this project. And in speaking of ambiguity, it has become ambiguous itself, piling on layers of simulation and hyperstition until the final product has looped back around on itself (or so I hope).

Cities

The hyperwar is inextricable from the form of the megacity: the patchworked, diffuse, endogenic unknown, the charnel house of “encirclement and suppression campaigns”. Felix and Wong write about the megacity in relation to urban operations within it by defining it as a symbol of complexity: “to win in a complex world, Army forces must…integrate the efforts of multiple partners, operate across multiple domains, and present enemies and adversaries with multiple dilemmas.” Simply put, the Army must become more complex than their environment—an evolutionary imperative that abounds in complexity theory.

When attempting to think as a “military intelligence” (human or otherwise), I consistently encountered limits in the prevailing doctrinal approach. Attempting to solve this informed the core of this project, as far as I’m concerned, with the rest of the work—THEIA, the leak format, even the war itself—becoming auxiliary to the attempt to rewrite the way the military works. In military-hyperbolic jargon, I referred to this as the “Fourth Offset Strategy” or “Chaos doctrine”.

The megacity, along with the hyperwar, fundamentally violates military thinking as they are both entirely defined by cybernetic complexification and mutation. This is something the military knows but at present cannot fight. Instead, it avoids the city altogether: its warrens, its close combat, its hidden snipers, its door to door fighting. Ashworth in War and the City remarks vividly that the “urban environment creates a highly physically structured but fragmented series of compartmentalised battlefields that can absorb large quantities of personnel – which, once committed, will be difficult to extricate, regroup or reinforce”. The city eats armies. Urban metabolism goes carnivorous. Look at Stalingrad, look at Berlin.

The historical touchtone is important—most currently extent urban warfighting doctrine (or Military Operations in Urban Terrain: MOUT) is about avoiding cities altogether, or hoping to choke up their brutal capacity for digestion with a torrent of bodies in a war of attrition against space itself, as well as opposing forces. Following Mumford, we can see the city as a megamachine of megamachines, and applying Bar-Yam’s work on complexity, further interlocking subroutines are revealed, a mandelbrotian engine of recursive escalation.

In imagining a ‘new urban warfighter’ I attempted to visualize what a fully “cooperative” army would look like, with human and autonomous systems completely integrated. This in turn informed by a doctrinal approach: reformatting military operations so they became agents of chaotic breakdown in the urban environment, depriving local combatants of their privileged local knowledge, and sluicing the deterritorialized panic by virtue of superior firepower and coordination.

This theoretical-strategic futurism is present scattered throughout the Cloister IV leak files, but predominantly appears in the form of ‘UMBRAA’, or the fully playable Game of Metropolitical War.

Simulation

The general form of the project is a simulation of a future hyperwar, the fabulation of a “generative myth”. Lagos in the dead of night on 16 June 2036. So we’re back at Baudrillard, but this time approaching him through Sorel in some way. But the simulation is a bit ambiguous and cybernetic as well, involving a few different layers.

At the first level, the bottom rung, is the constructed hyperwar scenario: the “8 Hours’ War” in Lagos in 2036. It’s hell. A hypertrophied, ambiguously autonomous NATO squares off against an insurgent “China-Africa Mutuality”—a counterinsurgent terrestrial hyperpower, composed of a hegemonic China and several African nations. An attempt to invoke Ligotti’s aphorism: “…the fascination, the potent mystery, of the second-rate, half-baked, run-down, dirty little back-room world” writ large.

At the next level up is Cloister IV. Cloister IV is constructed as a ‘leak’, a data format popularized by the Wikileaks format. In analyzing the leak, I arrived at several tenets to inform my design:

  1. Data eugenics goes out the window. The amount of noise vs. the availability of a bright throughline of signal is heavily weighed in favor of ‘noise’.
  2. This ‘noise’ can and should be used to construct the zone of neighborhood of the scenario “ordinal”. Basically, it should be used for worldbuilding, through the production of seemingly-disconnected ephemera. A universe of crap.
  3. The leak itself is, metacritically, not a design project as much as possible. Outside a modicum of attention paid to capturing generic feelings of a future design, attempting to design in the future will always collapse into historicist weirdness and look immediately dated. The digital future is owned by cyberpunk and high California Ideology-Silicon Valleyism. Keep it that way.

The ramifications of this loose thesis pushed me towards a less is more approach: the bulk of the leak is text, white on black. The leakers are anonymous with a generic political orientation. The world, hopefully, is allowed to breathe. “To write a story that did not depend on the reader for its existence.”

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Black on black: Belated notes on 90 degree revolution

“I scorn your eloquence, the poetry of a living oblivion, and now seek a simpler style of annihilation.”

-Ligotti

Out in the desert, building God, or maybe deep in the Everglades before the storms come. Futurist wild-eyed death march, stepping razor to the Milky Way, guided by blue serpents of lightning. “…it is electricity that rapidly takes care of the germination.” Fydorov, Bogdanov agree, preparing for the Great Work by proletarianizing matter for transplanetary corporations. Tsiolkovsky habitats and huge cities stalked by CEOs and their attaches require the complete disintegration of the human to enter. City of flows. Baudrillard’s nuclear sword points straight up (or is it out?). Marinetti remarked a hundred years ago how brazenly we master the atom. Select your preference.

