Putin and the ABM

Psychoanalysis is a neat word, which we have been shamelessly using as psychobabble. It is actually the name of a treatment for mental disorders, the so-called “talking cure.” We will continue to shamelessly misuse it, but Putin’s concerns, and those of the Russian “Elite”, can be categorized as

  • Attitudinal
  • Factual
  • Systems of thought

The attitudinal component really does have a psychoanalytic twist. But, as Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” The Russians have real concerns, feeding on what we might consider their paranoia, but which might not be dismissed as such by a neutral observer. The ABM system is such an issue.

It is confusing to us, because the ABM system, as currently designed, claims effectiveness against only the most primitive IBM systems, as threatened by North Korea, and possibly Iran. Theodore A. Postol, an MIT professor, has been a persistent critic of missile defense systems of all sorts. His recent analysis of  the Iron Dome is discouraging, but very relevant. It will be used here as part of a plausibility argument that the ABM system, as currently constructed, is futile. It is the futility that makes the Russians see a Trojan Horse.

My own mental lethargy, and  love of gadgetry, including many of the gems of the U.S. defense industry, had me looking away for a long time. I would love nothing better than a working ABM system. And the THAAD impactor, which relies on the kinetic energy of direct impact with the incoming missile, is  environmentally clean (cue the smiling family, with babe in arms, on a sunny, immaculate suburban lawn, looking upwards into the flawless blue sky, as a THAAD impacts a North Korean 20 kiloton warhead some 80 miles up.)

There was also the possibility, based on confidence in the brains of DoD, that, somehow, the THAAD team had managed an end-run around Postol’s logic, but after watching the Zumwalt destroyer fiasco, and a few similar things, I concluded that, as intelligent as the individual stars of DoD may be, the organization shrouds their insights with group-think. So Professor Postol must be taken seriously. Since I have worked in this technology area, I  understand Postol’s logic,  with an extreme regret that I cannot refute.

The argument against the ABM is based on energy. You might want to revisit Catastrophe Theory for Dummies Part 2, which examines the problem of balancing a broomstick. It is a very simple example of a problem which cannot be solved — unless you have an infinite amount of energy to spend.

The argument can be dumbed down by presenting pieces of the problem  separately. The reader should intuit that the difficulty of the problem is the product of these considerations:

Because the THAAD has to impact the warhead, it has a hard problem, while the warhead has an easy problem. The THAAD has to be where the warhead is. That is a very specific place. The warhead simply has to be where the THAAD is not. To the nonspecialist, this might seem easy. Simply compute the trajectory of the warhead, which in the vacuum of space can be perfectly known, and make the THAAD very precise. In other words, design the system to hit a bulls-eye, and success is assured.

In physics, one typically choses to consider the problem within a particular volume. Let’s make this one kilometer on a side. Let’s assume that it’s a “done deal” that the interceptor can get within this cube.  Let’s also assume that the warhead and interceptor are each   half meter  volume. Less than one in a billion configurations represent an impact.

The warhead has two times a billion choices of places-to-be. It’s like managing to avoid, in  a big city, someone who is looking for you with uncertain information. A radar “return echo” is a fuzzy cloud. By looking at multiple echoes, employing a multiplicity of tricks, we can winnow down the cloud, but we can’t make it a clear image, any more than than your seeker can see clearly in a crowded avenue. Until you’re on top of your quarry, when it might be too late. Although the THAAD has its own “seeker” imagers, the closer it is, the more energy is required to account for what it now knows.

Perhaps, aiming a gun, you’ve felt it shake in your hand. A shake is also present in missile systems, where it is called “noise.” Noise in the sensors, ring-gyros, thrusters, actuators, sloshing of fuel, buffeting of wind, airframe vibrations, flexing of the structure, etc. Even if the position of the target can be perfectly known, the designers of the interceptor struggle. For a Qassam rocket, the only struggle is to pull the string that lets fly the  spring that ignites the cartridge . It has no guidance at all. Yet, if Postol is to be believed, it gave Iron Dome a lot of trouble.

The THAAD impact interceptor is the most sophisticated ever designed, with a maximum intercept altitude of 90 miles. It has a huge number of thrusters, apparently in effort to reduce impulse noise. As far as I know, it has been tested only against the proposed North Korean threat, which is modeled as a compact object on a ballistic trajectory. But what if the warhead is not ballistic? The Kármán line, at 100km, is approximately the edge of space. But the way it is defined does not mean that aerodynamics is absent above that altitude. It means only that there is not enough lift to fly an airplane.

