BY SARAH MCCOOL ’18
On April 13, the United States of America dropped the “Mother of all Bombs” on Afghanistan, in what the Trump administration claimed to be a decisive action against the Islamic State. The bomb was originally designed as a deterrent during the Iraq War, a sort of de-escalation of Mutually Assured Destruction. It has all of the killing power of a nuclear bomb without the unsavory business of nuclear radiation. You could say that “America is back” or that America is finally acting by dropping this massive bomb on ISIS. Hawkish pundits will argue that there is no harm in dropping this bomb since the massive killing force of the U.S. military was turned against ISIS, whichthey would characterize as an evil organization of radical Islamic terrorists that threatens the national security of the United States. But their actions threaten the United States even more directly than ISIS does.
Where is the harm in dropping this bomb? I’ll answer that question, but it’s the wrong one to ask. The real question is what is the benefit in dropping this bomb? Make no mistake, this bomb was a PR move by the Trump administration to project power with minimal risk — or seemingly minimal risk.
The harm is in the reputation of the United States. Donald Trump barely has a State Department, let alone a set foreign policy, and that’s a problem. Unpredictability and instability in a president are problematic at the best of times, but they are colossally stupid when backed by the massive destructive power of the United States military. The use of the MOAB without international consensus and without any concrete strategy maykeep Trump’s campaign promise to “bomb the sh--” out of ISIS, but it also escalates destructive and vague foreign policy to a larger scale, that of violence and death.
There is no reason to believe that the MOAB will do anything to stop ISIS. Does an organization that glorifies martyrdom fear death? My guess is not as much as Donald Trump thinks they do. The so-called Islamic State is not a clear cut or defined target, and their position in civilian centers makes them very dangerous to fight without civilian casualties. Donald Trump has demonstrated through a complete lack of finesse, diplomacy or compassion that he is not as interested in avoiding those casualties, be they Afghani or American, as he is interested in his ego and public image. Uninformed intervention is what put nuclear weapons in Cuba. The United States cannot repeat this mistake.
Furthermore, military action is supposed to be strategic. It involves working toward a set goal, not exploding suddenly like a fireworks display on the Fourth of July. While the MOAB killed ISIS fighters, it illustrated that the instability of the current administration will be backed by incredible force — a terrifying thought for anyone, especially for Americans. Add to this the confusion surrounding an aircraft carrier group that was supposedly sent to North Korea— but actually was on a routine training mission in Australia — and you have a recipe for disaster.
Instability in the United States creates an unintentional power vacuum that could be filled by an unpredictable power, or by a group of powers competing to fill the
space that is usually occupied by a clear American foreign policy vision. There are now reports of a Russian “Father of All Bombs” that purports to have a significantly larger impact than the MOAB — a comforting thought in a foreign policy landscape that is rapidly turning into an outright competition between Russia and the United States.
The last time the United States dropped such a massive bomb, World War II ended. In the American mindset, the massive military firepower of the U.S. is enough to end conflicts, and therefore reason enough to drop bombs on terrorists. But no bomb is dropped in isolation, and the U.S. military should not be used ineffectively and irresponsibly overseas to increase goodwill for the president’s egotistical and irrational domestic agenda.