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A public policy blog from AEI
What must they be thinking in Pyongyang right now?
First, President Trump strikes the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons, raining Tomahawk missiles down on the base from which the chemical attack was launched.
Now, a week later, he has dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States military arsenal on a network of ISIS caves in Afghanistan – a bomb that had never before been used in combat.
The weapon in question is the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, a 22,000-pound GPS-guided bomb that contains 11 tons of explosives and carries a mile-wide blast radius. Unofficially named the “Mother of All Bombs” (after Saddam Hussein’s infamous threat to launch the “mother of all battles” in the 1991 Persian Gulf War), the MOAB was tested by the Bush administration in March 2003 over the Florida everglades, just before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Iran is watching. Russia is watching. Al-Qaeda is watching. Hamas is watching. Hezbollah is watching.
The objective of the test was to send a message to Saddam to step down and avoid war. “The goal is to not have a war,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said at the time. “The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates. Short of that … the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition and there’s an enormous incentive for Saddam Hussein to leave and spare the world a conflict.”
Saddam did not leave, and the MOAB was never used … until President Trump finally deployed it this week.
Once again, the goal appears to be – at least in part – to signal other would-be aggressors that America is no longer playing by the restrained rules that guided previous administrations. With his Syria strike, his MOAB launch in Afghanistan, and his deployment of a US carrier battle group to the Yellow Sea, President Trump is sending a message to Pyongyang and Beijing alike that when he says, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will”, he means it.
That message is reverberating elsewhere, I’m sure. Iran is watching. Russia is watching. Al-Qaeda is watching. Hamas is watching. Hezbollah is watching.
Over the past eight years America projected weakness in the world – and we saw that weakness is provocative.
Over the past eight years America projected weakness in the world – and we saw that weakness is provocative. Weakness entices potential adversaries to do things that they otherwise would not do. The corollary is true is well: Strength deters those who might challenge America. They now have to adjust their calculations about what they can get away with and about America’s willingness to act – unilaterally if necessary. When potential adversaries see that America’s leaders are not afraid to use our military’s unmatched power to defend our interests, they may choose not to do things they otherwise might have done.
Because, in the end, no one wants a MOAB coming down on them.
Here is a video of a MOAB test in action:
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