North Korean rockets are presently garage-shop jobs. But what if they get a little more advanced? To defeat the ballistic model, all they have to do is add some drag, trailing some  junk out the back held by a cord. Or they could head over to Dick’s Sporting goods, and buy one of these.  Pitching balls out the front or back, utilizing conservation of momentum, they only have to buy a few feet per second of delta-V. By example, in the Gulf War, the Patriot missile was defeated by SCUD missiles so badly constructed, they broke apart in flight, defeating the ballistic hypothesis.

The THAAD is far more sophisticated than the Patriot. It’s so good, I don’t know what they could do to make it better, though the thrusters are so numerous it is reputed to be a maintenance nightmare. It may be out of tricks for the future. Except for one. And the Russians know this.

On July 19, 1957, five Air Force officers and one photographer stood directly beneath a 2 kiloton weapon detonated 18,500 feet above their heads (Amazing video. Watch them break out the cigars.) From the point of view at the time, and still a plausible trade-off today, they suffered no ill effects. The purpose was to prove the safety of the Bomarc interceptor missile, and the Genie air-to-air missile against Soviet bomber formations. If the THAAD kinetic impactor design were to be replaced by a nuclear design, the basis could be a modification of the W-54 warhead, either for greater yield, or with a shaped charge.

With a nuclear punch, the THAAD no longer has to be in the same place at the same time as the incoming missile. The goal becomes some practical, achievable fraction of a cubic kilometer. With a nuke, it can also handle a few decoys.

The Russians know all this.  To them, the current ABM system is a Trojan horse for one which which actually works.  This is why they proposed that the ABM radar now located in Poland be located in Russia. This proposal is reauthored by the Arms Control Organization.

So why didn’t we take them up on this? Is it because their dissident journalists meet unfortunate ends? Or that they still dispatch Mercader-ish assassins to the West for “wet work?” Or the scale of symbiosis between government and organized crime? Is it just historical “bad luck?”

Or is there a fundamental size limit to human empathy, which implies an upper limit to cooperative politics?

 

Saudi Oil Conspiracy, analysis notes

In the post The Saudi Oil Conspiracy Theory, several historical citations are used to validate the assertion that, despite denials and confusion, Saudi oil is currently a weapon against Russia, Syria, and Iran.

But I left out a “trick of the trade”, and in doing so, did not serve the other purpose of this blog. Hopefully, some readers are curious,  besides the predictions, about the methodology, how we get there. So, we’re not going to have any of that wizard-behind-the-curtain stuff, even if it robs some dignity.

In this case, the problem was attacked via “fuzzy logic“, the invention of Lotfi A. Zadeh, formerly head of th EE/CS department at UC/Berkeley.  Fuzzy logic is a form of probabilistic logic that is mathematically incorrect, in that it does not satisfy Bayes Theorem, yet, paradoxically, is widely and practically used today. From washing machines to cell phones, it is omnipresent.

To enter a problem into the framework of traditional probability theory is an arduous process, which involves defining an event space and probability distributions. Fuzzy logic is the “silly putty” of the math world. Kneading it in my hands, this is what I did:

The options of Saudi Arabia foreign policy are infinite. So imagine them to exist as vectors in a Hilbert Space. Every vector represents something they could do, if only they had the drive to do it.  Encapsulate this in a function, F(x), where x is the thing to do, and F is the relative attractiveness of the action.

This is multiplied by a scalar factor, “D”, representing the drive to actually do something. In your world of dreams, D is practically zero, because of all the things you dream, you actualize little or nothing. Example  “D” values:

  • Bush administrations, high to very high.
  • Iran/Khomeini, very high.
  • Iraq/Saddam Hussein,extremely high.
  • Obama Administration, low to moderate in foreign policy, high in domestic.
  • Clinton Administration, moderate.
  • Saudi Arabia, traditionally low, with occasional excursions of passive aggression.

It is  reported that King Abdullah personally mediated the end to the Gulf rift with Qatar, with the same initiative of reconciliation now pushed at Egypt. That’s quite an effort for a 90 year old monarch. At that age, he wouldn’t do it without support in depth within the Saudi government.

