Throughout the 2016 campaign, many people opposed to Donald Trump’s candidacy were nonetheless reluctant to endorse Hillary Clinton, in part because of her relative hawkishness. Candidate Trump had a decades-long career in the public eye that demonstrated plenty of reason to worry he would be a disastrous president, but he lacked the long career in public service that fueled worries about Clinton’s approach to the use of force, and her alleged desire to expand executive war-making powers past what she inherited from her predecessor.
Six months into Trump’s presidency, we now have enough data to assess his own approach. The results are clear: Judging from Trump’s embrace of the use of air power — the signature tactic of U.S. military intervention — he is the most hawkish president in modern history. Under Trump, the United States has dropped about 20,650 bombs through July 31, or 80 percent the number dropped under Obama for the entirety of 2016. At this rate, Trump will exceed Obama’s last-year total by Labor Day.
In Iraq and Syria, data shows that the United States is dropping bombs at unprecedented levels. In July, the coalition to defeat the Islamic State (read: the United States) dropped 4,313 bombs, 77 percent more than it dropped last July. In June, the number was 4,848 — 1,600 more bombs than were dropped in any one month under President Barack Obama since the anti-ISIS campaign started three years ago.
In Afghanistan, the number of weapons released has also shot up since Trump took office. April saw more bombs dropped in the country since the height of Obama’s troop surge in 2012. That was also the month that the United States bombed Afghanistan’s Mamand Valley with the largest non-nuclear bomb ever dropped in combat.
Trump has also escalated U.S. military involvement in non-battlefield settings — namely Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. In the last 193 days of the Obama presidency, there were 21 lethal counterterrorism operations across these three countries. Trump has quintupled that number, conducting at least 92 such operations in Yemen, seven in Somalia, and four in Pakistan.
Hand in hand with Trump’s enthusiasm for air power comes a demonstrated tolerance for civilian casualties. Increased air power in Iraq and Syria has resulted in unprecedented levels of civilian deaths. Even by the military’s own count, civilian casualties have soared since Trump took office, though independent monitors tally the deaths as many…