People who love war hate cities.
Cities are places where people who are different from each other learn not to fear each other. They find that they can share a public space with people who don’t look like them, talk like them, or act the way they would act, and that it’s almost always fine. People who profit from fear hate that.
Cities produce visibility. It is easier to not care about poverty or homelessness or the mental health crisis if you see them only on television, but in the city it’s all right in front of you. It’s easy to believe that those demonstrators are all hoodlums if you’re not on the street with them hearing their actual voices. In a city there is no avoiding the facts of what a society is, and what its conflicts are. Cities are where we see each other. People who don’t want to see hate that.
Cities and their people are vulnerable. So many people so close together. So easily destroyed by just one disaster, or just one bomb. So easy for anyone to enter, no matter how hostile their intentions. We don’t have city walls anymore. We have the opposite: Openness and vulnerability are the very form of the modern city. People who feel safe only behind walls hate that.
So lots of people hate cities. And yet cities are centers of prosperity and opportunity and wealth, so they must be controlled, even by people who don’t much like them. That struggle to control cities is everywhere: in politics, in policing, in city planning, and when all else fails, in war.
So of course, in time of war, it’s always the city that’s destroyed, and urban people who are massacred. That’s always how it’s been. Cities aren’t just attacked because of what country they’re in, or because of a resource they represent. They’re attacked because of what a city is.