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.



Monday Morning Open Thread: Happy Vernal Equinox


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Apart from #Resisting, what’s on the agenda as we start another week (and season)?
***********

A new Washington Post feature, from Media Columnist Margaret Sullivan — “Tracking the special treatment media get when they play nice with the White House“:

True, it is not the proper job of journalists to provide favorable coverage but rather to hold powerful figures accountable.

But that doesn’t get you far these days, at least in terms of access.

So we’ll be taking note of what does.

Consider Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to North Asia — his first such foray. Tillerson broke with long-standing tradition by not including State Department reporters on this foreign trip. The norm is to have a solid group of reporters who provide “pool reports” to others not on the trip, so that American citizens might have a sense of what their government is doing abroad.

Tillerson had only one press representative with him: Erin McPike of the Independent Journal Review, a conservative website founded by Alex Skatell, a former Republican operative.

McPike has little experience covering foreign affairs and has been with IJR only a few weeks, but she had written a piece about why Tillerson might be avoiding the press and how well he and the president were working together behind the scenes to get things done…

The decision was a way to give access to a “broader representation of U.S. media,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters last week, adding, “This is just an attempt to reach beyond the usual suspects, and I’m not trying to say that in a demeaning way at all.”

Tillerson’s own words showed how little respect he has for journalists’ role in keeping citizens informed. He made it all about himself, telling McPike: “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.”…

If they’re not courtiers, what good are they? And I personally don’t need courtiers, so…



Early Morning Open Thread: Is Our Press Corpse Learning?

Interesting, if true:



Friday Morning Open Thread: At Least It Is Friday…

… and hopefully most of the GOP liars will take the weekend off, even if the President-Asterisk down in his Mar-A-Largo dacha gets his tiny little hands on the Twitter-enabled phone again…

What’s on the agenda as we (try to) wrap up the week?



Open Thread: Can the Nerd Prom Be Saved?

… and if it were to disappear, who would notice?

Even if this lineup is too perfect to happen, could we at least spread the rumor that it will? Maybe “leak” this tweet to the Fox News twitter feed?…



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!…



Late Night Open Thread: You Go, Sam Bee

Calendar note, per the Washington Post:

Comedian Samantha Bee on Monday announced a splashy alternative to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the annual schmoozefest that brings together journalists and the people they cover, along with an assortment of advertisers and random Hollywood types.

Bee touted her event, which will be held at the Willard hotel on April 29 (same as the long-running black-tie dinner), as a draw for “journalists and non-irritating celebrities from around the world” and promised to donate proceeds to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization that supports press freedom around the world, according to a news release from TBS, the network that airs Bee’s newsy satire show “Full Frontal.”

The comedian elaborated on the inspiration for the “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” in an interview with the New York Times, explaining that her event wasn’t intended to “comment on or compete with” the existing press dinner, where a comedian traditionally pokes fun at the president. Instead, it will be a forum for her and other funny folk to make all the Trump jokes they want, without pulling punches, the implication being that whoever emcees the WHCA dinner might be tempted to lob softballs at Trump, or even that the event might be cancelled. “We just want to be there in case something happens — or doesn’t happen — and ensure that we get to properly roast the president,” she told the Times

She also said she didn’t intend to undermine the WHCA. After Trump was elected, she wondered if the annual dinner would happen or what form it would take, and that inspired to just throw her own. “We thought, ‘it will be cancelled or it will the most sinister, awkward thing you’ve ever seen,’” she said…

Vanity Fair says the WHDC is slated to go on, with or without an appearance from the President-Asterisk. But Deadline says they’re having a little trouble lining up a host for “the annual presidential roast/Hollywood petting zoo”, right at the moment… guess the Secret Service won’t let Jimmy Fallon pet the H(airpiece)OTUS any more…

Look for an ‘unpresidented’ run on antacids and acid-blockers as the Media Village Courtiers start to worry — show up at the WHCA, and risk being mocked? Or sneak into the popular new girl’s event, and risk the wrath of Jabba the Bannon and his froggy little online minions?