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Mar 20 2012

They do grow up in unexpected ways

I am very pleased to see that the Army spells his name correctly…but I do wonder if his dog tags are accurate.

Also, he’s much too young to be commanding a 70-ton tank around. I remember when it was Hot Wheels.

93 comments

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  1. 1
    WharGarbl

    @PZ

    I do wonder if his dog tags are accurate.

    Let’s hope we never have to find out.

    70-ton tank

    Know what kind of tank it was?

  2. 2
    PZ Myers

    A big brown one, with a gun sticking out front.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    That’s scary, PZ. He looks about 12.

  4. 4
    jaranath

    My knowledge of the technical details of US armored vehicles isn’t so good, but I THINK the M1 Abrams is the heaviest of the things we have that someone might call “a tank”. And it’s a little under 70 tons, which is the weight PZ mentions. So until someone better informed comes along, I’m guessing it’s one of those.

  5. 5
    feralboy12

    Also, he’s much too young to be commanding a 70-ton tank around. I remember when it was Hot Wheels.

    Just keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t take it out in the street.

  6. 6
    One Hand Clapping

    M1 is the only “tank” in the current US arsenal, and falls in at about 70 tons. If it is any consolation, being inside of an M1 is about the safest place to be on the battlefield. Hopefully he won’t be spending any time on a battlefield, though.

  7. 7
    DaveL

    @1 – Wikipedia has the M1 Abrams (they don’t say which variant) weighing in at 67.6 tons. If I remember correctly that’s the primary main battle tank of U.S. forces; If there are any other US AFVs around 70 tons, they do not spring to mind.

  8. 8
    Anthony K

    Also, he’s much too young to be commanding a 70-ton tank around. I remember when it was Hot Wheels.

    Wait, what? He had 70-ton Hot Wheels? Did you raise him near here?

  9. 9
    woolonwire

    “Return vehicle to base and prepare for final extraction, crew.”

    Hope it’s his last in-theatre order.

  10. 10
    dianne

    If he’s not busy some time, he could visit Philadelphia and bring his tank. We’ve got a problem with cars parked in the bike lanes and the mayor of Vilnius really can’t do it all.

  11. 11
    PZ Myers

    Philadelphia, the City of Double Parking. I remember it well.

  12. 12
    ogremk5

    Yeah, the M1A1 is the current tank in the inventory. Life expectancy for tank crew has dramatically increased since the cold war era. I read something back then that the average life span of a tank crewman was about 30 seconds once actual combat was joined.

  13. 13
    cervantes

    I’ll take this as a semi-open thread and direct you to this, regarding which I can only say that the Catholic Church is long overdue for extinction.

    “At least 10 men and boys under the age of 21 were castrated in a bid to rid them of homosexuality while under the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s, a British newspaper reported, citing the work of an investigative journalist.”

  14. 14
    jasonnishiyama

    My CF tags started with NRE (No religion) and then when we went from aluminum to steel tags it became OD (other denomination).

    The change to steel was that there was a concern that the aluminum would catch fire….

  15. 15
    dianne

    Philadelphia, the City of Double Parking.

    Banning cars would solve this problem. Enforcing the ban with tanks would make the problem more amusing.

  16. 16
    otrame

    All young men in uniform appear to be about 12. Trust me, I know. Both of mine were in the army at various times.

    And ogremk5, i’d like a citation, please, but it seems to me that tanks would not be considered important parts of ground forces if the “average life span” was 30 seconds. And in addition…

    Dude, you are talking to a tank commander’s dad, here.

  17. 17
    jasonnishiyama

    Oh, and based on the photo on his facebook page, it is M1A1 Abrams tank…

  18. 18
    truthspeaker

    jasonnishiyama says:
    20 March 2012 at 2:22 pm

    My CF tags started with NRE (No religion) and then when we went from aluminum to steel tags it became OD (other denomination).

    The change to steel was that there was a concern that the aluminum would catch fire….

    They discovered this with the original design of Bradley fighting vehicles. I guess they then applied the knowledge to dog tags.

  19. 19
    One Hand Clapping

    ogremk5 @ 12

    Yeah, the M1A1 is the current tank in the inventory. Life expectancy for tank crew has dramatically increased since the cold war era. I read something back then that the average life span of a tank crewman was about 30 seconds once actual combat was joined.

    The M1A1 is just one variant, there is also the M1A2 and a handful of A3′s were being tested, along with sub-variants of each of those. These tanks are pretty incredible, actually. You won’t ever hear one start up in the conventional sense, as they are powered by a turbine engine. It sounds like a jet engine winding up which makes them remarkably quiet. Quiet compared to the noisy V-8 diesel engine of the M3 Bradley, that is.

    Also, the armor is even more impressive – layers of steel, ceramic, kevlar, and depleted uranium. Scuttlebutt was that the only thing on the battlefield that could penetrate the armor of an M1 was another M1 firing a depleted uranium sabot.

