How countries weaponize landscape design in war

Nevertheless there have been cases exactly where nations have utilized the landscape as a weapon. In one particular such touchstone case — Operation Ranch Hand — the U.S. army introduced a defoliant termed Agent Orange over the South Vietnam countryside to weaponize the forest in the course of the Vietnam War.

The U.S. military services unveiled a defoliant called Agent Orange around the South Vietnam countryside to weaponize the forest through the Vietnam War as element of the Procedure Ranch Hand venture. [Photo: USAF/Wiki Commons]

Even though the stop of the Vietnam War observed an international ban on making use of the setting as a weapon, landscape style and design — which features the scheduling and planting of inexperienced areas — proceeds to existing alone as a resource able of influencing the hearts and minds of neighborhood populations and ultimately acquiring army goals.

Whilst talking about the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed,

“Winning a struggle is not successful the war. Having a metropolis does not necessarily mean Vladimir Putin’s using the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian people today. On the contrary, he is destined to lose.”

Evidently, the United States armed service doctrine considers profitable “hearts and minds” as a important measure to earn a war.

As a style critic who has been learning the role of landscapes in warfare, I argue that trees and inexperienced spaces can be elements of a non-coercive manner of warfare, as they can be utilized to further more group solidarity and diminish the likelihood of insurgency.

Winning hearts and minds

The working experience of the United States army in Afghanistan has demonstrated that having a extra powerful military services force does not warranty winning a war.

Although the Taliban surrendered Kandahar only two months just after the launch of Procedure Enduring Freedom in 2001, the U.S. army remained in Afghanistan and engaged in violent conflict for the subsequent 20 years, in the long run withdrawing and returning the nation to Taliban regulate.

Central to the United States’ work to secure peace was the approach of winning “hearts and minds,” or building psychological and intellectual appeals to the neighborhood inhabitants by attraction and persuasion alternatively of force.

Through Procedure Allies Welcome a US military company member performs with an evacuated Afghan lady in an Afghan refugee camp on November 4, 2021 in Holloman Air Force Foundation, New Mexico. [Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images]

The U.S. military may have finally unsuccessful to get the war in Afghanistan, but they did build techniques to secure peace and gain over the hearts and minds of area citizens. Whilst not each individual energy was successful, I identified numerous cases where by the U.S. military’s war-preventing goals aligned with an not likely ally — the profession of landscape architecture.

Considering that Olmsted’s time, a expanding body of scientific exploration has concluded that exposure to green area contributes to improved well being and perfectly-currently being. When health care professionals have been prescribing spending time with nature, landscape architects have been operating to increase the optimistic results of publicity via style and design.

Landscape style and design presents itself as a resource capable of influencing the overall health and properly-becoming and, consequently, the hearts and minds of neighborhood populations. Finally it can realize army goals via the organizing and planting of green area.

Weaponizing the landscape

Employing the landscape as a weapon is an below-appreciated spot of examine.

In 1976, the United States, together with 47 other nations, turned signatories to the Conference on the Prohibition of Military services or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Tactics. This treaty prohibits “modification of the purely natural setting for use as a weapon of war” and “acts of war injurious to the purely natural environment.”

A burning oilfield during Operation Desert Storm, Kuwait. [Photo: Jonas Jordan/United States Army Corps of Engineers/Wiki Commons]

Even though deliberate environmental destruction proceeds, exemplified by the burning of oil wells established ablaze by Iraqi troops all through the Gulf War, researchers hope that the Worldwide Criminal Courtroom may a person working day prosecute “crimes from the ecosystem.”

Far more not long ago, the Halt Ecocide Foundation has been working to present a criminal definition of ecocide that will have the pressure of international law, building punishable “severe and either common or long-expression injury to the surroundings.”

These attempts are laudable and should have our guidance. Yet, the understandable emphasis on destruction and destruction decreases the focus presented to acts of war, like tree planting initiatives, that “improve” an environment.

Comprehension the long-time period impacts of war

One challenge carried out by the U.S. military in Afghanistan observed lively troops direct a reforestation effort in the Panjshir area, exactly where they planted 35,000 trees, building a regional inexperienced house.

A U.S. Army officer crops a sapling for the duration of the ‘Afghanistan’s Foreseeable future Takes Root’ initiative in Panjshir, Afghanistan. [Photo: 1st Lt. Holly Hess/DVIDS]

As a lot of persons knowledgeable this regional planting energy, the landscape motivated the hearts and minds of area citizens on a populace scale.

Irrespective of the U.S. army now getting withdrawn from Afghanistan, these planted trees and other inexperienced spaces continue on to increase and exert influence. Consequently, it is not just acts of war injurious to the ecosystem that have wide-achieving and lengthy-phrase impacts on a inhabitants.

As I produce from my business on the unceded territory of the Musqueam people, I am more keenly knowledgeable that a lovely landscape can manipulate hearts and minds and grow to be a weapon of war. The continued presence of a colonial landscape, made and imposed on these lands, is simpler to understand if we talk to what this land looked like prior to and following creating a settler-colonial modern society.

We working experience green areas in another way based on their design and style and our cultural history. We want to think about who developed and created our community green spaces and for what purpose. Finally, it matters if the landscape is redesigned and replanted by community populations or by occupying forces.