War god capital. We have to remember how it started: riding on the back of the spiteful, hateful coitus of war and state. Held back by only the thinness of amniotic fluid—bureaucracy, the clockwork brigade. But the poisonous soft machine wormed through the cracks. War is still here, but in some cases it’s just called revolution.

None of this seems to make sense. “Everything about capitalism is rational, except capital or capitalism…you can understand it, learn how it works; capitalists know how to use it; and yet what a delirium, it’s nuts.” Deleuze in Desert Islands. He goes on, joining strangely with Marx in libidinal prophecy: “…history is the history of desire”. In particular, that is not just anyone’s desire—there is, of course, the “problem of a deep connection between libidinal desire and the social field”, but the capitalist is the one that oversees that desire.

Of course, the 90 degree revolution is itself altogether coded. Again, with Deleuze, who states in “On Capitalism and Desire” that “…nothing is secret, at least in principle and according to the code…and yet noting is admissable”. Everything is available. The ‘green’ arrow in the new political wings is not concerned with the organization of power, of containing the libidinality of the system, or even in Greer’s catabolic collapse, but posits that these are all questions that don’t need to be answered. The greens have far more in common with their neoliberal mainstream counterparts than they’d probably care to recognize: a belief that, in some way or another, the question of techonomania can be altogether sidestepped. This puts them on the side of today’s milquetoast leftists who claim that there can be a re-establishment of the commons—a place where capital cannot reach. This is patently untrue, and in fact has been since capital first arrived “covered in dirt and dripping blood”. Primitive accumulation as the germ-seed of capital instantly cancels difference (or differance) and sets up and expansionary model that, at one end, strip mines Mars and at the other, makes you pay to see the Unabomber’s cabin in a museum exhibit.

To be an upwinger, an anti-green, is to not just recognize the gyre of capital swings out, but realize there is no capacity to extract oneself from the machine, no return to life or to first nature, no anything at all outside of universal colonization or total annihilation.

Postscript:

It is important to note that despite right-left being recomposed as up-down, a ‘marxist’, in any ‘orthodox’ sense (whatever that may mean) should take note that these remain bourgeois political categories. The true intention of a marxist politics will be to altogether detonate such qualifiers in favor of a proletarian recoding and the total collapse of such manichean political wings, so to speak. However, as noted in conversations on twitter, reformatting to up/downwing, ACC/DEC, whatever—may be a useful heuristic insofar as it finally sinks the belle epoque Great Politics into the mud for good.

Notes from someone who is very guilty

“Heat. This is what cities mean to me,” wrote Nick Land, in the late 20th century. Around the same time, the little-known science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her essay “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be”, borrowing M. Levi-Strauss’ distinction of “hot” and “cold” societies: “Bright, dry, clear, strong, firm, active, aggressive, lineal, progressive, creative, expanding, advancing, and hot.” Hot societies are those that expand, dominate, territorialize, explode with total libidinality: engines of violence, of teeth-bared bloody-grinning jouissance, of revolution or of war.

Megacities are burning suns. Pure heat, brilliant light. Dozens of millions of people, Berardian particle-wave flows: Kaika and Swyngedouw warning that flows must be deterritorialized to be channeled: utter atomization: Braudel’s town-runner with its neck on the state, pulling back the hammer barrel pressed to its medula: nodal fever of the Hanseatic megamachine: utter fury fossilized into hylotic Gageianism, the Saturnalian howl of the k-hole and the dopa ablation and other comedowns.

When we talk about complexity we talk about the megacity, because we don’t know how to talk about complexity. Semiotics and simulation. Society and its environmental context in macabre coitus: complexifying and complexifying in ragged shocks. Individual ripped out of joint, along for the ride, an observer of the quotidian. The megacity embodies the total collapse of the West. Shanghai prefigured it. What Shanghai wanted was a brood of feral children, worming their way out of hell and oozing backward through time. It got what it wanted (it always does). The gyre of geopolitics is a mechanized thresher in the depopulated American South. No one around for miles. Everyone’s here.

When THEIA (Tactical-Heuristic Expansion Infrastructure Assistant) arrives on the scene, everything happens at once. Absolute war and ambient computation birth a horrible child of blistering intelligence, silicon and ichor. The viable system was never pruning for efficiency but was modeling the pathways of the New Brain.

I can’t do this anymore.

Goodbye.

Simulating Like a State

“Sufficiently advanced simulation is indistinguishable from the real thing”, to twist Clarke’s aphorism. Simulations can take place at levels anywhere from modeling markets, to predicting sea level rise, to the staging of wargames. It is at the level of the wargame that simulation truly becomes artful in the pursuit of the temporal “God-eye”, the unified site of utter anticipation.

But the notion of “utter anticipation” is fraught in the first instance, haunted by a single question: can we actually think like the enemy? Manuel De Landa sums this problem up nicely in War in the Age of Intelligent Machines: “In most cases Red [the enemy] becomes simply a mirror image of Blue [the allied group]”.

