In 3 months, Trump has Charged into 4 Mideast Wars, to no Avail

Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

In his less than three months in office, Donald Trump has escalated four wars, and all of his escalations have been failures.

To be fair, Trump inherited all 4 wars from Barack Obama– Afghanistan, Iraq v. ISIL, Leftist Kurds v ISIL in Syria, and targeting support and tactical advice to Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Trump campaigned on reducing such foreign entanglements and focusing on the US and its needs. But in office he has declined to rethink any of these commitments and indeed has escalated in each theater.

Trump’s first escalation was in Yemen, in late January. He sent in a team of navy Seals to attack an alleged al-Qaeda compound. But the man he was targeting had switched sides and was supporting the Yemeni government. The raid produced no useful intelligence and the target disappeared. A navy Seal was killed along with some 30 civilians, including children. The raid did not further the Saudi war aim of defeating the Houthi militia– it was aimed at al-Qaeda in Yemen, which has taken advantage of the Saudi intervention to grab territory.

In Iraq in late March, once Trump came in, the restrictive rules of operation for the military insisted on by Obama were loosened by the US miltitary. A bombing by a US aircraft caused the collapse of a civilian apartment complex, killing at least 200 innocent civilians.

In Syria’s Northeastern Front, Trump doubled the number of US special ops troops embeded with the leftist Kurdish militia, the YPG. These forces are intended to attack ISIL in its Syrian capital, Raqqa, but despite promises by Trump, no such concerted new campaign has begun. Then when it appeared last week that the Syrian regime used poison gas in its struggle against the al-Qaeda affiliate and its allies in the Northwestern Front at Idlib, Trump dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles on a small airbase. No significant damage was done and Syria was flying missions again the next day.

On Thursday, Trump hit with an 11 ton bomb some caves in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, said to be being used by Taliban rebels who had joined ISIL. The US has lost 1/3 of Afghanistan to fundamentalist rebels, mostly Taliban, in a 16-year war that is going worse now than than at any time since spring, 2002. There is no prospect of defeating guerrillas with air power, no matter how massive. The US carpet-bombed Vietnam and still lost. The desperation of the Trump administration is demonstrated by the use of old Saddam Hussein hyperbole, calling the missile ‘The Mother of all Bombs.’ Trump is actually translating his propaganda directly from Dictator Arabic! Saddam had called the Gulf War ‘the Mother of all Battles’ (Umm al-Ma’arik), though this was a literal press translation. The phrase means the ‘essence of all battles.’ Saddam’s hyperbole did not serve him well.

What all four Trump interventions in his ongoing US wars in the Middle East have in common is that they were splashy, produced headlines for a day, and altered the course of the conflict not a jot or a tittle.

Trump is gradually inducting his Four Wars into his Reality-Show universe, where everything is done for ratings and just for show.


Related video:

CBS – “Mother of all bombs” dropped in Afghanistan, targeting ISIS-

35 Responses

  1. I read somewhere that the bomb cost fifteen million dollars. A lot of money just to kill 30 odd terrorists! It will cost the replacement terrorists about fifty dollars for shovels to dig the caves out again and continue operations with barely a hiccup.

  2. With his actions during the short time that he has been in power, President Trump has not only contradicted what he said during his campaign, criticizing U.S. wars in the Middle East at a cost of six trillion dollars, declaring NATO obsolete, and promising to concentrate on domestic issues, but he has also shown that he is a more dangerous president than many of his supporters had imagined him to be.

    Many people throughout the world had hoped that American unilateralism as demonstrated by President George W. Bush would end and we would witness a saner and more peaceful US foreign policy. Unfortunately, Trump’s decision to bomb Syria before any investigation of the use of chemical weapons was concluded (the UN has said that they are still investigating the incident), providing massive support for the Saudi killing machine in Yemen, escalating the bombings in Syria and Iraq, putting Iran on notice, sending warships to the South China Sea and threatening North Korea with a military attack, and lastly the use of this ghastly weapon in Afghanistan show that we are entering a new and more dangerous era in international politics.

    The use of the MOAB in Afghanistan clearly did not have military logic behind it, and as the Pentagon has stated its aim was to send a message to US enemies. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has strongly objected to the testing of such weapons on his country, which has been a scene of conflict for nearly 40 years. The Chinese foreign minister has warned that war could break out ‘at any moment’ over North Korea.

    These are truly ominous signs and the actions of President Trump and his military establishment have gone beyond a point of mild concern. There are two new reports today, namely, “Trump is prepared to launch preemptive strikes against North Korea should officials believe North Korea is about to test a nuclear weapon”, and “North Korea threatens to retaliate with nuclear weapons if attacked”. It should be noted that the US is acting offensively and North Korea says that she would defend herself if attacked.