Of note,

  • Saudi foreign policy is growing. Out of sheer necessity, Saudi Arabia is becoming a regional power.
  • The factor “D” indicates an increase of tendency to actualize.
  • Gulf state support of terrorism, with the possible leaky exception of Qatar, is a thing of the past.

The fuzzy logic composition function, D*F(x), now supports the use of oil as a weapon. To the reader with a taxonomic mind and a penchant for precision, this may seem like a fake. Perhaps it is. But pseudo-math can be very useful. This example is not so different from the physics game called “power of ten calculation”, which asserts that practically anything can be calculated to that order precision, without resort to complicated formulas, on the back of an envelope.

 

The Saudi Oil Conspiracy Theory

Reuters: REFILE-Saudi oil policy uncertainty unleashes the conspiracy theorists. Quoting, “‘Even those who have known Naimi for decades are puzzled. ‘For the first time, I really do not know what is likely to happen at the meeting. It is not clear’, said a long-serving senior OPEC delegate.

If this is a conspiracy, it is of the most transparent variety.  On October 19, 1973, during the Arab-Israeli war, OPEC proclaimed an oil embargo against various countries perceived to be allied with Israel. In December 1980, during the Iran-Iraq war, Saudi Arabia forced the price of oil down.

Following Sun Tzu’s dictum, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”,  on Nov. 12 Saudi Oil Minister Ali al Naimi said “Saudi oil policy… have been subject a great deal of wild and inaccurate conjecture in recent weeks. We do not seek to politicise oil … For us it’s a question of supply and demand, it’s purely business.”

Russian support for the Assad regime has created a desire, totally internal to the Sunni Middle East, to wreck Russia. It also reduces the saleability of Iranian sales leaking through the sanctions, so one silver bullet takes on both Russia and Iran’s “caliphate” dreams.

 

Psychoanalyzing Putin, Part 2

CNN: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the West wants Putin out. Quoting, “As for the concept behind the use of coercive measures, the West is making it clear it does not want to try to change the policy of the Russian Federation … they want to change the regime — practically no one denies this,” Lavrov said at a meeting of a foreign and domestic policy council in Moscow.”  Putin also reiterated his fear of “color revolution”, as used to denote revolts in several former Soviet states that resulted in regime change.

With social stress impending from financial collapse that is not far off, this fear of Putin and Lavrov may be genuine. But it’s not real. Without Putin at the helm, Russia would deteriorate into a gigantic criminal enterprise, feeding vast amounts of cash into both the underworld and terror, with the additional horrible possibility of smuggled nuclear weapons. Mr. Putin, we actually need you. We just want you to be good.

World leaders would like Putin to forget his unfriendly notions of Western intentions, and return to the apparent amicability prior to…when? Angus Roxborough, in his book The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia, offers the experience of  P.R. firm Ketchum, who  in 2006 contracted with the Russian government for press representation in the West.  Subsequent to the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya  in Moscow on October 7, 2006, Roxborough observes that Putin’s inner circle stopped engaging the press. After that [citation missing], they just didn’t seem to care.

It’s hard to like someone who is responsible for the deaths of 4300+ people. But this should not deter us from an unbiased look at the large part the West has played  in the creation of the current Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, like the other components, was a tabula rasa, an almost unique ideological vacuum. It had neither communism, democracy,  Platonism, Confucianism, or the divine right of kings. Democracy comes in various grades, but Russia didn’t even have “vote banks” representing popular constituencies. Instead, everything was for sale. There is even the story that, in those lawless days, one Russian, owed a debt, was paid off with a hydrogen bomb, which he kept in his garage.

In a letter dated January 1, 1989,  Ayatollah Khomeini offered Gorbachev a cure for the vacuum. Quoting, “In conclusion, I declare outright that the Islamic Republic of Iran as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world can easily fill the vacuum of religious faith in your society.”   With what we can assume was a polite decline, Russia turned toward the West. This seems too obvious an outcome, but in reviving a state religion, with the aim of conservative cultural values, Putin may have given Khomeini’s letter some consideration.