  20. 20
    jasonnishiyama

    truthspeaker@18

    I always figured that if my tags were catching fire, that would be the least of my worries at the time :)

  21. 21
    WharGarbl

    I read something back then that the average life span of a tank crewman was about 30 seconds once actual combat was joined.

    And ogremk5, i’d like a citation, please, but it seems to me that tanks would not be considered important parts of ground forces if the “average life span” was 30 seconds. And in addition…

    It’s not 30 seconds.
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-traps-belton-y-cooper/1003019424?ean=9780891418146&pwb=1&
    According to people paraphrasing from the book, life-expectancy of Sherman tank is about 40~50 seconds.

    I think the only death suffered by M1A1 tank crew so far (while they’re in the tank) is from a anti-tank mine (which was “supplemented” by a lot of additional explosives).

    There are loses of tank crews due to sniper fire when they’re outside of the tank (like poking their head out of the hatch).

    Source maybe unreliable, but its the best I can find.
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090325121120AAArsDg

    Hey, at least PZ’s son isn’t a forward observer.

  22. 22
    Eric R

    I think the 30 second rule quoted earlier actually came from WWII when our tanks were gasoline powered, under-armored and under-armed.

    Nowdays the M1A1 is probably the safest place to be on the battlefields he is likely to see. as it stands the M1A1 isnt really threatened by any sort of tank likely to be found in afghanistan, only another modern main battle tank or a missile launched from a helicopter has much a chance for a kill shot.

    I would like to express my hopes he remains safe throughout his career wherever he may serve.

  23. 23
    charlessoto

    Nice ride! An old buddy of mine was an M1 loader in Desert Storm. Hope yours never has to see battle, but given how we like to fight these religious wars these days…

  24. 24
    jackjesberger

    Wish him well for me. That’s some kind of dangerous work. Tell him thanks.

  25. 25
    WharGarbl

    #21
    Okay, it looks like I skip a few things. I talked about Sherman tanks during World War 2 because I suspect that’s where the 30 seconds came from.

    Btw, the only time I see 30 seconds life-expectancy being mention was from a online multiplayer game (World of Tank), where the average expectancy of a heavy tank was around 30 seconds once they’re spotted (which generally result in mass artillery shelling).

  26. 26
    Geds

    One Hand Clapping @19: Also, the armor is even more impressive – layers of steel, ceramic, kevlar, and depleted uranium. Scuttlebutt was that the only thing on the battlefield that could penetrate the armor of an M1 was another M1 firing a depleted uranium sabot.

    They proved that in the first Gulf War. An M1 got bogged down and couldn’t work its way free. The Army was still on the advance and hostiles were in the area, so recovery was not considered an option. The crew bailed and they tried to destroy the thing but nothing seemed to work, including fire from another M1. Finally they just said, “Screw it,” and called in a recovery vehicle, since it was easier.

    The M1 is a badass tank. Pretty much the only thing that can match it one-on-one in the world is the British Challenger 2. Fortunately, we don’t seem to be at risk of open warfare with the Brits any time in the near future. Most Soviet Bloc/Chinese tanks are primarily based on the T-64 or the T-72, which were the primary tanks deployed by Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War. They were, incidentally, completely outmatched by the first-gen M1s and the Challenger 1s.

    Oh, and the next two tanks on the best list are probably the German Leopard 2 and the French LeClerc. Just in case anyone is wondering about the value of the US spending as much money on defense as the next 17 nations combined. Because we might have to go to war with Germany, France, and the UK at some point in the future…

  27. 27
    WharGarbl

    Nowdays the M1A1 is probably the safest place to be on the battlefields he is likely to see. as it stands the M1A1 isnt really threatened by any sort of tank likely to be found in afghanistan, only another modern main battle tank or a missile launched from a helicopter has much a chance for a kill shot.

    I think the only tank-to-tank kill against Abraham was from… a friendly fire by another Abraham.

    Although there were cases with RPGs and IEDs that managed to disable

  28. 28
    WharGarbl

    #27
    Abram, not Abraham.

  29. 29
    terrellk70

    As a retired Armor Office it does my heart good to see a young tanker! The M1 is the best tank on the battlefield. PZ tell him to watch out for the Turret Monster, it can be a real bastard. As a young officer his platoon time is the best time of his career, tell him to enjoy it.

  30. 30
    markr1957

    Please make sure and tell him – “There are NO golden rivets in an Abrams tank”. Oh, and he doesn’t need to go to the store for a long weight for cleaning the barrel either ;-)

  31. 31
    phoenicianromans

    Oh, and the next two tanks on the best list are probably the German Leopard 2 and the French LeClerc. Just in case anyone is wondering about the value of the US spending as much money on defense as the next 17 nations combined. Because we might have to go to war with Germany, France, and the UK at some point in the future…

    Not really funny.

