Ordnance Only A Mother Could Love

To follow up on DougJ’s post below (and to tread on Alan ADAM* Silverman’s turf):  American forces dropped a GBU-43/B bomb on a target identified as an underground ISIS complex.  The weapon, officially named the “Massive Ordnance Air Blast,” or MOAB, has the probably obvious nickname:  the Mother Of All Bombs.

It’s a no-doubt ginormous creation, with an effective yield of eleven tons of TNT.  It’s so large it is delivered by a variant of a cargo plane, the C130, and not the kind of aircraft more commonly used to deliver battlefield weapons.

A MOAB is not the ultimate bunker-buster, those weapons designed to penetrate well-hardened targets (silos, etc.) For our Vietnam vets, the analogous ordnance is BLU 82B “Daisy Cutter.”  In the open defense literature, the MOAB is at least in part a psychological weapon and in part a clear-the-ground device.  How useful it actually is against a cave complex is unclear, as this description suggests:

The weapon is expected to produce a tremendous explosion that would be effective against hard-target entrances, soft-to-medium surface targets, and for anti-personnel purposes. Because of the size of the explosion, it is also effective at LZ clearance and mine and beach obstacle clearance. Injury or death to persons will be primarily caused by blast or fragmentation. It is expected that the weapon will have a substantial psychological effect on those who witness its use. The massive weapon provides a capability to perform psychological operations, attack large area targets, or hold at-risk threats hidden within tunnels or caves.

There’s at least pretty good reason to believe that the use — its the first combat deployment ever  — was intended to send a message:

The strike comes just days after a Special Forces soldier was killed in Nangarhar province. Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, of 7th Special Forces Group, was killed Saturday by enemy small arms fire while his unit was conducting counter-ISIS operations, according to the Defense Department.

The fact that the U.S. dropped the MOAB in the same province where De Alencar was killed is probably not a coincidence, said Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“There might have been a degree of payback here as well,” Roggio told Military Times. “There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re killing your enemy.”

Whatever your response to that aspect of war, here’s the thing.  As Emily Tankin and Paul McLeary write in Foreign Policy, the use of the MOAB is one facet of the broader escalation of US military action across the Middle East and central Asia:
The news came the same day as a report that a coalition airstrike in Syria mistakenly killed 18 fighters backed by the United States.

The U.S. statement also said, “U.S. Forces took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike.” The U.S. military is reportedly currently assessing the damage from the bomb.

The strike in Afghanistan is part of a huge increase in the American air war in Afghanistan that started under the Obama administration, but has increased even more sharply under President Donald Trump. In the first three months of 2017, American planes have dropped over 450 bombs on targets in Afghanistan, compared to about 1,300 for all of 2016, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. The number of strikes in the first two months of the Trump administration more than doubled the number taken in the same time period under the Obama administration.

The FP journalists note that US military leaders “long bristled at the control the Obama administration exercised over small troop movements and sometimes individual targets.”  Donald Trump — and this is one promise he’s kept — seems to have unleashed  those commanders.  The result?

Well, it seems to me that the question isn’t whether der Trumpenführer will lead us into war.  It is, rather, how quickly the war that’s already bubbling will become recognized as such by the media, and the American people.

As for war aims? That’s the kicker, isn’t it.  Multi-ton bombs are headline-grabbers.  How effective they are, really, at counter-terrorism is, to my deeply un-expert mind…”unclear” is how I’ll put it.  The current spate of bombing and micro-deployments looks like a purely ad hoc approach to whatever our tactical or strategic goals might be in Syria, Iraq and, still, Afghanistan.  If there’s a logic — and I genuinely hope there is — it sure isn’t apparent to this citizen, in whose name (along w. 312 million of my closest friends) these small wars are being fought.

Over to y’all.

Image: Mary Cassatt, Maternité, 1890.

*type in haste, repent at leisure.



CSR, hostage taking and the blame game

President Trump is threatening to shoot hostages in order to start negotiations with parties that don’t have significant power:

The Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies are at dispute. They are the Sword of Damocles of administrative action to destroy the exchanges.

Carriers have to offer Silver plans to participate on Exchange. If they yank all of their Silvers, they have to yank everything on Exchange.

And carriers will flee if CSR disappears as they will not eat a 30% revenue loss for a high cost population in a market that they don’t know if it will be around long enough to actually make money on.

President Trump’s musings, I am not going to credit them with the title of thoughts, is that by threatening to shoot the hostages, he will be able to blame the Democrats for the chaos he will unleash and that will give him leverage that he does not have to shaft everyone.

There is are massive moral problems with that logic chain. But there are also pragmatic barriers. The American public firmly believes that the President controls everything, that is the hack that Sen. McConnell exploited ruthlessly in obstructing everything that President Obama tried to do. More importantly, Democrats objectively have almost no power and no responsibility to govern. Everyone knows that President Trump is a Republican and Republicans control the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court. They will also know very quickly that Republicans are responsible for collecting hostages and then pulling the trigger as there is plenty of tape in their own words saying this is what they will do.

