1

As much as the weaponry it produced as one of the “arsenals of the United Nations,” the TVA itself was potent propaganda, an authoritative, living symbol of how a liberal world could be constructed postwar. (source)

This usage where "as much as" is followed by a noun phrase is unfamiliar to me. I am much more familiar with constructions of "as much as" followed by a clause, such as

even though : despite the fact that
As much as I respect him, I still have to disagree with him on this point. (source: Merriam Webster)

I can't find other sentences with similar structures to the sentence at issue at the top of this question. What does "as much as + noun phrase" mean? Despite that NP...? What does that sentence mean?

2

as quiet as a mouse
as blind as a bat
as flat as a pancake
as clear as a bell

as long as I've known him
as much as I respect him
as strange as it may seem
as difficult as that may be

The "as . . . as" correlative can take a noun phrase as easily as a complete content clause.  Indeed, "as easily as a complete content clause" counts as just such a use.  There is no clause in "a complete content clause". 

 

A literal interpretation of "as much as" is of the same amount as or to the same degree as.  In your example, the TVA itself was potent propaganda to the same degree as the weaponry that it produced. 

Another nearly-literal interpretation is some range of amounts or degrees, up to and including that of the example given. 

Interpreting "as much as" to mean something like despite that is less literal still, approaching idiom.  It's a common enough interpretation, but it's also a common enough interpretation of contrast even when nothing marks it:

I respect him very much.  I disagree with him this time.

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