Challenger2 at Bovington

Above: A British Army Challenger 2 tank on trials at Bovington Camp in Dorset, England, 2016. Credit: Unattributed, Ministry of Defence.

Soldiers sitting on tank

Above: Soldiers on a public parade in Den Haag, Netherlands, 2017. Credit: Anna Ogiienko.

Army Tank

The tank was once a primary and iconic machine of lethal State force--particularly in the twentieth century. The tank is an object which "materializes our aggression" (PD: 30--Virilio is quoting Teilhard). However, in an era in which "the battlefield is always the city (IB: 9)," the tank has become cumbersome and an easy target for attack. Urban warfare leaves the tank more or less redundant. In such a context--guerrilla-cell-against-special-forces urban warfare--the tank is useless and represents a former epoch of military force specifically one in which a defined battlefield actually existed. An era in which military operations were determined around "pure power" and "physical violence." For the revolutionary guerrilla or terrorist cell, conventional weapons-of-function such as tanks are often unavailable. For the irregular fighting force, in place of the tank there is instead a scene of "perverse repurposing" of objects and machines into weapons of destination, "there are weapons that exist through their destination [or perverse lethal use]. For example, if I take this bottle and kill you with it, it's a weapon by destination. If I have a gun and I kill you, it's a weapon by function. During 9/11 they hijacked technological progress by using a civilian plane to make a bomb killing themselves in the process. It's a weapon by destination. That's total perversity (To Dumoucel, 2010)." So, in this way it is the creative re-purposing by which weapons ("arms of the people") are made to appear and disappear, and by which the guerrilla-terrorist is able to gain a significant military advantage. Such weapons (hidden-in-plain-view until repurposed) are starkly opposed by the modern tank which continually announces its presence (PD: 53). The guerrilla fighter's advantage is his creativity in transgression (his ability to reinterpret an object's use) and in the ubiquity of potential objects. On the other hand, the tank is not subject to reinterpretation, repurposing, or transgression.

The tank is iconic of an increasingly out-moded way of waging war--a machine of the theater-of-operations with battle-lines drawn and the belligerents seeking to gain control over a certain definable area of physical territory. The tank is a relic of former times. A relic of the days when battles were fought on "battlefields" with opponents massing each side of a recognisable divide (often a State border). In modern warfare, the enemy is often a near invisible guerrilla unit or "terror cell" while State military operations are continuous, covert, global, unannounced, untraceable.