    Sorry – I’m sure the Prof is proud of his son and all, but American militarist imagery is provoking a sour gut reaction, much like the Cold War propaganda posters of noble Warsaw Pact troops. You people grew up in a culture which tells you the American soldier is a force for good in the world; much of the rest of the world sees your armed forces as the greatest threat to peace, and for good reason.

    http://www.amazon.com/New-American-Militarism-Americans-Seduced/dp/0195173384

  32. 32
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    “A big brown one, with a gun sticking out front.”

    Any idea why the army is so fond of the colour of fermenting diarrhoea? I’m no Christian, so the idea of shooting people doesn’t appeal to me at all, but I’m guessing if they would have red tanks with flowers around that spout, I’d already be a little more willing to listen to them when they explain why sending people to high heavens is such an irresistible business.

  33. 33
    jasonnishiyama

    Bart B. Van Bockstaele@32

    It makes them harder to see…

  34. 34
    WharGarbl

    Any idea why the army is so fond of the colour of fermenting diarrhoea? I’m no Christian, so the idea of shooting people doesn’t appeal to me at all, but I’m guessing if they would have red tanks with flowers around that spout, I’d already be a little more willing to listen to them when they explain why sending people to high heavens is such an irresistible business.

    Maybe because you preferably don’t want your enemy to see you?

  35. 35
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    “It makes them harder to see…”

    “Maybe because you preferably don’t want your enemy to see you?”

    Maybe, but is that not a coward’s tactic? Hiding in the dark, and stab people in the back?

    Also, as far as I know, tanks are somewhat large. How blind does one have to be not see such a large blob of fermenting diarrhoea when it comes in one’s direction?

  36. 36
    'Tis Himself

    Nowdays the M1A1 is probably the safest place to be on the battlefields he is likely to see.

    Just remember what Bill Mauldin said about tanks:

    A moving foxhole attracts the eye.

  37. 37
    PZ Myers

    Yeah, if you go to his facebook page and look at the photos taken around Ft Irwin, you discover that that part of California is the color of fermenting diarrhea, apparently. (I’ve never tried fermenting diarrhea, myself: is it kind of like sauerkraut or kimchee?)

  38. 38
    PZ Myers

    Also, that tank can blow things up from several kilometers away. It just has to be a little bit sneaky, not a lot sneaky.

  39. 39
    Olav

    phoenicianromans:

    You people grew up in a culture which tells you the American soldier is a force for good in the world; much of the rest of the world sees your armed forces as the greatest threat to peace, and for good reason.

    +1

    It is one thing (an honourable thing, even) to join one’s country’s military to help defend said country. It is an entirely different thing to join and be sent to other countries to fight the Empire’s aggressive and illegal wars.

    What if the US goes on another adventure like the one in Iraq? Will PZ’s son refuse to go?

  40. 40
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    I see. And there are lots of enemies to fight in that part of California, I guess? I didn’t know that atheism was so popular over there it was getting out of hand, or would it be gays that they are fighting? Surely, in that case, hot pink would be a better colour, no?

  41. 41
    'Tis Himself

    Bart B. Van Bockstaele #32

    Any idea why the army is so fond of the colour of fermenting diarrhoea?

    They paint things that color just to annoy you.

  42. 42
    Rip Steakface

    Maybe, but is that not a coward’s tactic? Hiding in the dark, and stab people in the back?

    Just because it’s “cowardly” (I prefer the term “clever”) doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

    Also, as far as I know, tanks are somewhat large. How blind does one have to be not see such a large blob of fermenting diarrhoea when it comes in one’s direction?

    Consider how long the range is of the average main battle tank (several kilometers). Now consider how flat and brown most of our modern battlefields are (the desert expanses of the Middle East, apparently). A tank looks about the size of a pea at a typical battle range (the crew uses optics to see their targets), and it doesn’t move fast enough for you to really notice before they’ve already blown you up.

    Does that make it right? No. But it sure as hell means it kills everything it wants, and the armor on that thing has resulted in pretty much zero fatalities for the modern tank commander.

  43. 43
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    Oops. I forgot. Yes, I tried fermenting diarrhoea. Quite often too. Unfortunately, it’s been a while. I don’t remember it. I do remember kimchee though. I love it. And I love the colour too! Nice bright red! Way to go! I’m not sure about sauerkraut. I’ve always equated that with a cleaning product, for some reason. To be complete: a very bad cleaning product!

  44. 44
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    “They paint things that color just to annoy you.”

    See! I knew I wasn’t just being paranoid when that ring-billed gull poo-bombed me the other day!

  45. 45
    PZ Myers

    Ft Irwin is the color of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and unfortunately, Iran.

    I have never seen a gay man in hot pink — most of the gay men I know seem to dress just like me.

