CNN is reporting that the U.S. military just dropped the 21,000-pound Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB, nicknamed the “Mother Of All Bombs”) in Afghanistan. The bomb was reportedly aimed at ISIS soldiers hiding out in tunnels in the Achin district of Nangarhar province. It is thought to be the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat.
The bombing is in keeping with Trump’s campaign promise to unleash the full might of the U.S. military on ISIS, and the MOAB is designed to penetrate deep underground targets. But there is potential for overkill here, given that the weapon was being used against guerrilla fighters and could easily have resulted in civilian casualties. The American military has for decades argued that it can achieve victory through air power, but its recent experiences in Afghanistan, not to mention the more hellish example of Vietnam, suggest this is a false promise. Furthermore, it remains to be seen if this immense bombing is part of a broader strategy for the U.S. to—yet again—re-escalate in a conflict that has proved beyond the military’s ability to resolve, or if it’s a one-off with a limited goal.
What we do know is that Trump received enormous amounts of praise across the political spectrum after he ordered the bombing of a Syrian airfield last week. He has basked in the adoration, coming after months of nothing but terrible press for his numerous political failures and embarrassments. It’s not hard to imagine that Trump, who is struggling with record-low approval ratings, took one lesson from that operation: Bombing foreign countries is an easy way to boost one’s popularity.