Healthcare is currently a high salience issue. People are paying attention. Senator Manchin made a good point that not everyone knows where their health insurance comes from but they WILL know who is taking it away from them. We’ll see 27% of the population blame Democrats and everyone else blame Republicans. And given what marginal members of the Republican majority are feeling today after the new information that KS-04 provided them last night, that is the last thing they can afford to encourage.



Trump Administration Reverses Course; Supports Massive Funding Increase For Performance Art

A sidelight on yesterday’s Tomahawk raid on a Syrian airbase.

1:  Fifty-nine Tomahawks fired.

2: Targetting:  “The targets included air defenses, aircraft, hangars and fuel.”  For good reason (IMHO) the strike avoided stored chemical weapons.  Personnel at the base were warned of the impending attack and as of now, no casualties have been reported.

3: Results: some shit got blown up. All of it can be repaired or replaced with out, it seems, significant difficulty.

All of which is to say that this was what most kindly can be called a warning shot, and rather less so, performance art.

Which gets me to my point.  The price tag for fifty nine Tomahawk missiles runs a little bit shy of $90 million.

For scale: that’s roughly 60% of the $148 million the to-be defunded National Endowment of the Arts received in 2016.

I believe Donald Trump’s grant was titled, “Very Expensive Holes In Concrete.”

Image: Adrian Hill, A British Mine Exploding, sometime during World War I.



Open Thread: White Supremacist Welfare Moocher Has A Rich Fantasy Life

Big props to Jason Kander, and his uncles! Per IMBD:

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me” was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb in the style of a traditional German song, sung by the Nazi youth in the movie, to stir up patriotism for the “fatherland”. It has often been mistaken for a genuine “Nazi anthem” and has led to the songwriters being accused of anti-Semitism. This would be most surprising, as they are, in fact, Jewish (This fact has not stopped openly racist and anti-Semitic rock groups, like Skrewdriver, from recording the song and performing it at White Power rallies)…

Speaking of scrabbling around, grifting off other people because that’s his only talent…

Spencer, along with his mother and sister, are absentee landlords of 5,200 acres of cotton and corn fields in an impoverished, largely African American region of Louisiana, according to records examined by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The farms, controlled by multiple family-owned businesses, are worth millions: A 1,600-acre parcel sold for $4.3 million in 2012.

The Spencer family’s farms are also subsidized by the federal government. From 2008 through 2015, the Spencers received $2 million in US farm subsidy payments, according to federal data.

Although Spencer has attracted extensive media attention as a leader of the so-called alt-right movement—particularly after he drew Nazi salutes at an event celebrating Donald Trump’s election—he has never explained publicly how he supports himself while actively promoting his agenda via conferences and media appearances. The finances of his nonprofit think tank, the National Policy Institute, are a mystery; the organization hasn’t filed a public report since 2013. On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the IRS revoked the institute’s tax-exempt status….

My first thought upon reading this: Does he charge his followers a premium for white hoods made from his own artisanally-sourced cotton?



Early Morning Open Thread: Snippy Sean & the WH Press Corpse, A Tale for Tiny Hands Tots

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!…



Wednesday Evening Open Thread: History Starts Over Every Morning for Some People

As an acquaintance once said about his cat, “Every time she blinks, she opens her eyes to a whole new world.”

Except for the grudges! Those, they can carry around for a lifetime! THANKS, REPUBLICANS!
***********

Apart from remembering to thank whatever powers that we were not made as morans, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



If I Could Talk to the Animals

A lot of “how to convince Trump voters that Trump is bad” pieces have a real Rex-Harrison-as-Dr-Dolittle flavor to them, and make about as much sense as speaking kanga to a kangaroo.  I don’t have time to waste on reasons why people who don’t listen to reasons why will all of a sudden listen to some carefully phrased reason why.  But I will listen to this:

I really want you to understand the connection between Trump’s appearance and the trust his supporters place in him. What the Democratic opposition needs to do is undermine that trust. Part of doing that is pointing out every time Trump lies. (The Washington press corps is doing that.) But the opposition must also attack the president where it really hurts him—by appealing to logic and reason, but not only logic and reason. The opposition must wound the president by focusing on his weakness.

Fact is, the president is weak. We saw that yesterday. When confronted with the fact that he did not win a bigger electoral victory than anyone since Reagan, he immediately backed down, spluttering something about how he had been given that information so it’s not his fault. Some have implied he will never accept the truth, so don’t bother. But that’s an argument of logic and reason. What happened in that brief exchange needs to happen a million times over in order to reveal that the president is weak and that in that weakness his supporters have misplaced their trust.

So, say it with me: The president is weak.

This is via Wonkette, who have gone ad-free and need money.