Open cities


The destruction in Ukraine is enormous, and a great harm to the nation. It would be nice if it could be avoided, right?

Well, there is a concept that spares cities almost entirely during wartime: "Open cities". Open cities don't get defended, and very few military troops are inside at any time.

Paris as an open city in 1940 and 1944, Rome in 1944. You can literally see that even today.

Imagine an invasion in which the invaders get fought against a lot in the countryside, but are safe once they reach a city. Safe even from counterfires (to their own artillery and mortar fires) with anything except precision-guided missiles.

Every captured city would soon turn into an encircled pocket which still receives food supplies and if possible also electricity (essential for the supply of drinking water), but no munitions and no fuels.

The invader might turn the cities into firebases, but many troops would be busy with civ-mil tasks (and yes, they would commit crimes). The likely mode of warfare would be to sally out on a raid once in a while, but the defenders would have the advantage of interior lines.

Violently liquidate one small such pocket as a warning to others and the other city pockets might  even surrender when the defender appears with massed forces at 'the gates'.

Numerous issues would be associated with such a strategy (including high rise buildings giving excellent vantage points for sensors, radios and ATGMs), but it might help to minimise damage to urban centres AND it would suit those armed forces that lack the quantity to actually fight in cities.

The approach could also be reversed; an invader could avoid the cites this way in an effort to be as little evil as possible.

Either way, the terrain would need to be suitable and one would somehow need to find a way to reach a favourable decision. The latter is easy for NATO; we can amass overwhelming power within months even if we are too few to accept an open battle in the first days.





  1. It's their choice. The shelling of cities kills and causes great damage. Even the murders in Bucha are likely less than the civilian losses to shelling in some places. Looting causes insignificant damage compared to shelling of real estate.

    The raping is an issue, but I wrote nowhere that the cities shouldn't be evacuated, did I?

    Ideally, the cities would be evacuated and then declared open. The government could then focus on helping villagers after the war, with cities largely left intact.

  2. If the cities are evacuated, there's no reason not to defend them. Especially in the ukrainian case, since ukraine is stronger in the cities than the countryside. And russia needs the railways that go through the cities for their logistics, probably one of the reasons they failed to encircle many of them.

  3. I disagree.

  4. I think that declaring a city open is a risk for the defender because even if avoid damage in taking by the enemy there is nothing that avoid the city be laid waste when the attackers retire.

    Even in the case of Paris in WW2 there were Nazi plans to destroy it before return it to allies.

    Maybe is only practical depending on the enemy or if the city has great cultural value so it's destruction would be widely frowned upon.


  5. It did not help Belgrade or Manila.

  6. It's important to keep in mind that an option only needs to be superior (not perfect) in order to be better than status quo. To reject proposals for change based on their flaws despite them being overall superior is a logical fallacy of conservative minds that keeps mankind from solving problems.

  7. I was imprecise there, that's true - there can be rational reasons to declare open cities, evacuated or not. Just not in the ukrainian case.
    The situation might be different for a hypothetical NATO defense of eastern poland. Poland would probably disagree, for various rational and nonrational reasons.