  46. 46
    Anthony K

    As much as I find it a bit tasteless to have this discussion on PZ’s blog, I have to say something about statistics like “the average life span of a Sherman tank crew in WWII was 30 seconds.”

    On the face of it, such statistics are ludicrous.

    The problem lies with the susceptibility of a measure like mean to skewed or tailed distributions. The distribution of things like life expectancy (in any scenario), having a lower bound of zero, obviously is.

    What this means is that a single, even outlying long-lived datapoint will skew the entire mean. Further, this means that fo a statistic like 30s to be true, a staggering number of tanks would have to be destroyed within 30 seconds, and by staggering I mean almost all of them.

    For instance, I took from Wikipedia the number of M4s Britain recieved, about 17,000, or 43% of all M4s produced. Assuming every other tank fell off a transport at precisely 30 seconds into battle, all it would take is for 73 tanks to survive one hour for the average to be hoisted up to 45 seconds. That’s less than one half of one percent of the total number. (If even one of those tanks lasts two hours, the number is even less.

    If just one M4 lasts a day (let’s say they fire a shell and then get lost), then the only way to bring the average back down to 30 seconds is to have nearly 20% of the rest last 6 seconds. Just 6.

    Of course, this problem doesn’t occur to the same degree when you use other measures of central tendency such as median, but I suspect that this “average” is more likely bullshit than an unspecified median, unless modern militaries employ corps of statisticians armed with stopwatches rather than sidearms.

  47. 47
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    Rip Steakface:
    You got me there. I have no idea about how much these things do. I just know I had asked Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) to bring me a microscope and he brought me a barracks with plastic soldiers and tanks instead. They didn’t shoot so far. Apparently, it was thought that plastic fighting stuff was better for my development than microscopes.

    See how much good it did. I’m still not willing to play with this stuff…

    Come to think of it: a nice whirl of pretty flowers around that spout would make for great camouflage then. They would think it is a fata morgana of the Garden of Eden!

  48. 48
    itkovian

    Blowing things up from far away is the right way to go. All that armor is there as last resort – much better to get them before they even know you’re there.

    As for the life expectancy, my friend used to be a gunner in a Leopard tank (Canada). Figure he quoted was something like 50 seconds.

    The thing to consider however is that this was from the WW3 Fulda Gap scenario, an all out war against a equivalent opponent with combined arms going at each other. Nowadays the situation is vastly different, since we’re mostly dealing with asymmetrical warfare.

    Tanks still have a role to play now, mind you. Canada has been putting their new Leo 2s to good use in A-stan for a couple of years now, as has Denmark (I think). Still dangerous, of course, but a lot safer than the classic WW3 scenario. That said, I don’t think the US has deployed tanks in A-stan so far.

    As for PZ’s son, I have nothing but respect for his decision. The deployments themselves may be contentious, and I’m not going to say that all soldiers are Virtuous Patriots (we’re critical thinkers here, and that notion should be anathema to us), but signing up for such a post is one worthy of respect.

    Mind you, I’m am armor geek, so I might be biased. :)

    Itkovian

  49. 49
    Geds

    Sorry – I’m sure the Prof is proud of his son and all, but American militarist imagery is provoking a sour gut reaction, much like the Cold War propaganda posters of noble Warsaw Pact troops. You people grew up in a culture which tells you the American soldier is a force for good in the world; much of the rest of the world sees your armed forces as the greatest threat to peace, and for good reason.

    You’re right. I did grow up in this country. I grew up reading Tom Clancy and Larry Bond. I’m a history major and in college I took US Military History from a retired Colonel in a class mostly filled with ROTC kids. I know military tactics, strategy, history, and technology because it fascinates me.

    And, quite frankly, I find the fact that the US spends the same as the next 17 nations on it’s military appalling. I find it appalling precisely because the next several nations on the list of military spend and military tech levels are Britain, France, Germany, and probably a few other nations with which America is allied and with which America will never, ever go to war. I want my country out of Afghanistan. I was quite happy to see it leave Iraq. I want to slap the shit out of the people who are currently rattling the saber against Iran.

    I also most certainly do not think that the American soldier is an unmitigated force for good in this world. I know all too well the history of US adventurism in this hemisphere, with the Marines taking over customs houses during civil unrest in Latin American countries just to force them to keep paying their bills to European nations is unconscionable. I know about My Lai. I consider Vietnam a completely unjustified clusterfuck of a war that would have been the dumbest war in American history except for Iraq II: Electric Bugaloo. I want Bush, Cheney, and Ashcroft brought up on war crimes charges.

    As such, kindly STFU when you’re telling me what I think. Being an American doesn’t make me a jingoistic idiot. Being an American who is well aware of my country’s history as well as its military capabilities doesn’t mean I want my country to use its military capabilities in an offensive capacity. It just means that I am just as worried about the ignorant masses who will vote for anyone who promises them the safety of the gun as the rest of the world. Because I know EXACTLY what an M1A2 is capable of doing and I know EXACTLY what a B-2 Spirit bomber can do.

