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Anachronistic Frivolity: Australia’s Recent Tank Purchase

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Anachronistic Frivolity: Australia’s Recent Tank Purchase

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Written by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The operating doctrine of many a defence ministry is premised on fatuity.  There is the industry prerogative and need for employment.  There are the hectoring think tanks writing in oracular tones of warning that the next “strategic” change is peeking around the corner.  Purchases of weapons are then made to fight devils foreign and invisible, with the occasional lethal deployment against the local citizenry who misbehave.  This often leads to purchases that should put the decision maker in therapy.

Australia’s war-wishing Defence Minister Peter Dutton may be in urgent need of such treatment, but he is unlikely to take up the suggestion, preferring to pursue an arms program of delusional proportions.  His mental soundness was not helped by last year’s establishment of AUKUS and the signals of enthusiastic militarism from Washington.  Having cut ties with the French defence establishment over what was a trouble-plagued submarine contract, Dutton has been an important figure in ensuring that Australia will continue its naval problems with a future nuclear-powered submarine.

Submarines are seaborne phallic reassurances for the naval arm of defence.  Stubbornly expensive and always stressing celebrated potential over proven reality, they stimulate the defence establishment.  The land-based forces, however, will also have their toys and stimulants, their own slice of make believe.  And Dutton is promising them a few, including tanks.

This month, the minister announced that Australia will be spending A$3.5 billion on 120 tanks and an assortment of other armoured vehicles, including 29 assault breacher vehicles and 17 joint assault bridge vehicles.  All will be purchased from the US military machine.  This will also include 75 M1A2 main battle tanks, which will replace the 59 Abrams M1A1s, purchased in 2007 and kept in blissful quarantine, untouched by actual combat.

Reading from the script of presumed military relevance, Dutton declared that, “[t]eamed with the Infantry Fighting Vehicle, Combat Engineering Vehicles, and self-propelled howitzers, the new Abrams will give our soldiers the best possibility of success and protection from harm.”

Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr was also of the view that, “The main battle tank is at the core of the ADF’s Combined Arms Fighting System, which includes infantry, artillery, communications, engineers, attack helicopters and logistics.”  Tanks were versatile creatures, able to be “used in a wide range of scenarios, environments and levels of conflict in the region.”

To dispel any notion that this purchase simply confirmed Australian deference and obedience to US military power, the defence minister also claimed that the new Abrams “will incorporate the latest development in Australian sovereign capabilities, including command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems, and benefit from the intended manufacture of tank ammunition in Australia.”

In other words, once Australia finishes with these cherished, dear imports, adjusted as they are bound to be for the ADF, they are more likely to be extortionately priced museum pieces rather than operable weapons of flexible deployment.

This latest tank infatuation is yet another example of how parts of the ADF and the Australian public service can never be accused of being historically informed, at least in any meaningfully accurate way. The same goes for the current defence minister, hardly a bookworm of the history muse Cleo.

The last time Australia deployed tanks in combat was during the Vietnam War, that other grand failure of military adventurism.  They were never used in Australia’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite being lauded as being a necessary vehicle in beating down insurgency movements.

The 2016 Defence White Paper left room for a range of scenarios that make little mention of tanks. It labours over the US-China relationship, “the enduring threat of terrorism” emanating from “ungoverned parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia”, notes the threats posed by “state fragility” and the “emergence of new complex, non-geographic threats, including cyber threats to the security of information and communications systems.” At best, it throws away a line without elaboration: that the ADF will need “tank upgrades and new combat engineering equipment”.

Critics of the purchase have included otherwise hawkish pundits such as Greg Sheridan of The Australian, who spent some of last year shaking his head at the proposed acquisition after it was announced by the US Defence Cooperation Agency.  The decision, he opined unleashing his talons, was one of “sheer idiocy”, an “anachronistic frivolity”.  Tanks and other heavy, tracked vehicles would “never be of the slightest military use to us.”

