Blue Tango. Inspired by the (Cairo Opera Orchestra) Leroy Anderson classic. 48X36″, oil on canvas.
If we’re being watched by hyper dimensional beings, please put your hands or tentacles together for us. We made it!
Blue Tango. Inspired by the (Cairo Opera Orchestra) Leroy Anderson classic. 48X36″, oil on canvas.
If we’re being watched by hyper dimensional beings, please put your hands or tentacles together for us. We made it!
This might eventually be followed by, “How the Giant Got His Foot Caught in the Door.” (CNN)US strikes 5 facilities in Iraq and Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia and (CNN) Iran warns of ‘consequences’ after US strikes in Iraq and Syria.
Missile attacks were anticipated in Iran warns U.S., Israel of revenge after parade attack; Missile Attack on U.S. Forces? Attacks did not immediately result, though supply of missiles to militia occurred around that time. (Reuters) Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies.
The far west locations of the bases provide some insulation against sectarian strife. But how Iraq will fall apart is as hard as predicting how a goblet will shatter when dropped.
This is the evolving threat. In anticipation, Plan to Defeat ISIS Part 3; 1000 Troops to Kuwait; New Doctrine proposes the Doctrine of Ephemeral Deployment. A legitimate objection is increased cost, for less force projection, than fixed support and fire bases.
But these issues are tactical to the Game of Nations, which involves every aspect of diplomacy, threat and use of force, with overt and covert strategies.
Our play of the game of nations has been a complicated mish-mash of strategies and tactics. With the notable exception of the Marshall Plan, U.S. foreign policy was neither driven nor fettered by moral considerations, which were drowned out by “Communism versus the Free World” . This began to change with the (full text pdf) Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, (Wikipedia summary) Foreign Assistance Act.
This legislation was motivated by a Cold War foreign policy in the 1950’s with highly immoral or amoral notes, which continued with only mild abatement until the Iran-Contra affair. A separate law, (CRS, pdf) “section 2008”, further restricts aid to governments that assume power by coup.
The curtain on how things worked was lifted by CIA plank owner Miles Copeland Jr., in his book The Game of Nations. It’s expensive now, but a hint of its value is given by the question surrounding publication: Why did the CIA allow it?
Some express nostalgia for those days, while others note that the major “successes” that shared Copeland’s amoral mindset boomeranged badly:
The Vietnam war is not listed here because, although an enormous waste of blood and treasure, it left a remarkably slight trace in the current world. The same goes for other misadventures, such as the Bay of Pigs. Neither does this list include numerous clandestine programs, which include small successes and small failures.
Even the short list is an important reminder. Headline news is a problematic informer. Without context, the headlines offer little more than a punch in the gut, eliciting instinctive reaction, which variously draws from politics and morality. The media characterize our opponents as rivals. This is wrong. Rivals vie for the same cup, usually called “influence.” This, too, is a worthless term. Today’s world is a collision of interests, which are different for each power.
In what follows, I do not advocate an amoral or immoral foreign policy. But it is a game. This has been understood since the year 1513, when Niccolò Machiavelli published The Prince. PDF here. Your opponents play according to his rules, not yours. You have three choices:
In (Nov. 2016) Is Iraq Headed for Another Civil War? I wrote,
The Shiite Iraq that follows the passing of Sistani will not be a permissive setting for American operations. Other parts of it, such as the Kurdish area, might be. But the kinds of cultural shift and political combinations that would make a viable rump state are prohibited by the strange-to-us cultural animosities. Iran, a unified and disciplined state, would steamroller it.
I didn’t write this stuff to be oracular. Maybe we can beat the odds, maybe not. What does it take?
To be continued shortly.
From Part 3, we have a hint at an activity that might utilize Godsend’s skills. To explore further, we need to understand more than the famous milestones highlighted by histories. That focus will never get us the place of a figure as minor as Godsend. We have to look at the mistakes, dead ends, and activities that, while useful and supportive, did not leave much of a mark in time.