  50. 50
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    “Ft Irwin is the color of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and unfortunately, Iran.” That’s what I gather. I must say that Toronto’s Tommy Thompson Park has pretty much the same colour these days. It makes my beloved snakes really hard to find.

    “I have never seen a gay man in hot pink — most of the gay men I know seem to dress just like me.” You’ve never been to our gay pride parade! We seem to have a lot of leather as well though. I prefer hot pink. Happy colours do it for me. And when I’m gay, they make me even happier. But that’s gay in its original meaning ^_^

    For the rest, you are right oeuf corse. I live close to “gay town” in Toronto, but you wouldn’t know that if you were there. It looks just like any other part of this great city.

  51. 51
    One Hand Clapping

    I was actually struck with how beautiful the Mojave Desert was when I was doing rotations in Fort Irwin.

    As for seeing tanks from kilometers away, there is a reason those tanks look like rather large racecars – they present smaller targets while they in an engagement (ok, ok, AND because the angle of the armor not only makes a direct hit more difficult, but multiplies the amount of armor between the crew and a forward, ground mounted adversary).

    When you put that M1 in a defilade or hull-down position it basically disappears and is still able to effectively engage the enemy.

  52. 52
    Anthony K

    I live close to “gay town” in Toronto, but you wouldn’t know that if you were there. It looks just like any other part of this great city.

    Can you do me a favour, Bart B. Van Bockstaele? What would be (one) of the most distinctive, or well-known intersections and Toronto?

    I’m thinking Yonge and something, but I don’t know what. Dundas?

  53. 53
    WharGarbl

    Maybe, but is that not a coward’s tactic? Hiding in the dark, and stab people in the back?

    It’s called smart, not coward.
    Coward are insult by those incapable of adapting to their enemy’s tactic.

  54. 54
    Anthony K

    It’s called smart, not coward.

    Even a Klingon knows that sometimes the best strategy is to cloak.

  55. 55
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    Can you do me a favour, Bart B. Van Bockstaele? What would be (one) of the most distinctive, or well-known intersections and Toronto? I’m thinking Yonge and something, but I don’t know what. Dundas?

    I have a problem with “most”. I didn’t make any statistics, but Yonge and Dundas is certainly a good candidate. That’s where the north end of the Eaton Centre is. Yonge and Dundas Square is quite popular. To be honest, I don’t even know why. That square has the shape of an awkward triangle, it has a dark pavement (part of which can be turned into fountains – that *is* fun), there is an awful lot of traffic, it is -to me- not an attractive place at all.

  56. 56
    Anthony K

    Okay, thanks. I do remember the ‘square’ when I was last in the CotU.

    I’m using examples of Canadian named intersections for a presentation to my colleagues on why we need to geocode descriptive addresses before we can perform geographic analyses.

    So far, all my citations are “someone on the internet”.

  57. 57
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    It’s called smart, not coward.
    Coward are insult by those incapable of adapting to their enemy’s tactic.

    Even a Klingon knows that sometimes the best strategy is to cloak.

    Which has always made me see the Klingons as cowards. They put up a big mouth, but not much more. I think Riker had it right when he didn’t think highly of Worf’s “bravery” in the broken-spine incident (forgot the name of the episode).

    One thing that has always puzzled me -as a non-native speaker- was when the people who flew into the World Trade Center were called cowards. I’ve never understood why they would be cowards. In my view, they were heroes. I certainly would have been far too chicken to do what they did.

    Of course, I disagree with what they did, but that doesn’t make them cowards, in my view.

  58. 58
    ChasCPeterson

    Of course, I disagree with what they did, but that doesn’t make them cowards, in my view.

    It shouldn’t make them “heroes” either, in your view, then.

  59. 59
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    Descriptive addresses or popular names can be important. I do my research at Tommy Thompson Park, for example, but few Torontonians even know what that is. However, they do seem to know “The Leslie Spit”. Now, that thing isn’t called that, nor is it a spit. But you’re quite a bit more certain to get to your destination if you use that term.

  60. 60
    ChasCPeterson

    I was actually struck with how beautiful the Mojave Desert was when I was doing rotations in Fort Irwin.

    Some of the best West Mojave habitat left is within those humungous boudaries.
    Also, of course, some of the most completely trashed. Tanks > creosote bushes (and their many inhabitants) every time.

  61. 61
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    It shouldn’t make them “heroes” either, in your view, then.

    Why not? They knowingly and willingly gave their lives for an ideal they believed in. I disagree with that ideal, they are fighting for a non-existing entity, but my disagreement is neither here nor there. Their bravery can hardly be contested.

