This week's deployment of Blackhawk helicopters in Chicago is only the latest in a series of "urban warfare training" exercises that have become a familiar feature of American life.
As elsewhere, this exercise was sprung unannounced on a startled civilian population. Conducted in secrecy, apparently with the collusion of local police agencies and elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, the ostensible purpose of these exercises is to give US troops experience in what Pentagon doctrine refers to as "Military Operations on Urban Terrain."
Such operations are unquestionably of central importance to the US military. Over the past decade, its primary mission, as evidenced in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been the invasion and occupation of relatively powerless countries and the subjugation of their resisting populations, often in house-to-house fighting in urban centers.
The Army operates a 1,000-acre Urban Training Center in south-central Indiana that boasts over 1,500 "training structures" designed to simulate houses, schools, hospitals and factories. The center's web site states that it "can be tailored to replicate both foreign and domestic scenarios."
What does flying Blackhawks low over Chicago apartment buildings or rolling armored military convoys through the streets of St. Louis accomplish that cannot be achieved through the sprawling training center's simulations? Last year alone, there were at least seven such exercises, including in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Tampa, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Creeds, Virginia.