The number of dead ends explored by Manhattan was huge, a much larger story than the choices that worked. The entire uranium bomb effort, was, in retrospect, a wasteful duplication — if the far more complex plutonium “Fat Man” bomb could have been assumed to work. But it could not. Hence, 100% duplication, in the form of “Little Boy”, an inferior weapon of great expense.
Heavy water, which contains heavy hydrogen, a.k.a. deuterium, has been romanticized in movies and by historians. Lacking crucial purpose to the Manhattan project, it was almost a dead end. It was recognized early to be useful for the production of plutonium, but was never used by the U.S. for that purpose. (Neither is it of use to the Iranians for a uranium based program, one root of my suspicion that they have a second, completely hidden plutonium program, or an interest in the H-Bomb.)
Although it became crucial to the H-bomb that came later, it never served a crucial role in the Manhattan project. Yet it kept Los Alamos busy between 1942-1944.
For the A-Bomb, heavy water is intriguing but unnecessary shortcut to obscure goals. It takes roughly a pound of natural uranium enriched with U-235, dissolved in heavy water, to make a nuclear reactor. In 1944, at Enrico Fermi’s instigation, a sphere of this liquid, which was named the “water boiler”, gave Los Alamos an experimental atom-splitting reactor to study. With enrichment with about 58 grams (about 2 ounces) of U-235, it went critical, meaning that the chain reaction could grow without bound. This was much less U-235 than required by solid-metal experiments. Unlike the massive reactors at Hanford used to make plutonium, the homely water boiler could be easily reconfigured by changing the uranium-water solution.
(A joke of record: the “water boiler” did not boil water, and it is unrelated to boiling water reactors.)
The concentration, determined by experiment, is analogous to the critical mass of a bomb. The solution could be drained, dried, and analyzed for fission products. The result is an average of all the ways the cookie crumbles, the Fission Product Yield.
The water boiler reactor was tangential to the main effort. At best, it was a distant relative of the Bomb. The ease of construction may have inspired continued interest in Oppenheimer’s “hydride bomb”, which was actually tested years after the war, and fizzled twice. The chain reaction was produced by “thermal” neutrons, slowed down by the water. The Bomb, which has no moderator, uses fast neutrons.
But these were desperate times, and it gave the Los Alamos group something with which to test their pencils. What does this have to do with the fourth spy, Godsend, who ran Calutrons and mass spectrometers at Oak Ridge?
Godsend’s job at Los Alamos was similar to his job at Oak Ridge. The fission products produced by the water boiler could not be properly analyzed by wet chemistry, but would yield to the mass spectrometer, at which Godsend was expert at operation and maintenance.
At Trinity test, Robert Oppenheimer’s memorable quote, from the Bhagavad Gita, was “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” But there was also a minor act of creation, of isotopes and elements. What were they? The day after Trinity, Enrico Fermi and Julius Tabin drove to ground zero in a lead lined Sherman tank. Through a trap door in the bottom of the tank, they sampled a new radioactive material, a green glass dubbed “trinitite.”
Fresh trinitite was dangerously radioactive. But the risk, as then understood, was reduced acceptably by the minuscule quantities required by the mass spectrometer. Godsend was in business again, and busy for another half year at least, profiling the first instance of nuclear fallout.
The mass spectrometer also revealed how much of the bomb material was wasted, showing up as unreacted uranium or plutonium. This and the distribution of atomic splits facilitates calculation of total energy release.
All of this information was soon in the hands of Lavrentiy Beria, master of the security apparatus of the Soviet Union, a human monster and brilliant administrator who directly supervised both the Soviet atomic effort and all related espionage.
As before, the above is not a documented history of Godsend’s role. It is an alternative approach, complimentary to the efforts of historians, providing insight that may not be available from archives.
This is a sad note for the end 2019. It must not stand. There should be dancing in the streets! I’ll do my best.
This is a rare, semi-quiet moment. So let’s finish up the Fourth Spy.