  62. 62
    Anthony K

    Descriptive addresses or popular names can be important. I do my research at Tommy Thompson Park, for example, but few Torontonians even know what that is. However, they do seem to know “The Leslie Spit”. Now, that thing isn’t called that, nor is it a spit. But you’re quite a bit more certain to get to your destination if you use that term.

    Of course, but it’s hard to run SaTScan™ with datapoints like “The Leslie Spit”.

    This is getting way OT, but if you find descriptive geography interesting, look into finding a copy of Where is here? Canada’s maps and the stories they tell by Alan Morantz.

  63. 63
    phoenicianromans

    As such, kindly STFU when you’re telling me what I think.

    Would you care to quote me trying to tell you what to think? I was expressing my opinion, which is shared with a large number of people based on reports.

  64. 64
    phoenicianromans

    Maybe, but is that not a coward’s tactic? Hiding in the dark, and stab people in the back?

    Nope – that’s been the object of each and every soldier starting from the moment they realised in their gut that they themselves could get killed doing this.

    Try looking through this book sometime – it’s fascinating:

    http://www.amazon.com/Victory-Deceit-second-Deception-Trickery/dp/0595184057

  65. 65
    Sean Boyd

    Ft Irwin is the color of Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and unfortunately, Iran.

    PZ, when my dad was at Ft. Irwin, as a medic with a tank battalion, his unit was training for deployment to Vietnam. Basically, Ft. Irwin looks like whatever the brass tell the troops to imagine it looks like.

  66. 66
    Sili

    AHA!

    So that’s a militant atheist!

  67. 67
    Alex

    I find it appalling precisely because the next several nations on the list of military spend and military tech levels are Britain, France, Germany, and probably a few other nations with which America is allied and with which America will never, ever go to war.

    While it is true that Germany, UK etc have very good tanks and are not going to go to war with the US, the American flagship, the M1 itself, is being used and produced for example in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Isn’t that nice? The logic seems clear, your domestic weapons industry makes good tanks to sell them, and then you need them yourself because everyone has them.

  68. 68
    woolonwire

    At last, one mystery solved – where PZ got the “sabot” line vis a vis Dawkins and he at “Expelled” all those months years ago

  69. 69
    Nogbert

    According to Samantha Butt, who seems to know what she’s talking about, it’s quite easy to remember who the top five arms supplying nations are. The five permanent members of the security council.

    War is very good for business when your business is arms. Terrorism is very good for business when your business is security.

    Imagine for a moment that a complete nutter wins next Novembers’ election, at what point would you be supporting traitors in the military acting to prevent the fundy wet dream becoming reality.

    You see from over here, UK, the danger from the US to peace, survival even, seems a lot greater than say Iran. Nutters with nukes may well be the US’s final gift to the world.

  70. 70
    b. - Order of Lagomorpha

    Looking good! If he *is* operating an Abrams, they are a very cool machine, indeed. A co-worker was on one and he and his crew had made a video of it. Pretty entertaining watching one drive around in Germany and when they lit the big gun off on the range, the whole vehicle jumped back about 5 feet. Amazing to think of so much fire power it can lift something that size.

  71. 71
    julian

    That’s scary, PZ. He looks about 12.

    If it’s looking young that’s bugging you just give it a few years. He’ll look forty in no time.

    Maybe, but is that not a coward’s tactic? Hiding in the dark, and stab people in the back?

    Nope – that’s been the object of each and every soldier starting from the moment they realised in their gut that they themselves could get killed doing this.

    Not to mention what every competent general wants. Throw your troops directly against the enemy line on an even fighting field and guess what you just threw away.

    A fair fight is a fight you win.

  72. 72
    Heliantus

    Re: the 30-second average lifespan in armor:

    Brownian pointed wisely

    Further, this means that for a statistic like 30s to be true, a staggering number of tanks would have to be destroyed within 30 seconds, and by staggering I mean almost all of them.

    It was pretty much the idea behind this concept, yes.

    itkovian has the correct context:

    The thing to consider however is that this was from the WW3 Fulda Gap scenario, an all out war against a equivalent opponent with combined arms going at each other. Nowadays the situation is vastly different, since we’re mostly dealing with asymmetrical warfare.

    My dad was subcontracted to work on the design on an automated howitzer, back in the 80′s, and during lunchtime the military guys would explain their dream strategy.
    Their WW3 scenario was more or less an all-out, frontal assault by a big wave of tanks and assorted support troops on a line of radar-assisted fast-firing heavy artillery (sounds like the Maginot line, now that I’m thinking about it – we never learn).
    In this context, footmen’s lifespan would be under 5 s, tanks’ lifespan under 30 s, and the whole battle would last less than 15 minutes.
    In this computer-driven warfare, any artillery gun would be automatically spotted and fired at by the enemy artillery as soon as its first shell was in the air; thus, the howitzer they were designing was supposed to be able to quickly reload itself and shot 3 or 4 more shells after its first, before being destroyed by return fire (and also before its first shell actually hit anything).

    tl;dr: tank 30-s lifespan is in the theoretical battle scenario starting with a massive, pinpointed artillery barrage, after which only a very small fraction of the initial troops and guns on both sides will remain. The survivors will mostly be tanks (being armored and mobile).

