Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tanks but no Tanks?

Canada may be updating its 20-year old Leopard C2 tank fleet by leasing 20 (yes twenty) Leopard C6 tanks from Germany. The main reason for the long-overdue replacement is that the C2 tanks lack air conditioning, making them unsuitable for operations in Afghanistan in the summer. This has the lib-left and the Toronto (red) Star all-a-flutter.

In Whether new or old, tanks just not for this war Star columnist James Travers opines that the tanks will not help win the hearts and minds of Afghanistanis and that's the vital point of Canada's participation.

Tanks, contra Travers, are an excellent force protection option and perfect for kicking Taliban ass and disrupting their actions, which is indeed a mission in addition to nation building that the lib-left in Canada dearly loves.

Travers undercuts his own arguments with the fact he reports that
It's no coincidence that Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor stressed this week that Canadian casualties have dropped since September when the nearly 30-year old Leopards were pressed into service. While the reasons for that happy decline have more to do with changed enemy tactics and limited winter fighting, any equipment that saves soldiers' lives is both welcome and a persuasive part of the continuing military campaign for more procurement.

Travers notes that the Tanks can be vulnerable to mines and antitank weapons - true, but the presence of a tank in a mutually-supporting combined arms unit can offer protection to the rest of the force while that force screens the tank from the mine and RPG threat, and reduces the overall threat that would exist if the tanks were not present.

Travers then states the long-held but erroneous belief that Tanks cannot operate in urban environments:
Designed for set-piece, Cold War confrontations, the 55-tonne behemoths are hardly the weapons of choice in the close and often urban encounters of today's hearts-and-minds wars.
(not that Afghanistan is completely full of cities, its not, but Travers seems to make you want to think with this objection that a city or village is the only place the tank would operate). Tanks can do well in Urban or village settings - read Thunder Run the story of how US tanks won the battle of Baghdad and helped bring a quick end to the Saddam regime - victory for armor in the ultimate urban environment.

Canadians in Afghanistan need tanks for protection and force flexibility. While Travers argues the touchy-feely objection that such tanks will be
weapons that alienate soldiers from the Afghans they must make friends.

In the best-case scenario, modern tanks will keep troops cooler and safer. In the worst, Canada will lease expensive weapons it decided it didn't need and lose a war that must be fought and won among the people.

The tanks aren't for nation-building but for defeating those who seek to prevent any nation-building or any progress at all beyond the level of medieval fundamentalist Islam in Afghanistan. The best way to win the "hearts and minds of the people" is to decisively defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements at every possible encounter - showing the people that they are no longer a viable threat. For that you want the best weapons available - including tanks.

No comments: