Tanks for Ukraine? Why this makes me uneasy

And why I found, “Do Tanks Have A Place in 21st Century Warfare?” in today’s Times, really pertinent, even somewhat soothing, reading.

I’m still pretty shocked that I’ve become concerned with war and weaponry, but I know how and where it began — when I read Blood and Ruins, Richard Overy’s all-encompassing military history of World War II.

Among the multitude of mind-altering things I learned about war from Professor Overy had to do with tank warfare. My images of tanks came from World War II movies. Tanks were fearsome, as I assume they were designed to be, looking like invulnerable, dominating monsters. But always, if I imagined myself placed not as a soldier facing those things but as a soldier in one of them, I was less comfortable.

Tanks look terrifying but when a grenade is thrown into them or a bomb drops on them, they blow up in flames. Along with submarines, tanks are vehicles I would forever choose to stay out of.

And that’s a reality I learned from Blood and Ruins. In detailing every aspect sweeping  and finite of every battle operation, Prof. Overy enumerates the precise detritus numbers. Among them were thousands of tanks, and the dead soldiers who were in them. Over and over and over, I grasped the fact that tanks were perhaps not so mighty.

That’s why I was drawn to read Lara Jakes report about tanks in today’s war(s). Even the American Abrams tank, demanded by military forces in the field, may not any longer be the moving citadel armies think it is.

Actually, as I read it, the strength of the Abrams is the long range of its powerful gun. A weakness is its top ground speed: 42 mph. Armed drones fly a helluva lot faster than a tank can move to evade being hit by one. We, the US, are now developing a drone which will fly over 16,000 mph. Our currently employed drones average over 500 mph.

So it must be unmanned air warfare. Drones, not tanks.


Coincidentally, I am right now listening to June Tabor sing “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” maybe the most devastating war song in existence. This is me, living with an internal contradiction: how to wage war/why never to wage war.



This entry was posted in The Facts of Life, War, War on Ukraine and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.