Saturday, April 15, 2017


His Trumpness has discovered the power of the military to deflect attention away from the scandals swirling around his White House.  If the Tomahawk chop on Syria wasn't enough, we now have the Mother of All Bombs, MOAB for short, to contemplate.   Our fearless commander-in-chief has also set up a High Noon situation with North Korea, vowing retaliation if the country's "boy king" goes through with his inter-continental ballistic missile test in honor of his grandfather Saturday.  All this anxiety has certainly served the purpose of attracting media attention far and wide.  Not all good, mind you, but that doesn't matter as long as the media is talking less about the allegations of his administration's Russian connections.

The icing on the cake is how the attack on Syria has served to alienate his administration from Russia, with several top Kremlin officials voicing their outrage.  If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say this is too good to be true and that Russia is playing its part in this dangerous game by helping Trump create some distance.  After all, his administration gave the Kremlin a "courtesy call" before bombing an isolated Syrian air base, which doesn't appear to have had any connection to the purported gas attacks that so incensed Trump.

Like the Syrian air strike, the MOAB was dropped in some out of the way region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which ISIS members purportedly use as an underground staging area.  Death tolls vary as does the size of the hidden cache.  The US military is relying on Afghan sources to determine the extent of the damage.

If all this is starting to sound like a movie, you are getting closer to what the "tactical" use of these strikes were designed for.  Picking some remote place that would have little collateral damage was the work of the generals in this case, but the story is the same -- get Americans to look the other way.  The MOAB is really nothing more than a glorified "bunker buster," or a MOP as they like to call it in the Air Force. These were used extensively in the invasion of Iraq and the MOAB is simply the next generation.  Reports vary widely as to its cost.  The Air Force claims $170,000, but social media has seized on a figure of $314 million, which apparently takes in R&D and delivery to the site.  No one seems to know for sure, but it is expensive, and seemingly way out of proportion to the target.  But, dropping an experimental bomb like this in the Moab desert wouldn't have had its desired effect.

Trump has discovered a vast arsenal at his disposal.  It is convenient having Congress in recess, as he has no one to challenge him.  Nancy Pelosi called for Congress to be reconvened early, but Paul Ryan has no intention of returning to Washington anytime soon.  Congressional Republicans seem content to let Trump play his war games as long as he doesn't go too far.

This "red line" is anyone's guess.   From a military point of view, this latest move seems to be designed to put pressure on China to put pressure on North Korea, which to some extent China is doing.  However, North Korea's boy king moves to the beat of his own drum, and I don't think is going to allow himself to be stared down by Trump.  If Kim Jong Un goes through with the proposed missile test, what next?

One doesn't get the sense the Trump administration has thought this out anymore than he and his advisers thought out their Syrian strike.  These moves are designed for effect only, and as such are pretty hollow threats.  I think Russia knows this, which is why it is preferring a war of words at this point.  But, Trump has the emotional intelligence of a toddler so this is a very dangerous game being played and no one seems to be advising him accordingly.

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