But what happens if Blue can think Red? Instead of what may be commonly assumed—that losses would promote in Blue a greater understanding, the simulated loss opens up onto an existential nightmare, a confrontation with Blue’s own fragility. The problem then is that, of course, the wargame will always be weighted in favor of Blue.

Part of this bias is institutional, but there is also the fundamental problem of information: the true nature of Red’s tactics and materiel will forever be draped in a “ludigital” fog of war, no matter how complete Blue’s intel may be. The wargame, constructed with faulty information and to provide a satisfactory outcome, is revealed to not be a strategy tool at all, but rather, a machine to produce in Blue assurance in its own supremacy.

When this supremacy is violated, the effects are internally destabilizing, forcing Blue to come to terms with the specter of its own death, touching down on the plane of abstract horror. De Landa relates for us an anecdote: “…in the early 1960s…Richard Bissell from the CIA, father of the U-2 spy plane and co-engineer of the Bay of Pigs invasion, played Red in a counterinsurgency war game and was able to exploit all the vulnerable points in the American position.” This sent shivers down the US’s spine: Bissell’s win was enough to get the files of the game’s proceedings classified, never to be released.

San Clemente Island MOUT complex, Vasquez Marshall Architects’ website

In roughly the same mid-century milieu, the ‘Hot 60s’ forces the hand of the war makers to break out from abstraction, and the wargame graduates into physical space and human players as a response to civil unrest in NATO countries. With the ‘peacetime’ arrival of full-size “war cities” such as Hammelburg, (West) Germany and later, San Clemente Island off the coast of California, the wargame begins to draw ever nearer to realism. These Potemkin complexes were (and indeed, are) created entirely for training in the minutae of urban operations and neutralization of enemy combatants, appearing as a heterotopic everywhere, crammed into nowhere, a consolidation of the whole world in a top-secret blacksite.

But the spatial revolution of the wargame still was not complete. As detente collapsed, and with an ever-increasing fetish for realism and complexity, the war simulation exploded out of the city and went runaway to continental scales, with millions of machine parts. Perhaps the best kept secret of this variety was US/NATO operation Able Archer 83, a simulation that achieved such a high degree of realism that it threatened to erupt into actual nuclear conflagration.

Able Archer 83 took place from 7-11 November 1983, the culmination of nearly a year of “naval muscle-flexing” and PSYOPs designed to rattle the USSR, such as sporadic “air and naval probes near Soviet borders”, undertaken specifically to “rattle the Soviets”. These actions led to the creation of Operation RYaN by the Warsaw Pact to “prevent the possible sudden outbreak of war by the enemy”. In this already-heightened climate, US/NATO held their annual Able Archer event, designed to “practice new nuclear weapons release procedures”, specifically the “[transition] from conventional to nuclear operations”. From the official SHAPE description:

“The exercise scenario began with Orange (the hypotheticalopponent/[Red]) opening hostilities in all regions of ACE [Allied Command Europe] on 4 November (three days before the start of the exercise) and Blue (NATO) declaring a general alert. Orange initiated the use of chemical weapons on 6 November…All of these events had taken place prior to the start of the exercise and were thus simply part of the written scenario… As a result of Orange advances, its persistent use of chemical weapons, and its clear intentions to rapidly commit second echelon forces, SACEUR [Supreme Command Allied Powers Europe] requested political guidance on the use of nuclear weapons early on Day 1 of the exercise (7 November 1983)…the weapons were fired/delivered on the morning of 9 November.”

Able Archer 83 was unique with respect to past simulations, which one commentator referred to as “special wrinkles”. These include a new battle language and encryption, which made the maneuvers of NATO completely opaque to the USSR, forced to rely on observations and extrapolation as units and materiel were moved across the ACE theater and routines were executed within SACEUR/SHAPE. These terrifying machinations forced the USSR to ask a new epistemological question: if armies and nuclear weapons are being moved into position by the enemy, does it matter what reason its for? At what point does war, occurring in a liminal, ludic space, breach the gap into reality altogether? Is there functionally any difference between war and its simulation? Or, even more to the point, is simulation itself an escalation of hostilities?

Max Ernst’s Europe After the Rain

Jean Baudrillard’s famous definition from Simulacra and Simulation states that “the simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” “The virtually is fully real insofar as it is virtual.” In Able Archer 83 the “apotheosis of simulation” is itself simulated, a nesting torus of that-which-never-quite-comes-true. The ragged era of the early 80s’ “Cold War II” takes the apocalyptic promise of atomic apocalypse and plugs it in to the motor of banal politics (and indeed, routine wargames), in which “the unknown is precisely that variable of simulation which makes of the atomic arsenal itself a hyperreal form, a simulacrum that dominates everything”. Able Archer 83, in which SHAPE takes part in producing a simulation of nuclear hyperreality, contained within it the possibility of finally crashing Baudrillard’s hyperreality of infinite deterrence (warding off Europe After the Rain), and inaugurating the climax, the real event of nuclear war.