We continue from Fourth Spy Unearthed in U.S. Atomic Bomb Project, Part 2 & Part 1. Disclaimer: this is not one of the things you need to know, or to start your day. It’s archaeology for entertainment, like digging up a shipwreck. So I thought of a way to tell the story with the bonus of understanding some things that are still relevant.
You’ve probably seen Einstein’s famous formula, , which dates to 1905. In 1938, when the nucleus of the atom was split, a question was posed:
If you weigh yourself clothed, then naked, then
Weight clothed = weight naked + weight of clothes.
Before , this would have been expected of an atom and its splits. But with the atom, some of the weight (mass) is missing. Einstein’s equation explains what happened to it: conversion into energy.
There is a big difference between what physicists call truth, and the popular meaning of the word. There is only one truth that counts: a theory with predictive power. You feed it numbers, it gives you predictions. Nothing else counts. This is in stark contrast with legal truth, religious truth, and common sense.
In the 1930’s, the atomic nucleus was modeled as a drop of some liquid. The rounded shape of drop of water is caused by surface tension. A drop of water can be split if it is hit by something that makes it spread apart too much for the surface tension to pull it back. Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch used this to explain fission.
An atomic nucleus can split in many ways. For each kind of split, the drop model accurately predicted the energy release for that split. But it could not predict how it would split. How does the cookie crumble? A physics “truth” that would predict how the atom crumbles would not come until the 1950’s. But the Manhattan Project had to know now.
The Manhattan Project was the extreme of front-loading. 95.3% of the money was spent by gigantic industrial combines producing materials for a bomb. At Los Alamos, where only 4.7% of the money was spent, they didn’t know how to make a bomb. Imagine a contract for the F-35 fighter let before the Wright Brothers first powered flight in 1903. The Manhattan project was saved from ignominy by the fact that it worked.
Initially, the combines produced mere traces, then grams, of purified uranium-235, and plutonium. The kilograms mass of plutonium metal required by the Bomb became available only a few weeks before the Trinity test, in July 1945. How can you experiment with bomb-making without explosive?
The Los Alamos teams spent their first two years, figuring out:
With which of the above activities were Godsend’s E.E. based skill set and job experience useful?
This leaves 7. In the finale, we’ll see how Godsend stole Los Alamos’s mojo.
Quoting from (CNN) These are the mistakes that cost Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg his job (red highlights mine),
…While the plane was still in the process of being certified, Boeing pilots were sending messages to each other questioning whether the safety system would work as intended. And a Boeing whistleblower recently testified to Congress that he tried to alert superiors about the problem with the production line ahead of the Lion Air crash, and then again ahead of the Ethiopian crash, only to have his concerns ignored.
[Space Shuttle Challenger]…America needed a hero to investigate the heroic. Feynman filled that role, but his account varies from the myth. According to Feynman, individuals volunteered the necessary information, organized in away to lead him to the conclusion. Feynman said he never would have found it on his own.
They knew the answer before Feynman. (Wikipedia) Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, shows that at the engineering level, there was a vibrant safety culture, cognizant of what Feynman eventually discovered, that failed to influence management.
With ever-changing names, this time, “Boeing”, it plays out like a Passion Play unchanged by centuries. In 2014, it was the GM ignition switch, responsible for 124 deaths. In 2011, it was the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. This was preceded by the Financial crisis of 2007–08.
For a future production, see (BBC) Boeing whistle blower raises doubts over 787 oxygen system.
Even without provocation from Nature, the play runs every three to four years. Only the names of the actors change: An airplane, a ten cent ignition switch part; an abstract system involving abstract money. In between productions, hucksters push bogus pay-me schemes to manage risk.
What would it take to cancel the next production of this play?
The available data is spare:
This is enough for speculation. What follows is compatible with the observations:
In the recent past, the North Korean nuclear program has exhibited jumps in capability without intermediate steps. Expertise and designs were bought. This scenario exhibits a jump, without the cost of actual development.