    I doubt this situation will occur everyday.

  73. 73
    Anthony K

    Hiding in the dark, and stab people in the back?

    Besides, one does not stab from the dark. One stabs from hell’s heart.

  74. 74
    seanhart

    I thank him for his service.

  75. 75
    niftyatheist, perpetually threadrupt

    He looks capable and strong. Please pass on my thanks for his service, P. Z.

  76. 76
    DLC

    I Hope your Son’s career is a safe one, and dull.

  77. 77
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh boy. The first “thank you for your service.” As if we’re gazing upon the very model of self-less sacrifice so that we, the timid at home, may enjoy our freedom.

    I know that sounds churlish, but I hate the thoughtless and reflexive “thank you for your service.”

    Service for what? If you think any but the minority of recruits is doing this for the pay or benefits (which is just fine and rational, thank you) you’re deluded.

  78. 78
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh, sorry. Didn’t notice others were already doffing their caps. Jesus Christ.

    “I thank you for your service!?!”

    No one’s criticizing PZ’s son for joining the military. So why the hell are you acting like he’s done some great sacrifice to The American Dream?

  79. 79
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Correction:

    If you think any but the minority of recruits is doing this for anything other than the pay or benefits (which is just fine and rational, thank you) you’re deluded.

  80. 80
    rrpostal

    I spent a few years on M1A1s and that hatch doesn’t look right for either the TC or the loader hatch. Doesn’t really matter, however. To the above poster. I wouldn’t claim it to any degree of certainty, but many people join the military for reasons beyond the “pay and benefits”. Rightly or wrongly, there are other motivators in these decisions.

  81. 81
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt
    I live close to “gay town” in Toronto, but you wouldn’t know that if you were there. It looks just like any other part of this great city.

    Can you do me a favour, Bart B. Van Bockstaele? What would be (one) of the most distinctive, or well-known intersections and Toronto?

    Oi! Brownian! Isn’t the queue long enough for you already, without you going off and soliciting for more? Geeze.

  82. 82
    imthegenieicandoanything

    Lovely grown children you have.

    Taking more after their mother, perhaps (as I say about my own lovely boys).

  83. 83
    JCfromNC

    Hey, my kid just finished training to drive that tank! He’s going to be in the National Guard here in NC, though.

  84. 84
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    Brownian:

    Thank you for the links. I was not aware of SaTScan and if I interpret the main page correctly, it may actually save me from writing my own programmes to analyse the data that will be coming from my project. I’ll have a thorough look at it as soon as I can find the time.

  85. 85
    'Tis Himself

    Heliantus #72

    sounds like the Maginot line, now that I’m thinking about it – we never learn

    Contrary to popular belief, the Maginot Line did exactly what it was supposed to do.

    The seeds of the Maginot Line were sown in the trench slaughters of World War I. After much debate, the French developed an elaborate fortification system on their border with Germany. Named after a War Minister who lost an arm at Verdun, the Maginot Line was designed to prevent a direct German invasion of France by making such an attempt prohibitively costly in lives and time.

    The French were fully aware their fortified zone (it wasn’t a “line” at all) was not impregnable. But it would be so difficult to break that it would deter a German invasion into northeast France. Unable to deliver a swift, decisive blow against the Line, the Germans would either give up all thought of war with France, accept a protracted war of attrition, or find an alternate way to carry on the war. It was this last that French policymakers considered most likely.

    The principal function of the Maginot Line was to channelize a German offensive into Belgium, where it could be met by motorized French forces supported by the Belgian Army and, most likely, British forces. This plan had the added (but unspoken) advantage of having the horrors of war visited on Belgium rather than France.

    Despite the expenditure of over 7 billion francs (about $20 billion in today’s dollars), the system was not fully complete by 1940. But it was sufficiently finished to have the deterrent effect the French contemplated. German planners proposed an invasion through Belgium with limited, holding demonstrations against the Line. The Germans assumed their 17 mechanized and motorized divisions would overwhelm the French, British and Belgian forces, albeit slowly and with difficulty.

    Hitler was dissatisfied with this plan. He wanted a quick victory against France rather than a protracted struggle. A relatively junior general, Erich von Manstein, came up with a more complex, bolder, and risker plan. A portion of the army, including some armored and motorized units, would attack directly into Belgium as a feint to draw Allied forces northwards. Meanwhile the bulk of the army would attack through the Ardennes, a rugged, heavily forested region with few roads. This would bypass both the Allied forces and the Maginot Line, perhaps winning the offensive in one swift blow.

