The futile vanities of Trump’s “mother of all bombs”
President Donald Trump’s “mother or all bombs” – the world’s biggest non-nuclear weapon – dropped on remote mountains in unfortunate Afghanistan has pulverized rocks, shattered local ecology and destroyed the habitat of rare animal and other species.
It completely shattered everything in a one-mile radius and has affected life in an almost 30-mile periphery.
It may also have obliterated 36 enemy combatants, who under unilateral US rules are not soldiers and, therefore, deserve no consideration.
But far from justifying his triumphant claims of success, the lesson the monster bomb has reinforced is that American military and economic power however fearsome does not bring desired foreign policy results.
It may provoke fear but does not earn respect. Instead, it fires up more enemies without ensuring or even advancing US-friendly peace or security.
Many in Trump’s camp will see this awful destruction as a potent warning to countries like Iran and North Korea that even hardened bunkers hidden deep underground cannot resist US power.
But that is a redundant warning. The entire world knows that the US military can bomb any non-nuclear country back to the stone age if it so decides.
But even catastrophic destruction does not force nihilistic enemies to acquiesce to the peace that US power would like to impose. They fight back with primitive improvised explosive devices and stubbornly refuse to be extinguished. Afghanistan and Iraq are vivid evidence.
No US government has intervened heavily in Libya, Yemen and Syria but all are at the receiving end of some of America’s most sophisticated weaponry used by its allies and friends. Pro-US positive outcomes have not occurred anywhere.
American economic power has also failed to make foreign opponents bend in friendship or away from hostility towards Washington.
Current reports show that Russia’s economy is standing taller despite several years of severe economic sanctions after its seizure of Crimea.
Its hostile actions against Washington are becoming more brazen, including cyber hacking and firmer military and diplomatic support for Syria’s murderous Bashar al Assad.
Not an iota of moderation has entered its actions in Crimea and East Ukraine despite repeated censure by the US and its allies.
US financial sanctions are alleged to have brought Iran to the negotiating table about its nuclear weapons program.
But it is still as dangerous as ever to the interests of the US and allies because of its missiles and conventional weapons besides interference in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It animosity towards Israel is undiminished.
North Korea is more belligerent than ever despite the most draconian sanctions ever devised by Washington and Trump’s armada now aligning in its neighborhood. It has openly threatened an all-out nuclear war, starting with annihilation of the 34,000 US soldiers stationed along its borders in South Korea.
Even assured obliteration of its entire nation has not caused it to bend a knee to the apocalyptic display of the weaponry of the US and its allies. It is heedless of diplomatic pressure even from its only benefactor, China.
The “mother of all bombs” adds to these examples of the impotence of naked used of American military and economic power to significantly advance US foreign policy interests.
The massive bomb’s awful devastation has made some caves and tunnels unusable for a few Islamic State fighters but the region has many more havens. Many more militants are likely to rise in rage against Americans anywhere in the world.
The small area close to Pakistan’s border has been a haven for bandits, terrorists and revolutionaries for centuries. It was used by US-trained jihadists against the former Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan in the 1980s, then by the Afghan Taliban, al Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban and lately by IS.
As most previous occupants, those IS forces were using the area as refuge for attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In recent months, Afghan government forces and US special operatives were unable to dislodge them. Pakistan complained that the Afghan government was covertly encouraging terrorist attacks from the haven while Kabul complained that Islamabad was helping IS fighters to conduct attacks in northern Afghanistan.
The mutual bitter recriminations between Kabul and Islamabad turned into a major obstacle to cooperation between the two countries to handle their shared problem of IS terrorism on their territories.
It was also preventing a fuller focus on Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists using various havens in areas in both countries along the Pakistan border.
The impasse prompted Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to seek a freer hand in deciding tactics. He also wants a larger number of American boots on the ground to help government forces to defeat terrorists, whether from the Taliban, al Qaeda, IS or other groups.
Along came Trump with his promises to destroy IS. That provided the rationale for the tactical freedom long sought by the Pentagon.
The “mother of all bombs” was a tactical measure to prevent militants from using bunkers and tunnels to “thicken their defense,” Nicholson explained. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive.”
But former Afghan President Hamid Karzai also rightly pointed out that it was a US military experiment with a previously unused munition not far short of a weapon of mass destruction.
Despite Nicholson’s denials, this accusation will stick because it sounds credible to those at the receiving end of America’s ability to visit apocalypse upon its enemies from armchairs thousands of miles away.
The future will tell whether Trump is making the world safer for Americans. But it is hard to see how it is an optimal tactic to deform entire regions peopled for millennia by impoverished goat herds just because he can.