For propellant, North Korea uses UDMH; the oxidizer is nitrogen tetroxide. Although this propellant combination is storable in a fueled missile, transport accentuates the hazard, particularly over North Korea’s primitive road system. Dispersal of fuel supplies could be part of an operational strategy as well.
With noted small compromises, the prepositioning of fuel and limited yield, the intent is a visceral demonstration of EMP attack capability.
This is not a prediction. It is a hypothesis compatible with the lack of large scale resumption of North Korea’s nuclear program, with DoD “no comment”, and Kim’s desire for maximum shock value.
Even though enough time has elapsed for thorough forensic analysis, this assertion, which was also made in the immediate aftermath, is actually less accusatory of Iran than some statements made shortly after the attack. Two factors may be involved in the non-release of additional accusatory information:
The Iranians would add a third reason: “You don’t have any proof.” The Iranians have leveraged deniability in a powerful way. The effectiveness of deniability divides between the tactic itself, and the response of the victim, which includes how we talk about it. Two quotes from prior articles emphasize the sudden emergence. See US official: Iran has moved missiles to Persian Gulf. Quoting,
Is there something more we can tease out of open source? A template based on the recent past gives insight into Iranian tactics, which emphasize surprise, asymmetry, and deniability. Against the background of comparatively moderate posturing by the secular government, attacks against U.S. forces have occurred in a deniable manner.
In comparison to the previous attacks, this conclusion of Iranian responsibility has come quickly. The attacks show that deniable aggression has an important adjunct role in diplomacy, viewed by an adversary as promoting the favorable resolution of a conflict without the danger of full-scale war.
The way we discuss a deniable strike is what makes it deniable. Our habit is shaped by past errors. The partly falsified Gulf of Tonkin incident, a pretext for the Vietnam War, is an example of manipulations or failures that occurred multiple times in the decades that followed. (WaPo) The Iraq War and WMDs: An intelligence failure or White House spin? is one dissection of the most recent notorious manipulation-or-failure.
In reaction to the above, to prevent political manipulation of intelligence, the requirement of proof has approached legal norms. We don’t trust ourselves. Our adversaries know this, and exploit it.
The Reuters article displays photos of some of the recovered guts of the drones, including the engine, which is similar in complexity and design to a lawnmower engine . It is remarked that the parts are similar to those of the IRN-05 UAV, while stating
“At this time, the U.S. Intelligence Community has not identified any information from the recovered weapon systems used in the 14 September attacks on Saudi Arabia that definitively reveals an attack origin.”
This is much weaker in tone than it has to be, unless it has deliberately been watered down to grease the diplomatic skids. Let me explain. If you’re old enough to have spent Saturdays repairing your car with parts obtained from Pep Boys, you are familiar with a curious fact: If you bought the same part over multiple years to keep your junker on the road, the part in the box may look different each time.
This is because “engine accessories”, such as water pumps, fuel pumps, and pulleys were often made by more than one subcontractor. Each made their own tooling, the jigs, molds, and extrusions used to form the part. The only required commonalities were fit and performance. Even carburetors were copied.
Now days, cars are much more technical. You can’t do much on a driveway anymore. But the propulsion system of the single-use IRN-05 is more like an old-fashioned car, simple because the economies of scale are lacking for sophistication in a throw-away product. The recovered castings are copies of whatever they could get their hands on from various Western sources.
The Iranians source their parts from many sources. The result is not a match, on the level of machining, for anything in our limited inventory of samples. Should we be surprised? Should it cause the label of “Truth: Iran-did-this” to fall off our intelligence package? Consider the case of convicted murderer Scott Peterson. Quoting (LA Times) Lawyers in Peterson Trial Argue Over Single Strand of Dark Hair,
Detectives have testified they collected a single strand of hair from a pair of pliers found on Peterson’s boat — the vehicle prosecutors allege Peterson used to ferry his wife’s body out to San Francisco Bay.
