Dropping the MOAB: A Great Decision or a Terrible Mistake?

Author: Michael Bove

On April 13th, 2017, the United States unleashed the GBU-43/B. Nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB), the MOAB exploded with a force equivalent to 11 tons of TNT. The weapon was used against a tunnel system operated by ISIS militants.

Naturally, those on the left decried this action. Their primary complaints ranged from concerns that the new bomb would inspire more people to join the terrorist organization to the idea that the bomb was way too expensive. Another far less logical complaint was that “human beings were killed” in the attack. It almost makes me wonder whose side they are on when they are concerned about the well-being of foreign terrorists who want to kill us. Despite all this criticism, let me discuss a few reasons as to why I believe this strike was an incredibly effective attack and why criticism of this strike is unsubstantiated.

The first reason that those on the left criticize the MOAB bombing is that they believe it would only encourage an increase in recruitment for ISIS. I understand that line of reasoning but, it does not apply to this strike. In previous attacks, launched by the U.S. or our allies, there has been collateral damage that has killed civilians. It is in those instances that there was a rise in anti-American sentiments and an increase in recruitment for terrorist organizations. However, it’s been six days since this bombing and there still hasn’t been a single report of any civilian being killed in the blast. What we do know for sure is how many militants were killed. According to the Daily Mail, “[the MOAB] killed as many as 94 ISIS militants in Afghanistan.” Furthermore, Afghan officials confirmed that the operation killed 4 ISIS commanders. We also know that the U.S. military closely coordinated with the Afghan government. This coordination was a good move by our generals because it lends legitimacy to the operation and lessens the notion that the U.S. is simply interfering in another country’s affairs without consulting the native people. ISIS feeds off of the narrative that the U.S. is an imperialist force, but clearly, we were able to effectively work with the Afghan government in fighting this evil force.

Another criticism is that the bomb costs too much. It seems to me that their belief that the bomb was too expensive comes from misguided information. An incorrectly cited figure, used by opponents of dropping the MOAB, states that bomb costs a whopping $314 million. According to Business Insider, that figure has never been confirmed by the U.S. military and the actual cost of one MOAB is $170,000. The $170,000 figure was confirmed by a representative from the United States Air Force. Even if there is still criticism regarding the cost being too high, I’m curious as to how critics would evaluate the effectiveness of a military operation. Let’s do a little simple math: If we divide the total cost of one MOAB bomb by the number of militants killed, we get a cost of around $1,780 to kill one ISIS fighter. However, that simple calculation would not account for eliminating 4 top commanders of ISIS or the structural damage that their tunnel network sustained. Based on those factors, I would say that dropping the MOAB was well worth the cost. Let’s also remember that those bombs were manufactured in 2003 and not during Trump’s first one hundred days in office. They were paid for over a decade ago and to not use the bombs would be a waste.

A third idea, that is very important to mention, is that a bomb doesn’t need to solely damage military installations to be effective. Since the beginning of war, human psychology has been an important aspect to consider when planning military strategy. When the U.S. was in the closing days of World War II, we dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Days later, the Japanese Empire surrendered. Even after dropping those two bombs, Japan still had a number of industrial areas that were capable of continuing the war effort. So, why did they surrender?  It turns out that physical capability, on its own, does not win a war. Japan surrendered because dropping the atomic bombs broke the will of the people and the government to continue waging the war. I am not saying that dropping one MOAB will completely destroy ISIS, but we know that ISIS fighters are absolute cowards who tend to prey on innocent individuals who cannot defend themselves. This extraordinary display of American weaponry will make some militants think twice about remaining in the terrorist organization.

As a final point, we need to understand that ignoring ISIS in the Middle East is simply not an option. I regularly hear my friends on the left (and even some Libertarians on the right) continuously state that “it’s not our problem”. That sentiment is simply not true. ISIS is a real and substantial threat. Their operatives have killed American citizens on American soil in the past (San Bernardino Shooting, Orlando nightclub shooting, etc.) and they continue to have that goal. An analogy that can be compared to this situation is something important my dad used to tell me when he was a firefighter: when a house catches on fire in a residential neighborhood, even if that house is unsalvageable, the firefighters will arrive and work to extinguish the fire. They do that because they know the heat from the fire can cause the neighboring houses to also catch on fire and burn down. We do not live in a vacuum. We no longer live in a time where oceans and mountains are effective barriers at keeping our enemies out. The technology that exists today enables people to travel across the globe in mere hours and exchange information in nanoseconds. ISIS is a severe threat in the Middle East and if we don’t work tirelessly to defeat them and contain them while they are abroad, they may end up on our shores.




MOAB Photo: U.S. Department Of Defense


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