Tank Lessons from Gaza
Martin Sieff is back, once again singing the praises of the heavy tank, this time over Israel’s full-scale incursion into Gaza. The author is a steady advocate for applying last century armor techiques to modern threats, so he eagerly seizes on the vehicle’s presumed success over the Hamas terrorists. From the UPI:
The Israeli failure to crush Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006 strengthened the fashionable impression in the United States that counterinsurgency was now the cutting edge of war and that therefore investment in expensive ground forces, primarily main battle tanks and artillery, could be drastically curtailed.
However, the success of the Russian tank forces in conquering one-third of the mountainous and forested territory of Georgia in only five days revived the lesson — which should have been taught by the U.S.-led armor-mobile infantry drive to Baghdad in March-April 2003 — that the main battle tank does indeed remain the master of large-scale ground war. And the success of Israel’s initial incursion into Gaza over the past week has underlined that very elementary lesson.
The author however, misses his own “elementary lesson”. In places where modern anti-tank weapons or even primitive road-side bombs are prevalent, as during the Lebanon Crisis with Hezbollah in 2006, the tanks didn’t fair too well. This is the type of enemy the US and Western countries have justified the need to pour billions of dollars into advanced armor protection since the late-Cold War. In contrast, the only places modern tanks have worked well lately, as Sieff ironically points out, is within low-threat environments such as Georgia and the Gaza Strip where the defenders were mostly unprepared for a full-scale blitzkrieg.