6 x 9
400 pages
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Complex Terrain

Megacities and the Changing Character of Urban Operations 

Edited by Benjamin M. Jensen, Henrik Breitenbach, and Brandon Valeriano

DOI: 10.56686/9780160954344


This edited volume, composed by military professionals in the Gray Scholars Program at Marine Corps University, describes the changing character of urban operations. The pattern of human settlement and interaction is changing and the future is urban. Because the majority of the world’s population lives within cities, the future of strategic competition and conflict reside there as well. The density and connectivity of urban environments create a new type of complex terrain. Interests change from neighborhood to neighborhood, often intersecting global, political, and economic networks. Each city block sees shifting allegiances that often seem unclear from the outside. The cityscape compresses time and space while increasing uncertainty and complicating the conduct of military operations.

Dr. Benjamin M. Jensen holds a dual appointment as a Professor of Strategic Studies at the Marine Corps University School of Advanced Warfighting (SAW) and as a Scholar-in-Residence at American University, School of International Service. At SAW he runs the Future War Research Program and directs the Changing Character of Conflict (3C) course. He previously founded the Gray Scholars Program at Marine Corps University, Command and Staff College and served as the inaugural Donald Bren Chair, helping establish the CMC Strategist Program. In 2017, Dr. Jensen received a Commandant of the Marine Corps Innovation Award. He has been a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council since 2016. He is an alumnus of the American Academy for Strategic Education (2014), Bridging the Gap Initiative (2013), and Merrill Center for Strategic Education Basin Harbor Workshop (2012).

Henrik Breitenbauch heads the Centre for Military Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. He works on strategy, defence policy and NATO and holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Copenhagen and degrees from Sciences Po Paris and Aarhus University. 

Brandon Valeriano (PhD Vanderbilt University) is the Donald Bren Chair of Armed Politics at the Marine Corps University. He also serves as a Senior Fellow in cyber security for the Niskanen Center in Washington D.C. Dr. Valeriano has published 94 publications during the duration of his career, including four books with one more forthcoming, 21 peer reviewed articles, 27 other scholarly articles, and 41 public articles for such outlets as Washington Post, Slate, Lawfare, and Foreign Affairs. His two most recent coauthored books are Cyber War versus Cyber Reality at Oxford University Press (2015) and Russian Coercive Diplomacy at Palgrave (2015) with Cyber Coercion: The Evolving Character of Cyber Power and Strategy forthcoming from Oxford. Ongoing research explores creating comprehensive cyber conflict data, Russian foreign policy behavior, biological and psychological examinations of national security threats, and digital repression. Dr. Valeriano recently provided testimony in front of both the United States Senate and the Parliament of the United Kingdom on the dynamics of modern conflict. In his spare professional time, he focuses on engaging policy-makers and government officials on the changing character of war.


HenrikBreitenbauch, PhD, and Benjamin Jensen, PhD

1.   Third World Megacities: An Illusion of Control
Lieutenant Commander Muhammad Maooz Akrama, Pakistan Marines
2.   Territorialization of the Megacity: Exploiting Social Borders
Major Alexandra V. Gerbracht, U.S. Marine Corps
3.   The 2008 Battle of Sadr City: Implications for Future Urban Combat
David E. Johnson and M. Wade Markel
4.   ISIL’s Territorial Logic of Urban Control in Mosul and ar-Raqqah: City as a System Analytical Framework
Erin M. Simpson, PhD
5.   Distributed Influence: Enabling Maneuver in a Megacity
Major Jonathon T. Frerichs, U.S. Marine Corps
6.   Coordinating Chaos: Integrating Capabilities in Future Urban Conflict
Major Robert D. Barbaree III, U.S. Marine Corps
7.   Joint Combined Arms Maneuver in the Megacity: Learning to Thrive in Chaos
Major Geoffrey B. Lynch, U.S. Army
8.   Cyberspace in the Megacity: Thickening the Fog of War?
Major Joseph I. Farina, U.S. Marine Corps
9.   Take It, Don’t Break It: A Megacity Concept of Operations
Colleen Borley, Foreign Service Officer, Department of State
10. Symbiotic Warfare: Resource Competition and Conflict
Major Christina L. Manning, U.S. Air Force
11. Air Domain Dominance in a Megacity
Major Nathan J. Storm, U.S. Marine Corps
12. Virtual Resistance Networks: Enabling and Protecting Electronic Information Flows in the Megacity
Colin R. Relihan 
13. The City Prism: A Triangle of Urban Military Operations
Henrik Breitenbauch, Mark Winther, and Mikkel Broen Jakobsen

The Military Implications of Complex Terrain in Twenty-first Century Urban Areas
Benjamin Jensen, PhD

The World’s Largest Megacities