Sheridan poses a range of questions.  In any confrontation with China, could a tank defend shipping in the South China Sea?  Or “take out enemy submarines?”  Or “deliver attack missiles over hundreds of kilometres?”  His solutions: buy more jets, manufacture more drones, and address naval capabilities.

Others also argue that Dutton, were he to be genuinely interested in Australia’s security and safety, would be spending more time on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and coping with the threats posed by climate change, or investing in pandemic responses.  Now that would be a big ask.

The tank fraternity, a gathering of near cultic loyalty, are swooning in triumph.  As Peter J. Dean, director of the Defence and Security Institute at the University of Western Australia remarked last year, their membership has never proven shy.  Cults tend to show that utility is secondary to the importance of steadfast faith.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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Peppe il Sicario

Anachronistic? 99.9% of Anglo-Saxons are too uneducated to understand what the word means.

MiG-21

I always believed that when you have an intelligent person and an idiot trying to engage in a conversation, the result will be having two idiots. The spread of stupidity is worse than any pandemic. Fortunately for the giant propaganda/opinion/entertainment broadcasters and publishers (Riechsminister Dr. Goebbels would be envious), there will always be audiences of uninformed, misinformed, naive, gullible, easily brainwashed people who can’t think for themselves and have to be told what they should know. Logic, reason and critical thought are completely alien words to them.

Peppe il Sicario

👍👍👍

Robespierre

In recent years the US government officials have been actively been keeping General Dynamics’ Abrams tank production online. Through continually buying, and replacing, far more tanks than the US military actually needs. This process is result of increasingly ossified US crony capitalism at work. When corporate lobbyists and governing officials become far too close over long periods of time, and begin to work together to maintain their mutually beneficial status quo.
Australia is a vassal of the US, and its Defense Minister, and upper echelon of generals, have long been easily, and routinely, manipulated by US officials. With vague promises of special treatment, and/or special deals, they are always smooth talked into this US defense sector corporate welfare. Australian defense policy maker’s understand they are a ‘junior defense partner’ with US, but Australian officials never miss an opportunity to try and ingratiate themselves with US officials, and if that means buying tactical offensive hardware they will never use, at taxpayers great expense, so be it.
As for Greg Sheridan, he is Rupert Murdoch’s point man to influence Australian foreign policy officials. In a Murdoch vanity newspaper called The Australian. That is technically the only nation-wide daily distribution print newspaper, but which has always run at a terrible annual loss (it is wholly subsidized by other more viable Murdoch media interests). Its main purpose is directed at influencing Australian government officials and departments. Needless to say, Sheridan is the standard western media ‘expert’ and complete Neo-Con stooge, his track record being to always cheer-lead and propose Australia join in the major US aggressive wars of last decades, and always a proponent of sponsoring Zionist interests across ME.

Last edited 8 days ago by Robespierre
Christian J. Chuba

To defend Australia? A halfway decent navy and mobile land units would be most efficient to do that.
To subsidized U.S. contractors? Yes.

Cuckmander Hebrew

My country is corrupt beyond belief at the highest levels. This deal was only inked because someone in the Australian government stands to profit hugely.

There are no need for large tank brigades on this island continent. Waste of my fucking taxes.

Dick Von Dast'Ard

Aussie Tank Ladyboys.

Last edited 8 days ago by Dick Von Dast'Ard
Tom Welsh

What, exactly, would Australia use tanks for? It seems unlikely they would launch any foreign wars. Against China, in particular, that would entail fighting a land war in Asia against an army about 100 times larger and more powerful. if, of course, they could even land in China which seems extremely unlikely.

If the Chinese should invade Australia, any tanks that ventured into the open would be obliterated by missiles or fighters.

A Fellow

Only thing I could imagine, to play Devil’s Advocate, would be some scenario in defending East Timor from Indonesia.

Raptar Driver

The only reason an island would need tanks is to project power!

James

For the coming WW.

Unfortunately, crippling Russian sanctions are coming in 3…2….

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