Boom! Are you impressed? The US Commander-in-Chief has just dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb ever on Afghanistan. Why? Well, to kill terrorists, natch, but also because he’s Donald J Trump, and he’ll do what he wants.
The new president was clearly heartened by the positive response he received from the usually hostile media to his Syria intervention, so presumably he felt emboldened to do something even bigger. Because in Trump world, bigger is always better.
It’s also clear that Trump has decided, since he’s struggling at home, to make a lot of loud bangs abroad. He seems now to be employing the same tactics on the world stage as he did during his campaign. It’s shock and awe, Trump-style, hog the news agenda with shocking escalation after shocking escalation, leaving everybody gasping but gripped to their screens.
Or is this the Nixonian ‘crazy man’ theory to international relations put into 21st-century practice? Is Team Trump, like a mafia don, telling enemies and rivals that the new leader of the free world is completely unpredictable, so they better do what he wants.
Perhaps. What’s increasingly certain is that Trump considers his calling to be the anti-Obama. President Obama did not enforce his red-line on chemical weapons. I will, says Trump. President Obama killed terrorists with drones and precision strikes but was reluctant to use heavy air power to get them in their tunnels. Well, I’ll drop 21-000 pound bombs to keep America safe. Obama was a coward (let’s not use the p-word) — I’m not.
If there is any broader strategic thinking behind the MOAB bombing, it is probably to do with North Korea. Trump has warned Beijing that if China doesn’t ‘solve North Korea … we will’. He’s just reminded the world America has the sort of military hardware to take on Pyongyang, and he’s not afraid to use it.
As everybody has noted in recent days, the generals – namely General Mattis, the Defense Secretary and H R McMaster, the National Security Adviser appear to have taken charge of Trump’s foreign policy. Lots of pundits have assumed that this is good news, since they thought it meant American strategy was being taken out of the hands of the disturbingly radical Steve Bannon. But the trouble with generals is that their solutions tend to be military, and military solutions tend to not be conducive to a stable, peaceful world.