So the West ended up in “loco parentis“, attempting to rear a modern democracy from nothing. It has been done, but rarely. While George Marshall saved Europe, and Douglas MacArthur authored democracy in Japan, there was lacking, for Russia, a supreme authority of unimpeachable intent. In particular, the economic consultants assumed too much sophistication on the part of the general public, with privatization resulting in the creation of an oligarchy that frustrated the growth of civil government. Simultaneously, the Western trade zones declined to include Russia, with Europe fearful that the large, low cost labor force would swamp their economies in a way that China is doing now. China got in the door, while Russia was excluded, because, at the time, the Russian and Ukrainian industrial bases were much closer to technological parity with the West than China’s. Today the situation is reversed.

These are the errors and considerations that came of the moment. But there were also historical attitudes, still vital and poisonous. Consider this quote:

“The Government of…Russia, arrogating to itself the supreme power to torment and slaughter the bodies of its subjects like a God-sent scourge, has been most cruel to those whom it allowed to live under the shadow of its dispensation. The worst crime against humanity of that system we behold now crouching at bay behind vast heaps of mangled corpses is the destruction of innumerable minds. The greatest horror of the world–madness–walked faithfully in its train. Some of the best intellects of Russia, after struggling in vain against the spell, ended by throwing themselves at the feet of that hopeless despotism as a giddy man leaps into an abyss. An attentive survey of Russia’s literature…of her administration and the cross-currents of her thought, must end in the verdict that the Russia of today has not the right to give…voice on the single question touching the future of humanity, because from the very inception of her being the brutal destruction of dignity, of truth, of rectitude, of all that is faithful to human nature has been made the imperative condition of her existence.”

Relative to the above indictment, Vladimir Putin reasonably considers himself enlightened and benign. Does it read like a reaction to Stalin’s purges? It’s from a 1905 essay by Joseph Conrad, “Autocracy and War”,  where the elisions hide a few words that would date the piece. Fear and suspicion of Russia predate our time. In the New World, this is dim history. In the EU, it is culturally alive. The briefly “new” Russians were astonished and offended that they were not welcomed into the bosom of Western love, while simultaneously enduring a brief, misguided, and very painful parentage.

The emotional factor is significant because, unlike previous convulsions in Europe, the ideological gap yearned to be filled with love and understanding. It was a brief moment, occasionally depicted in Hollywood feel-good flicks in which a natural disaster, plague, or alien invasion breaks down the barriers to what, in the imaginative  mind of the scriptwriter, is the natural human state of goodness.

One can blame, or think of avoidable causes, but a better situation would have been an exceptional historical outcome. That the response of the West to aggression in Ukraine has eschewed violence, relying on economic pressure, is itself an innovation in conflict resolution. But in the formative days, the West could have offered a more inspiring and practical approach to democracy and economic reform. The Russians could have tried harder to transcend their heritage as described by Joseph Conrad. That neither happened is part of the tendency of humans to make bad history.

For the Russians, the picture was completed by military and geopolitical moves, which we, confident of our kind and generous nature, could not conceive as threatening. That’s next.

Battle of Ramadi, ongoing, the high water mark of ISIS

CNN reports ISIS is attempting to take the government complex in Ramadi.

ISIS will fail. This, even more than Kobani, will be known as the  “high water mark” of ISIS. Some may recall this phrase from the history of the U.S. Civil War, of Longstreet’s assault into the Union lines, at the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 3, 1863. This is of that magnitude.

The considerations that form this estimate are as follows:

  • All eyes are upon the defenders. They know they will be branded as heros or cowards. In other words, the same “search for significance” which has been discovered to motivate the influx of ISIS recruits is now within the grasp of the defenders.
  • To the Iraqis, the asset is worth bending the rules of  air support that minimize civilian casualties.
  • The close proximity of official Iraqi  forces facilitates deployment of U.S. ground personnel for precision targeting.
  • An ISIS all-out assault has been repulsed. If the LA Times paywall doesn’t stop you, it’s here. For those who rely on open source intelligence, a successful repulse illuminates a ground situation that may be murky even to the participants. ISIS didn’t get it the first time.
  • A development of the Vietnam War was a kind of  strongpoint called a “firebase”, which delivered regional artillery support on demand. During U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese did not succeed in overrunning a single firebase, although some were evacuated for tactical reasons. Although Ramadi is not a firebase, U.S. advisers have a wealth of experience defending similar strongpoints.

