One of the strategic failures of Vietnam — and there were many — was having bomb targets approved from the White House by President Lyndon Johnson. We here on these pages have also criticized President Obama for appearing to have a “death list” and issuing guidance for drone strikes from the same locale.
At the strategic level, it’s vital for leadership to disseminate overall strategy, and not become embroiled in the munitions and method of engagement. Those are decisions that should be left to the combat theater of operations Commander, as they have the best ground assessment. It’s what we call “effects based targeting.” Just tell the folks on the ground the desired effects, and let them decide how to engage and measure the effectiveness.
I was flying to speak at the University of California, Santa Barbara and upon landing I was informed that a MOAB “bunker buster” munition was dropped in Afghanistan.
As reported by Fox News:
The U.S. military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, a U.S. defense official confirmed to Fox News.
The GBU-43B, a 21,000-pound conventional bomb, was deployed in Nangarhar Province…The MOAB — Massive Ordnance Air Blast — is also known as the “Mother Of All bombs.” It was first tested in 2003, but hadn’t been used in combat before Thursday.
President Trump told media Thursday afternoon that “this was another successful mission” and he gave the military total authorization.
Trump was also asked whether dropping the bomb sends a warning to North Korea.
“North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of,” said Trump.
The MOAB is so massive it had to be dropped out of the back of a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane. “We kicked it out the back door,” one U.S. official told Fox News. For comparison to the 21,000-pound MOAB, each Tomahawk cruise missile launched at a Syrian military air base last week was 1,000-pounds each.
“As [ISIS’] losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against [ISIS].”
The MOAB is specifically designed for use in missions such as Thursday’s. It explodes in the air, which creates air pressure that can make tunnels and other structures collapse. It can be used at the start of an offensive to soften up the enemy, weakening both its infrastructure and morale.
I spent two-and-a-half years over in Afghanistan, and we all knew that there were still intricate cave and tunnel systems in existence along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. If the theater commander in Afghanistan, General Nicholson, had the intelligence correct, then, as he stated, this was the right munition in order to achieve the desired effects on the target.
We should never be in the business of second guessing the ground commander, and we certainly do need to eliminate Islamic jihadist sanctuaries and bases of operation, especially those underground. We know that Israel has this same issue with Hamas and the Gaza Strip.
The MOAB can be a psychological weapon, just as much as a defined kinetic weapon, delivering the message to the enemy that we will seek them out wherever they exist. Of course, we shall not know the results of this strike until we get confirmed BDA (battle damage assessment). That can be done with ground forces, or perhaps with satellite/radar imagery.
So, let’s not run around and criticize our troops who, once again, answered the call. The enemy has been effectively using underground tunnels and mountainsides since World War II. They were also used in Vietnam, and as staging bases in Laos and Cambodia…no different from what is happening in Pakistan.
What does need to happen here is for the Commander-in-Chief to stop running back and forth between the White House and Mar-a-Lago — you know there is Camp David.
President Trump must stop and deliver an address on the Trump Doctrine when it comes to national security, foreign policy, and defense. We don’t need to go down a path of a weekly “things going boom” somewhere in the world policy. Now, I am not demanding a detailed talk about troop movements or timelines, but we do need a strategic vision from President Trump. If not, he will then be defined by others, and start to resemble caricatures of Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove…next thing you know there will be cartoons of President Trump as Slim Pickens riding on a missile. I still laugh at that scene.
I know that unpredictability can be an asset, especially after Obama, who told everybody everything. However, the American people, and the world — including our enemies — need a definition of the Trump Doctrine. And it can’t just be about TLAMs and MOABs, but, rather, what’s the desired end state, measure of effectiveness, and the decisive strategic imperatives? What such an address does, is quell any ruminations over escalations, as well as put an onus on Congress to approve a new Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF). I believe the current one is outdated and overused, since it’s nearly 16 years old.
And please, don’t tell me that Jared Kushner will handle this, as well.
I sincerely hope President Trump does not fall into the habit of believing that popping off a missile or bomb will aid approval ratings. It can, but only if the task and purpose are clearly defined.
The MOAB strike will be forgotten by Saturday as we go into Resurrection Day weekend…that’s what Easter really is about, salvation and resurrection. And the only message that China and North Korea will understand has nothing to do with Syria and Afghanistan, it will have to happen there. And there are diplomatic and economic measures that can be implemented right up until the moment Kim Jong-Un decides to hit the button.
But, we’ve seen some disconcerting flip-flopping from President Trump, as he once criticized bombing. Now he embraces it, which I have no problem with, as reality has hit the candidate.
There’s still an issue with our economic growth, and tax reform is needed. Our healthcare system is failing, and insurance premiums will probably rise again. These are critical issues to resolve, and it’s hard to believe with all that’s happening, Congress needs a two week break, and President Trump is off to Mar-a-Lago for the seventh time already.
Just sayin’…I don’t play golf and don’t like swanky dinners and surroundings. My military mantra is that we get stuff done.
Oh yeah, screw those ISIS rats buried underground!