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The Medium is the Message
“Mother of All Bombs” Used for First Time in Afghanistan

The Trump administration made another high-profile show of force today, this time in Afghanistan, by dropping a 21,600-pound bomb on an ISIS cave-and-tunnel complex in Nangarhar province. CNN reports:

The military is currently assessing the damage. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb, according to the sources. The authority to deploy the weapon was granted to Nicholson by the commander of US Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, Stump said.

This is the first time a MOAB has been used in the battlefield, according to the US officials. This munition was developed during the Iraq War.

Most headlines about the strike jumped on what makes the Massive Ordinance Air Bomb (MOAB) unique—that it’s the “largest non-nuclear bomb” in the U.S. arsenal and this is the first time the MOAB has been used in combat. But the MOAB was also designed for “psychological operations”, and while it should scare the pants off ISIS fighters on the Af-Pak border, it also sends a signal further afield—something the Trump Administration appears to be increasingly fond of doing lately.

But was this overt signaling to the North Koreans? It’s hard to tell. From a purely tactical perspective, knocking out ISIS bunkers and caves in remote, dangerous places like Nangarhar is exactly the kind of mission this weapon was designed for. White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to clarify whether or not President Trump or other Administration officials were specifically briefed in advance or gave approval for the strike, referring questions to the Pentagon.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter, as it’s beyond doubt that the big explosion in eastern Afghanistan was heard loud and clear in Pyongyang.

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  • ——————————

    “But was this overt signaling to the North Koreans?”
    Well yeah, of course.

    I’ll bet you could really hear the calls for Allah ring out when that thing went off….

  • FriendlyGoat

    “What I do is I authorize my military,” Mr. Trump said in response to reporters’ questions about the bomb drop. We’ll know over time whether America benefits from its military ostensibly authorized to do whatever it wants—–or not. We’ll know over time whether other countries find that posture reassuring—–or not. The assessment could and should go on for several years, because that’s how chains of events work.

    • texasjimbo

      Congrats. That is, at least formally, a real attempt at an argument. Perhaps a first for you. The premise of a “military ostensibly authorized to do whatever it wants” is not in any way associated with reality. It really is pathetic for a 65 year old such as yourself to be so incapable of making a serious, factual argument but still be convinced of your own brilliance.

  • CaliforniaStark

    Trump is such a nice contrast with the weak, pacifistic president he succeeded, who was afraid to act decisively. Hopefully the message is getting through to the bizarre little runt in Pyongyang

    • f1b0nacc1

      While I endorse your assessment of the contrast, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about ‘lil Kim getting the message. From his point of view, nukes are his life assurance (not insurance) policy, and he isn’t going to give them up for anything or anybody.

  • KremlinKryptonite

    MOAB is not a fuel-air bomb, but it’s extreme power still causes some of the same effects as a thermobaric weapon. Massive blast overpressure, extreme heat, etc. The pressure is what we’re interested in. One atmosphere is about 14 pounds per square inch. This bomb can easily create 400 pounds per square inch. So, at a distance safe from the immediate heat, one could fully expect to see the same types of injuries which include broken bones, hemorrhaging, dislocated eyes, and popped lungs.

    • ——————————

      “one could fully expect to see the same types of injuries which include broken bones, hemorrhaging, dislocated eyes, and popped lungs.”

      Yeah, a concussion wave can really spoil the fun at evening tea.

      And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch….

    • Suzy Dixon

      I suppose it’s good to test it for real, and if it sends a message. But with the US spending almost $7 out of every $10 for NATO I think the next one should be on Germany.

      • ——————————

        ” I think the next one should be on Germany.”

        Well now that could be taken 2 different ways ….

        • Suzy Dixon

          Oh lord, they already have to worry about ax attacks and pickup trucks. But they ought to pay for the next MOAB

    • f1b0nacc1

      In particular, the overpressure is just what the doctor ordered for dealing with large tunnel networks. Since the target for this particular use of the MOAB was in fact such a network, the choice was a particularly good one.

      • D4x

        The target was real close to Tora Bora. In 2001, “…Bin Laden’s hideout was Tora Bora, on the same mountain ridge in the Achin district of Nangarhar…” http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/13/asia/afghanistan-moab-target-robertson/
        Better late than never. Yes, quoting Nic Robertson at CNN confirmed my map reading, even though I was trying to see if the Mehsuds of Waziristan were the target. No one has ever conquered the Mehsud Pashtuns.)

  • There are no battles to be won trying to subdue the graveyard of empires. Many great powers have tried in the past, and ultimately each one has failed.

  • Joey Junger

    Good on Trump for doing this. I’m opposed to boots on the ground, but bombing to contain a threat or just to send a message (a la Clinton’s Operation Desert Fox) is a comparatively low-cost way to let the beheading, inbred savages know that we are still the strongest horse in the stable, without getting into a quagmire. The US has been doing this for decades, and the naive part of me wants to say this is only news because a new bomb has been deployed for the first time, but I think the real reason is that the media is still generally left-of-center and committed to the idea that all republicans are bloodthirsty warmongers. You can’t give Obama a Nobel Peace Prize and then diligently report on his bombings without exposing the total sham of our media and political class. If Obama had used the MOAB, the big story that day would have read “Michelle Obama shows off dancing skills on ‘The View.'”

    Not sure if this administration takes requests, but if they do, how’s about targeting San Francisco or Portland next? The cities that the residents of Portland and San Fran have incited to riot (like Ferguson, Missouri) would only be improved by dropping bombs, but it would be funny to see death rain from the sky on their masters who’ve been provoking violence.

  • Pait

    Sends a signal to Fox news viewers, for sure. Militarily, no one can be so sure – the terrorists are spread out and numerous, the large bomb is concentrated and expensive.

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