A rule-of-thumb for military engagement is that the attacking force must have 3 to 1 force superiority over the defender. But this assumes the forces are organized as conventional forces, with similar discipline, training, and motivation. In this case, it is a question-mark, a wild card. But one French ISIS fighter cites free hair shampoo as a motivation. Although Iraqis in general may lack better reasons,  those defending Ramadi have one: to live or to die.

 

 

 

Kennan’s Long Telegram

On February 22, 1946, George F. Kennan sent the Long Telegram to the State Department. The subsequent publication of the “X Article” in Foreign Affairs, considered by the foreign policy elders of the day, set the policy of Containment toward the Soviet Union. Quoting from the preface,

Answer to Dept’s 284, Feb. 3,13 involves questions so intricate, so delicate, so strange to our form of thought, and so important to analysis of our international environment that I cannot compress answers into single brief message without yielding to what I feel would be a dangerous degree of oversimplification. I hope, therefore, Dept will bear with me if I submit in answer to this question five parts...I apologize in advance for this burdening of telegraphic channel; but questions involved are of such urgent importance, particularly in view of recent events, that our answers to them, if they deserve attention at all, seem to me to deserve it at once

No subsequent policy, even the War on Terror, has combined the durability and success of Containment. Thirteen years since that ennunciation, there is now a need to enunciate a new policy, not replacing, but overarching the War on Terror, because the world is no longer even remotely bipolar.  A new policy must be authored,  suitable for the resumed pluralism of the world scene.  It should answer this question:

How,  in a multipolar world, with a relative decline of economic and military power, can America’s  security, as much economic as military, be best assured for the next half-century?

The purpose of the long horizon is this. It disallows incorporation into the policy issues that relate to specific, immediate, tactical needs. It forces the authors to take the long view.  It should be a relevant test of every policy with shorter horizon.

We’re a bit short of elder statesmen right now. Those remaining should be invited to add to their legacies of thought.

Psychoanalyzing Putin

According to reports, 32 tanks and assorted howitzers have been deployed by Russia to the Ukraine. An obvious target is  the Donetsk airport, recently the site of some Ukrainian success. But with Russian artillery, unless the Ukrainians have since been supplied with counter battery radar and plenty of throw-weight, it could quickly become a graveyard. Only high resolution satellite imagery can inform whether the Ukrainians have prepared for this level of challenge. In the past, they have not.

This battlefield warmup may pique reader interest  in what makes Putin tick: the psychological makeup, and perhaps, his “philosophies.” Very few world leaders are favored with as much press coverage as Putin, making him an excellent and timely subject. My interest in this actually goes back to 2012, when I published a paper, “Putin’s Character and the Intersection with Russia”, downloadable from academia.edu. With Putin as an enigma, any number of outcomes of the Ukraine crisis, and subsequent evolutions of Russia-West relations, are possible, freely chosen by the prejudice of the predictor. It’s wired into us to decide that any so-and-so is a “force for good”, or “evil incarnate.” A simplification would be to imagine that the outcome lies along a line, as a kind of function,

Outcome = Function(some personality characteristic)

What we would like to know has an analogy in radio direction-finding. Imagine you are trying to find a spy who is surreptitiously transmitting in your territory. If you have a single radio, you rotate your antenna until the signal of the spy is in the “null.” His location is determined to lie along a line, that extends both in front of and in back of you. By adding to your surveillance a second radio, you almost know where he is, unless he is located along a line that passes through your two radios. But if you add a third radio, the spy’s position is almost pinpointed, subject to some irrelevant technical caveats. This example, requiring three radios, is intended to remind the reader of the hopeless inadequacy of plotting Putin’s position along some “axis of evil.” Believe it or not, people have actually used that phrase.

Consider the compatibility, with the facts as they are known, of the simplistic assumption that Putin is benignly concerned about the fate of Russian speaking minorities in eastern Ukraine. This view could be coherently supported by the historical embrace of Fascism by the Ukrainian speaking population, and the continuing, active political presence of Fascism as a minority viewpoint. The imposition of the Ukrainian language as the only official language smacks of petty intolerance. This case also draws energy from the current political landscape of neighboring Hungary, where Fascism is more than a taint. And the breakup  of Yugoslavia suggests that the ingredients for extreme ethnic conflict exist in the current Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the above does not exclude the possibility that Putin is,  in our moral system, genuinely malevolent, challenging the West with every possible grab not repelled by forceful response. Nor does it exclude that Putin, furthering what he considers Russia’s national interest, may now be a permanently painful, annoying blister on the foot of European serenity. The Ukraine scenario admits the whole spectrum of possibilities, which the reader may be inclined to fill in with his own prejudices.  It is difficult  to like someone who is disturbing what had become a very peaceful place.  Bullets in Europe? Who would have thought! But foreign policy is too expensive to rely  on personal prejudices.