The single hair somehow became two hairs, the sole physical evidence tying Peterson to the murder of his wife. All the other evidence was circumstantial. If Peterson is guilty, he committed the rare “perfect crime”, undone by the circumstances of his behavior before and after the death of Laci Peterson. I think he is guilty, though it’s reasonable to ask whether the death penalty should be applied in cases not supported by substantial physical evidence.
The case against Iran is supported by more physical evidence than Scott Peterson, yet we withhold the verdict of “guilty.” We do this to protect us from ourselves, from intelligence manipulated by politics. This has consequences, in Syria or Ukraine, when the Russians say, “You have no proof”, and now, Iran. Yet the definition of proof belongs to our discourse, not theirs. In the context of international relations, our adversaries use our definition against us.
This includes media use of the word “alleged” for the misdeeds of foreign adversaries. In the English system of law, “alleged” asserts the innocence of the accused unless proven guilty. How did “alleged” wander into the lawless realm of international relations? I don’t see it in Strunk’s Elements of Style.
This is like a seat belt that takes lives instead of saving them. It calls for a new vocabulary, that, while antagonistic to intelligence manipulation, doesn’t put us on back foot to deniable attacks.
The “deniable” weapons are Iranian. The word belongs to us.
NATO is not brain dead. But it is experiencing a deeply altered mental state. To be efficient, a defensive alliance needs a formidable foe. In 1981, the army of the USSR counted 55,000 main battle tanks; see (Wikipedia) Cold War tank formations. The number does not address readiness or functionality, but that much steel is impressive regardless. The rest of the Warsaw pact is not included by this number.
The Soviets had various plans to use this massive force, typified by one titled Seven Days to the River Rhine. Battlefield nuclear weapons were abundant, and their use was part of the plan.
The existence of a plan does not equate with intent. But NATO did not have offensive plans. The NATO problem was holding the Fulda Gap, an area of flat, even terrain, surrounded by what tankers call “rough terrain.”, of which many varieties are totally impassable by tanks. In the eastern U.S., the familiar Appalachians are an impenetrable barrier to armor, except in three spots, provided there is no access to man-made transportation corridors.
Around this time, Mike Pompeo was an armored commander in the Fulda Gap. He probably had three thoughts:
Fear holds alliances together. Without fear, they disintegrate. How much fear is there?
For Sergei Lavrov, this is all good news. As an alliance with the principal function of deterrence to Russia, NATO is better off dead. Since this cannot be achieved with the suddenness of Seven Days to the River Rhine, the strategy is corrosion, executed for the Kremlin by the criminal element that is an essential component of Russian governance and economy.
The most durable treaties between the U.S. and Russia date to a period when leadership in Russia was at least somewhat collective. Russia was then a bureaucratic state in the sense we understand. It had policy inertia that favored the honoring treaties because of the many bureaucrats who had signed onto ratification.
In dealing with Sergei Lavrov, which means, negotiating with the Russians in-general, there is a significant difference from the past. We are dealing with a single authority, Vladimir Putin. While his authority over all of Russia has been exaggerated, foreign policy is concentrated in his hands.
Since Vladimir Putin is a consummate tactician, we cannot assume that treaties will be honored with the same durability afforded by the combination of collective leadership and bureaucracy. A recent casualty is the Open Skies Treaty. From (FAS, pdf ) INSIGHT The Open Skies Treaty: Background and Issues,
According to the U.S. State Department, Russia has restricted access for Open Skies flights over Kaliningrad, over Moscow, and along the border of Russia with the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia has reportedly also failed to provide priority flight clearance for Open Skies flights on a few occasions. The United States has raised these issues in the Open Skies Consultative Commission, and some have been resolved. Nevertheless, the United States responded to limitations imposed by Russia by limiting the length of flights over Hawaii and removing access to two U.S. air force bases used during Russian missions over the United States.
The pattern will continue. This is not a time for formal treaties. It’s a time to take notes and give them, for informal commitments that can be tested, and modified, in time.
If collective leadership emerges in Russia, this can be revisited.