The Best Defense

Is the Army’s armor branch defunct?

Col. Gian Gentile, a West Point history professor and a leading critic of the Army's emphasis on counterinsurgency, says that the Army's tank and other armored vehicle branch is increasingly incompetent. He mentions that he has heard that there are staff sergeants in the armor branch "who have never qualified on a M1 Tank."

I disagree with Gentile a lot, but always find him provocative, and generally worth reading if a bit touchy. I've never understood why he thinks he is an expert on the Iraq war in 2006 because he was there, but thinks he somehow knows the war in 2007-08, which he didn't see. At any rate, one thing I would add to his article is that armor has a clear morale value for troops in a counterinsurgency campaign -- when they are in a bad fix, there is nothing like hearing an M1 clanking around the corner to help out. Also, I also remember reading that in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah light infantry without armor or aviation support stopped an Israeli tank column. So the question may be a bit more complex than Col. Gentile's take.   

Starbuck has a stronger response to Gentile's commentary, suggesting how it might get on the nerves of American soldiers who have been fighting recently in Afghanistan:

Listen up, everyone: we are no longer a fighting Army. To all you veterans of COP Keating and Wanat -- you must have been doing nothing else but touchy-feely tea parties and absolutely no combat whatsoever.

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The Best Defense

Listening to Turkey’s foreign minister: The Ottoman past looks like the future

By Daniel Kliman
Best Defense chief Turkish affairs correspondent

When Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations one night last week, Iran dominated his remarks. He was emphatically opposed to more robust sanctions, arguing that instead what is needed is "diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy." Davutoglu also suggested that a glimmer of hope remains for negotiations with Iran, though he didn't provide any details. In the past, Turkey has served as a mediator between Iran and countries concerned about its nuclear program. Davutoglu played up Turkey's success in this role during his remarks. Could there be a Turkish initiative in the works? Stay tuned.

On Iraq, the FM was bullish. Calling Iraq a "mini-model of the Middle East," Davutoglu cast the recent elections there as a move away from sectarian politics. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

Earlier this month, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan hammered Israel, labeling it "the principal threat to peace in the region today." Davutoglu avoided such language.

Omission can be telling. Davutoglu was silent on Turkey's prospects for EU membership. Combined with his ambitious vision for a transformed Middle East, it was clear that Turkey sees its destiny unfolding to the east and south, in lands once under Ottoman rule.

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