The American public is bracing for war now that President Donald Trump has seemingly stumbled upon "the keys to the family gun cabinet," as one observer put it, after a week of rash and aggressive military action.
The unprecedented use of a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), known as the 'mother of all bombs,' on Thursday was just the latest in a series of attacks by the U.S. in recent days, prompting demands for a Congressional debate on the use of military force.
Dr. Gabriela Lemus, president of the Progressive Congress Action Fund political action group, issued a statement Thursday saying that the use of "the largest non-nuclear bomb in our arsenal...to target [the Islamic State or ISIS] without the advice and consent of Congress raises serious concerns about the potential for the United States' engagement in unchecked use of military force and blanket authorization for endless war."
Specifically, Lemus said there must be an "immediate and urgent review of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)" and supports legislation put forth by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that calls for repeal of the 2001 AUMF.
Lee also issued a statement Thursday condemning the strike and demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) "call Congress back into session, so we can immediately repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and put real restraints on President Trump's warmongering."
That "warmongering" has been going at full tilt, beginning with a February failed raid and escalated fight in Yemen, and continuing with a number of high-profile actions including last month's bombing of Mosul, Iraq that killed more than 200 civilians; the recent deployment of 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian government; and the detonation of the 'mother of all bombs' in Afghanistan (not to mention the overall easing of war restrictions, expansion of the War on Terror into the Horn of Africa, and increasing threats directed at North Korea).
Just Foreign Policy is also calling for lawmakers to invoke the War Powers Resolution when they return from recess on April 25, "to explicitly prohibit military escalation in Syria and Yemen."
Unsurprisingly, a Economist/YouGov poll published on Wednesday found that the number of Americans who think it is "likely that Donald Trump will get us into a war" jumped more than 10 percent over the course of a week (from 51 to 62 percent).
As the poll notes, "members of the President's own party are as likely to say they expect him to get the U.S. into a war as they are to say the opposite." Among Republicans alone there was a 15-point increase on this question, with 39 percent now saying they are preparing for a Trump war. Notably, the survey was taken before Thursday's strike in Afghanistan.
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"Having previously decried America's role as world policeman, it is as if he has discovered the keys to the family gun cabinet," the Guardian's Simon Tisdale wrote Friday. "The Afghan bombing again suggests he cannot resist the urge to throw his weight around."
"As with the Syria missile strikes," Tisdale continued, "the MOAB attack is unlikely to have any significant impact on the course of the Afghan conflict. These kinds of 'shock and awe' tactics rarely do. ISIS has been making important territorial gains. The Taliban is also resurgent. One bomb, however big, will not change that dynamic."
Though the Pentagon claimed that there were no civilian casualties in Afghanistan and that the strike killed "as many as 36 suspected ISIS militants," many have questioned the necessity of deploying such a massive and expensive weapon.
The Guardian's Peter Beaumont broke down the calculations in "cold-blooded terms":
Each MOAB, or massive ordinance air blast—nicknamed the "mother of all bombs"—costs $16m out of a total program cost of $314m which produced about 20 of the bombs. Crunched down—and in the most cold-blooded terms—that means the U.S. military has expended some 5 percent of its stockpile of MOABs to kill three dozen ISIS members at a cost of almost $450,000 per individual.
In comparison, a typical, general-purpose 450kg (1,000lb) bomb like the MK-8 used in numerous airstrikes in Syria in Iraq costs about $12,000.
Also commenting on the illogic of employing such a weapon, investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler pointed to the Pentagon's release of a video of the blast and deduced that the extreme choice was made for its "psychological effect."
So if MOAB cost $16M and we killed 36 ISIS members, that's $450K each. Not counting any new terrorists we created.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) April 14, 2017
As many people have noted, MOAB was sold for its psychological effects. https://t.co/Au71Aujqm8
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) April 14, 2017