Friday, August 9, 2013

Tank Post

I kinda like tanks. When I was twelve we moved from a rural environment to a small town where the local National Guard armory had a couple of tanks parked out on a grassy area, probably for decorative purposes. Military notions of "decoration" have always struck me as dry and unimaginative, but it may have been for a practical reason. They were sometimes left open on sunny days, ventilating, perhaps to prevent mold or mildew buildup. With no one to stop us, two or three of us could climb up on the tanks, even open the top and climb inside. At twelve years old this was better than comic books, maybe even better than going to a sideshow at the fair. But I digress.

Years later when I remembered it, I wondered why the Perry, Georgia National Guard might need tanks. That was in the Fifties. Even later when violence broke out during the civil rights era, including riots in several large cities, I don't recall anyone deploying tanks to break up riots. Military equipment is still used for ornamental purposes around military installations, but I think airplanes are now more common than tanks, sometimes mounted on concrete bases to make them appear to be flying. There was a fun movie named "Tank" which captured some of the romance associated with those big babies.

I was reminded of tanks this morning by this Twitter message...
Come to think of it, Julia Ioffe had a tank reference 
in her defiant rant responding to Larry O-Donnell. 
(It's in the fourth bullet point.)

Here are a few money quotes from the BI link.

Egypt Cannot Possibly Use All Of Its US-Made Tanks 'Short Of An Alien Invasion'
Michael Kelley 
August. 8
The real reason why America sends so much military equipment to Egypt may have more to do with American industry than geopolitical demand.

Julia Simon of NPR reports that experts see no need for many of the hundreds of fighter jets and thousands of tanks that the U.S. has sent Egypt since the late '80s. 
"There's no conceivable scenario in which they'd need all those tanks short of an alien invasion," Shana Marshall of the Institute of Middle East Studies at George Washington University told NPR.
Cutting to the chase, it seems tanks (rather the manufacture and sale of tanks) play a small part in a very large disbursement of tax money which has little to do with military requirements and a lot to do with corporate profitability and campaign contributions. 
And as Shana Marshall of Foreign Policy explained last year, cutting off aid would mean losing "a significant subsidy to U.S. weapons manufacturers" that benefits "a small and influential coterie of elites in both capitals." 
The process of U.S. aid to Egypt is similar to how the U.S. Army receives M1A1 Abrams tanks it neither needs nor wants — there are currently more than 2,000 inactive M1A1 Abrams sitting at an Army depot in the California desert. 
Huge defense contractors and small manufacturers lobby Congress, and Congress ignores that fact that what its mandating is practically useless. Because of course Congress wants to keep those campaign donations rolling in.

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