With the exception of the Balkans, the history of Europe since the founding of the EU was a refreshing break from Realpolitik, which is, at heart, an amoral (not evil, there is a difference!) system based upon Cardinal Richeliu’s principle of survival of the state, raison d’État. Have we now gone full circle to October 1938 ?

Only Putin On the Couch can tell. To be continued…

 

Advisers in Iraq: What They Do, What They Can Do

In the CNN article, “U.S. readying plan to send advisers to Iraqis fighting ISIS in Anbar“, a rather sterile description of the role of an advisor is provided by Col. Edward Thomas, spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “To be clear, this is not a change in mission nor is it a combat role, as they will be operating in the same advisory role as the other locations.” In the same article, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, expands it a little: “…train-advise-and-assist mission into the Al- Anbar Province.”

The key difference is “assist”, which does not mean opening doors, changing tires, or carrying luggage. Nor is it mission-creep, because the operational definition of “adviser” has always been usefully elastic. In his book First In, Gary C. Schroen, who lead the first C.I.A. mission to Afghanistan post 9/11, provides a personal view of the highly customized assistance to various indigenous forces in the early-phase of the U.S. intervention. Some of the forces that comprised the Northern Alliance had all the discipline and purpose we now ascribe to the Kurdish Peshmerga. Some commanders were exceptionally brave, inspiring, and professional.

But chapter 41 describes the defense of a position by a motley group of untrained or elderly Afghans, who might be a good model for the Albu Nimr tribe, advised by “Craig”, chief of the C.I.A.’s first team operating in southern Afghanistan. The  retreat of facing Taliban-allied forces had been achieved by massive application of air power from high flying B-52’s, with targeting provided by U.S. operators of which “Craig” is an example.

Separated by about 700 yards, the Taliban-allied elements, which included Chechens and Arabs, knew exactly the quality of the opposing force, so a shock assault was mounted, by three fighters. Quoting, “…and Craig could make out the figures of two, now three men…The three stood in line, arms raised above their heads, each holding an AK-47 and shouting…”

You did not misread. Three fighters went up against Craig’s 60 Mujahedin, charging across 700 yards of open ground. And the shouts? The taunts of Homer’s Iliad. Continuing, “…Sixty men, all armed, frightened by three men running towards them…” Acting as the adviser, Craig yelled, “Tell the men to shoot! Shoot!”

With the proviso that the following description of Afghan marksmanship applies only to the lowest category, the traditional firing position is to hold the weapon as high above the head as possible, and spray like a garden hose. In a slight upwards step of competency, the weapon is held lower, but emptied on full automatic, so that the burst climbs to the sky.

The account has more detail, and then, “…it was too much for the Afghans, and again, the shout of “Chechnya” rose in the air.  As if on signal, the entire group of 60 turned and began to run…”  The three were Chechens. Having crossed 700 yards of open ground, they occupied the positions formerly held by Craig’s Afghans. One grabbed his crotch, and wiggled his manhood. There are Chechens fighting in Iraq today, and they are some tough [expletive goes here.]

Craig had a problem. He and his partner could have easily shot the Chechens as they dashed through the open, but that could have resulted in fatal humiliation of his Afghan allies. So he resorted to a higher power, a B-52 loitering in the area, which dropped a GBU-31 within feet of one of the Chechens, who at the moment of detonation was offering Craig a kind of salute delivered with the middle finger of the hand.

For the Afghans, it was a morale building lesson, that the opponent was not invincible.  As much as technique, morale is a part of training.  One could argue that a B-52 strike was a gift of victory without valor, but one of the gifts of democracy is the understanding that the less valor, the better.

In the interest of precision, the term “Tactical Air Control Party” is a designation of the regular armed forces. The same function, or subset of target designation, is provided by special forces with various designations.