    Those who wish to prevent a global war or at a minimum a slide towards more regional wars must raise their voices against growing militarism. The United States has been at war for decades and she has gained very little from those wars, apart from the enrichment of the military-industrial complex. It is time to try diplomacy for a change and concentrate on the problems at home.

  3. There’s no reason to imagine this will be the end of it. The interviewee in the video talking of underground sites describes them as like ‘where Iranians are developing nuclear weapons’ and it passes unquestioned.

  4. To be fair to Trump….. and I don’t really care to be, but it’s not like Trump is actually making any decisions. He’s deferred decision making to the military and does whatever they tell him. His leadership is illustrated in every failure so far: travel ban, healthcare, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan. He’s leading from behind at best.

  5. malPOTUS has gone from drone strikes in Yemen to Tomahawks in Syria to MOABs in Afghanistan. Guess what goes boom next?

  6. Guardian reports a 22,000 pound dropped in Afghanistan. Is that report mistaken? Thanks

  7. After Vietnam and more than a decade in the ME, one would think our leaders had enough common sense to know better, they can’t win, they should get out of the ME. They can only win scorched earth and oil and pipelines. Looks like it is all about oil and pipelines. is it worth the costs when the nation at home is crumbling and disintegrating in order to pay for the wars in the ME?

    The Russians were smarter, they left Afghanistan when they knew they could not win, and we took their place for no good reason. We were too stupid and kept digging a deeper hole in Afghanistan and some 15 years later we are still there destroying what is left of the nation.

  8. jot or tittle. I like it. Hadn’t heard this expression since my Bible lessons over 70 years ago and had to look up what a tittle is.

  9. A very expensive show. Estimates in the news were around 16 million for one MOAB as that is the cost of another massive bomb, the MOP.

    But isn’t the weight around 20,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms)–not 1100?

    At any rate, as far as military tactics go, the use of such a bomb on rag-tag militias in mountain caves is a colossal waste of money. The latest estimate from the Afghan army is that 36 militants died and 3 caves collapsed.

    So we spent about $40,000 per dead fighter…in a region where each day 3000 young boys cross the threshold of child to man, becoming old enough for the Islamic State to try to recruit, and some 300 foreigners arrive each month looking to join IS.

    One would think that a $16 million bomb would be used on something in the Middle East with a value equivalent to the Pentagon, a complex with 20,000+ employees and millions of dollars’ worth of high tech equipment.

    An MOAB dropped on the center of a major city would be a game changer as nuclear bombs were when dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But when dropped in an area where most of the force is expended on mountain shrubs, grasses, squirrels, birds, and metamorphic rock, well, what could be more stupid?

    The militants can recruit new people within a few months, move operations to another set of caves, and get more funds from wealthy Arab backers so they can purchase more guns and ammunition.

    They probably don’t need to spend more than $20,000 to replace what our 16 million+ investment (and that doesn’t include the millions more spent on planes, fuel, troops, etc.) destroyed!!!

  10. Meet malPOTUS new favorite toy, the B61-12 nuclear bomb which can be delivered onto a target by a F-16C. An inert bomb was very recently tested in Nevada to evaluate the non-nuclear components like aiming and sensors.

    link to

    This is terrible news, folks. And stupid.

  11. Sources that seem credible to me state that the MOAB weighs 23,600 lbs., 18,000 lbs. of which is explosives. It was first tested, twice, in 2003 at
    Eglin AFB. The official meaning of MOAB is “massive ordinance air blast” owing to the fact that it is detonated in the air above a target, and the air compression does the damage.

    It seems likely to me that the bomb got its nickname “Mother of All Bombs” around the time of its development and testing in 2003, long before Trump was president.

    As to your assertion that these military adventures are all for show, I concur.

    • Sorry – was traveling, wifi was knocked out by storm – & just lacked time or resources to proofread that. Thx all for helpful corrections.

  12. If he gets the kind of tabloid headlines that make his minions smirk as they stroll by the newsstands he’ll want more of same. I’m beginning to understand what the libertarians mean by “There is no such thing as foreign policy”

  13. The vital question now is, are these theatrical stunts a leadup to something bigger – whether by intent, or by this failing administration’s lack of any other lifeline to get through the next 3 1/2 years?

    It seems to narrow down to the enemies Trump can use to maintain consensus within his right-wing America: Iran and North Korea. All the others come with complicating attachments that create problems for either the imperialist capitalist faction or the White supremacist faction. War itself is not a problem at all. As I’ve been trying to warn people at this site, the neo-Confederates love war and militarized hierarchy overshadowing civilian life. The track record of White supremacists towards their non-White neighbors is hardly isolationist. This fantasy among anti-war people of turning the American clock back before that evil liberal-internationalist FDR ruined everything ignores American military actions in Latin America before, and especially offensively, the war on America’s native peoples since colonial times.

