The Return of the Fortified City?

There are many gauges of social decay such as gated communities and bars over windows and doors. However you can tell things are really getting serious if people start to live in castles or fortified cities.

The hill city of Orvieto
The hill city of Orvieto

I've illustrated a traditional fortified city; Orvieto in Tuscany, Italy. As you can see it was built on a small plateau for defensive purposes, not in the fertile valley below.

This was the standard model right across Europe in the Middle Ages; communities either built up high, surrounded their cities with moats like Vienna, or dominated them with citadels like Koblenz.The idea was that communities could defend themselves if they had fortifications behind which they could shelter in times of attack.

This concept was carried over to the New World in the such places as Louisbourg and Quebec City; the latter of which withstood an attack by American revolutionary forces Dec. 31, 1775.

In more recent years Americans looking for safety and security have moved to cities with less violence or 'gated' subdivisions. The first scheme attempted to flee from urban violence and the second attempted to physically block entry to wrongdoers.

Now a group of conservatives are planning to build a new fortified city in the mountains of Benewah County, Idaho. For reference, this is immediately south of the south end of Lake Coeur d'Alene in the Idaho panhandle. The only proper town in the county I can find on the map is Saint Manes, Idaho, which has a population of 2,400.

The name of the project is The Citadel. It's described on their website as "a planned community where residents are bound by patriotism, American exceptionalism, our proud history of Liberty and physical preparedness."

The town would be surrounded by a wall, have gatehouses, and be divided into defensible sub units. Each home would be made out of poured concrete. The main industry would be an armaments factory, III Arms. You can see it all on this map.

I have no idea how serious this project is, or how likely it is to ever get implemented. However, since it's only 200 miles away, I think I'll mosey on down there this summer and have a look. In the meantime I have two comments.

The first is that the idea of defensible sub-units comes straight out of Iraq, specifically Fallujah in Al Anbar province. American soldiers had a very hard fight clearing out the city during the Iraq insurrection and I'm assuming some of the people behind The Citadel are planning their new town on the basis of what worked against them in 2004.

My second point is that physical security has to be combined with social security. What I mean is that the creation of a town council, police force and education establishment is just as important as building a fortified community. If they can attract, as they hope to, 3,500 to 7,000 families, they'll dominate the local political landscape for miles around.

Put the two together and you have a new Sparta.

Of course to most people this kind of talk is pure scare mongering, right wing fantasy talk, a bad dream. They believe there is some way out of a $14 Trillion dollar debt that doesn't involve economic and social chaos.

I hope they're right, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Clearly the folks in Idaho behind The Citadel aren't betting on it either.

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