    At the first sign of the German offensive, the feint into Belgium, the French and British leapt forward into Belgium. The French 7th Army advanced over 150 miles, going almost to the Dutch border. At the same time the German main blow fell. A dozen mechanized and motorized divisions emerged from the Ardennes to fall on French secondary units near Sedan. The German movement had not only be undetected but unimpeded. Panzergruppe Kleist was in the rear of the Allied armies and, within days, the British were forced to evacuate their forces and the French and Belgians surrendered.

    The Maginot Line worked in the sense that it channelized the German forces into attacking elsewhere. The Germans never made any attempt to fight against any part of the Line. The Line was successful in deterring an offensive into northeastern France. The Germans attacked elsewhere.

  86. 86
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    And, of course, the Belgians are eminently thankful to all their big brothers and sisters that they like the country so much, they consider it their favourite playground!

  87. 87
    niftyatheist, perpetually threadrupt

    Oh boy. The first “thank you for your service.” As if we’re gazing upon the very model of self-less sacrifice so that we, the timid at home, may enjoy our freedom.

    I know that sounds churlish, but I hate the thoughtless and reflexive “thank you for your service.”

    Service for what? If you think any but the minority of recruits is doing this for the pay or benefits (which is just fine and rational, thank you) you’re deluded.

    Josh, I hear what you are saying, and when I see jingoistic posts in other forums I point out exactly this thing. When military service is held up as potential martyrdom for freedom, I don’t let that stand uncriticized either. A young man or woman can be praised for their military service without

    But some careers – like military careers, fire-fighting, police work, medical personnel without borders, etc – are career choices with a very high commitment from the individual for often quite poor pay. Our society could not function without them and these men and women could choose other, safer poorly-paid careers. So, I thank P.Z.’s son for his service. Whatever I may think of the wars (I am vehemently opposed), I feel that young men and women like him are entitled to a hat tip now and then.

    When the child of anyone I know IRL sets out on an adult path successfully, I make a point to offer appropriate congratulations. Should personal politics be enough reason to withhold those kind sentiments from people? I choose no. But I understand how you feel, too.

  88. 88
    WharGarbl

    @Bart
    #61

    Why not? They knowingly and willingly gave their lives for an ideal they believed in. I disagree with that ideal, they are fighting for a non-existing entity, but my disagreement is neither here nor there. Their bravery can hardly be contested.

    True, then again, there’s that 72 virgins thing.
    Even then, on the point of war, I don’t care whether an act is cowardly or brave. If it minimize the casualties of our soldier and ensures victory, I don’t care what tactic was used.

  89. 89
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    True, then again, there’s that 72 virgins thing.
    Even then, on the point of war, I don’t care whether an act is cowardly or brave. If it minimize the casualties of our soldier and ensures victory, I don’t care what tactic was used.

    72 virgins is an ideal as well, is it not? Sure, it isn’t one I would pursue, I’d rather keep my hamster instead of gaining the privilege of raping any number of virgins (or non-virgins for that matter), but an ideal is an ideal.

    As for the rest, that is probably how things are done in the real world. I couldn’t. Morality matters to me. But then, I am but a filthy, godless heathen.

  90. 90
    grumpypathdoc

    Lets hope this frigging Afgan war goes away before he has to be deployed anywhere. But if you have to be anywhere, the more armor around you the better. Also a big gun. Too. And also.

  91. 91
    David Utidjian

    Bart B @35:

    “It makes them harder to see…”

    “Maybe because you preferably don’t want your enemy to see you?”

    Maybe, but is that not a coward’s tactic? Hiding in the dark, and stab people in the back?

    Please spare me the faux chivalry… that died (slowly) with a lot of French nobles in a pile of fermenting mud at the Battle of Crecy over 650 years ago.

    That is, unless, you can unambiguously define ‘coward’, ‘brave’, and ‘courage’ and to what situations and which people those notions apply.

  92. 92
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    Please spare me the faux chivalry… that died (slowly) with a lot of French nobles in a pile of fermenting mud at the Battle of Crecy over 650 years ago.

    Just because stabbing people in the back is more successful than other methods does not make it any less cowardly, or more desirable, or more moral.

    Evolution by natural selection is incredibly successful, but see how many evolutionary biologists you will find who think this is “desirable” or “moral”. Charles Darwin didn’t seem to think so. Neither do I. And we are not alone.

    That is, unless, you can unambiguously define ‘coward’, ‘brave’, and ‘courage’ and to what situations and which people those notions apply.

    We have dictionaries for that. They are precise enough.

  93. 93
    Heliantus

    @ ‘Tis Himself, OM

    I just read your answer about the Maginot line. Thanks for the history lesson! I learned something.
    As a kid, I went 4 times through WW2 in school, but didn’t remembered these details. Maybe it was glossed over, but most likely it just didn’t registered properly in my mind. I obviously needed a refresher.

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