The Great COIN vs. Armor Debate

A few days after posting this about the impact of COIN on armor, I ran across this Gian Gentile piece over at Small Wars Journal, basically arguing that the U.S. Armor Corps is dying a slow death by negligence. That spawned an Internet-wide debate that SWJ collected here. I’d add Paul McLeary’s Ares post on the subject as well.

In the meantime, it looks like China and Turkey are two other places where the job prospects for tank commanders are bright. The fact that China still place such a heavy doctrinal emphasis on armor is certain to embolden the COIN-skeptic tank defenders. I’m actually an agnostic in this debate, and can see a few different scenarios whereby the U.S. might be confronted with a conventional conflict against China, including an incident in the South China Sea, or a treaty-invoked security guarantee for an ally. But none of them seem even remotely likely to involve armor. Naval forces, short- and long-range missiles, missile defenses and strategic bombers? Sure. But the only scenario that involves tanks is a land invasion of mainland China. And that just doesn’t strike me as a realistic one. That has less to do with COIN or shifts in American capacities than it does with the overriding disincentives for such an ill-advised adventure.

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