In the early hours of March 18 2013, 22 M-1 Abrams tanks were loaded on to a train in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From there they slowly rolled 400 miles north, to Bremerhaven, were loaded onto The Honor of Arc, and shipped back to Charleston, South Carolina. After a continuous 69-year presence on the Continent, the last American battle tanks in Europe were gone.
If there was ever a sign of America’s new military priorities, this was it. The Cold War, the tanks’ departure declared in no uncertain terms, was over. Conventional land warfare, it signalled, was finished. From now on fighting was going to done differently, and elsewhere. Drones and nimble special forces units were the anti-terror spearheads of the future, while a bolstered naval presence in the Pacific emphasised the Obama administration’s foreign policy “pivot” from Europe to Asia.