  14. The Cruise missile attack on the Syrian airbase did no harm at all and may may well have increased the irritation level of Vladimir Putin with Bashir al Assad for whom he has no admiration and no allegiance, except the necessity of the moment, and is only tolerating him for the time being.

    That the sarin gas attack induced the entrance of the US military into the Syrian civil war can hardly be applauded by Mr Putin who has been the dominating military power acting in Syria.

    In addition, the cruise missile attack sends a strong signal to Mr Assad that the US is likely to launch a similar attack should Mr Assad choose to replicate his action, which means that Assad is unlikely to do so again.

    It also encouraged the rebels and and signaled to them that they would not have to endure, alone and forgotten, a horrible gas attack on civilian in areas controlled by them

    • No message actually sent.

      It was just a very expensive fireworks display because it has been very well documented that air power is actually a very ineffective form of warfare.

      To understand this, you might want to note that Nixon literally “bombed the sh*t” out of Vietnam with dozens of B-52 bombing runs every day.

      YET . . .

      The USA LOST big time in Vietnam.

      As for Russia, then can more than hold their own against USA attacks in Syria. If the USA escalates, USA aircrews are going to start dying in large numbers. The USA is NOT the “mighty warrior” everyone things it is, especially when USA taxpayers do not want to spend any money fighting for others.

      BTW – the number of people killed by the saran gas is minuscule, meaning that who actually used the gas is impossible to determine and there is a very good chance it was NOT the Syrian military. This “gas attack” was more for TV theater” than actual combat.

  15. Being fair, if Hillary was president then the US would already be at war with Russia.

      • The fact that Moi hates the Clintons and all liberal internationalists, apparently. I hope Moi at least has the honesty to equally hate the tens of millions of Americans who sincerely supported the Clintons, especially the Black, Latino and gay ones.

  16. It’s not just Trump. He may simply represent the unvarnished reality that Man is not a peaceable species. What is conceivable, however, is a degree of fluctuating equilibrium dominated by three spheres of influence. It is the background to Orwell’s 1984 and makes sense because a situation where any two are able to combine to out face the third has inherent, though fluctuating, stability. Three can survive like that, whereas two will inevitably face off in a determination to reduce to one which could indeed be Armageddon. If such a arrangement does come about it will not be because people have sat down and decided upon it, but because evolving circumstances will lead inexorably towards it, and I suspect we may be living through precisely such circumstances; the spheres of influence are not yet fully defined but the basic tripartite structure could be forming. It’s not a question of the US, Russia, and China, they may simply be like the grain of sand round which the pearl is formed. The alluring prospect of such an evolution is that the human survival instinct could become species rather than group driven.

  17. The damage done to the Shayrat airbase by the US cruise missile attack was not insignificant.

    According to US damage assessments, of which I have no reason to doubt (they are coming from the military, not from Trump himself), 20 Syrian aircraft were destroyed, significant damage was done to fuel and munitions storage depots, and air defense radars were destroyed or damaged.

    There was little point in utilizing a $1 million cruise missile to crater the runways as runways can be repaired quickly and cheaply.

    The cruise missile attack could be the beginning of the end of Assad, since Assad’s decision to launch a chemical attack induced the American decision make its military presence felt in the Syrian conflict and thus created a liability for Putin whose tolerance for Assad is not unlimited.

    • The planes destroyed were destroyed because they had been grounded for repairs. The regime flew missions from it the next day. Not extensive damage and light years from being any sort of game changer.

  18. Those twenty ($ million jet fighters) will not be repaired now. Anyway, it makes little difference whether they could fly immediately or whether they had to wait a week for repairs. (What is your source that they were there for repair?

    It was certainly not a game changer in terms of a military victory. But that is not the point I made above.

    The chemical weapon attack as well as the entrance of US military power into the Syrian war was not at all welcomed by President Putin and Assad may well be wearing out his welcome.

    We will have to see.

    The American cruise missile attack has been the only significant change or innovation or addition to the Syrian conflict since the Russian entrance a year and a half ago.

    Putin’s interest is to maintain a Russian presence in the Middle East and to maintain Syria as a client state. Russia is not married to Assad.

    • Absolutely. At this point in our collective human evolution, when we have the (possible, if we don’t kill ourselves and our planet first) ability to identify every person on earth, and record their history, we do need to evolve towards a non-violent democratic global citizen-led government.

      I wrote about this 35 years ago and stand by it.

      Unfortunately, we have not made much progress on such a path, and now it looks like we may have to do it in the next ten years, if we are to avoid disaster to our existing food-economy survival systems from uncontrolled, Trump-Pruitt-Putin-assisted climate change.

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