U.S. Cuts Staff in Cuba; Sonic Attacks; Warns Travelers

Reuters: U.S. cuts staff in Cuba over mysterious injuries, warns travelers. Quoting,

Engage Cuba, a Washington-based lobbying group, said the decision was “puzzling” given that American travelers had not been targeted. It said halting the visa process in Cuba and discouraging Americans from going there “will divide families and harm Cuba’s burgeoning private sector, civil society groups and efforts to improve human rights on the island.”

Maybe it will. But consider: The “Committees for the Defense of the Revolution”, the “eyes and ears of the Revolution”,   are the the pervasive arm of the Cuban police state, present in every block of every neighborhood of Havana. Quoting Wikipedia,

As of 2010, 8.4 million Cubans of the national population of 11.2 million were registered as CDR members….CDR officials have the duty to monitor the activities of every person on their respective blocks. There is an individual file kept on each block resident, some of which reveal the internal dynamics of each household. Even after its 54-year existence, CDR activity remains contentious.

This rivals, or perhaps exceeds the penetration of  the Stasi in East Germany. And yet, quoting AP via NY Daily News,

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cuba’s top diplomat insisted Tuesday that his government had nothing to do with unexplained health “attacks” on U.S. diplomats, telling Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Cuba still has no evidence to explain what transpired in Havana.

The gist of a typical nutball conspiracy theory is that “they know everything”, or “they control everything”, and it’s false. In Cuba, the conspiracy is more likely to be true.

The inability of this police state to come up with even a partial explanation gives the hardliners against Cuba engagement all the argument they need. This is the time for a demonstration by Cuba. Come back when you have something to give us. It doesn’t have to be everything, but it has to have the ring of truth. Somebody has to pay the ticket for this.

The Kurd Referendum; Implications for U.S. Policy

(CNN) Kurds vote overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Iraq. and (Reuters) BRIEF-Fitch says Kurdish referendum shows persistent Iraqi political risk.

The vote is the basis of a potential revolt, determined by geography associated with ethnography,  differing from a revolution, which is based on general discontent. The prediction is that this will go hot. Kurdish history of the past 100 years, and  features likely to evolve resemble the classic revolution. To make the analogy, it’s only necessary to equate or identify the national government of Iraq with a non representative tyranny.

This analogy means that the situation is served well, with some modifications,  by at least parts of the classic texts: The Natural History of Revolution by Lyford P. Edwards (1927) and The Anatomy of Revolution by Crane Brinton (1938, 1952, 1965). Since second book takes inspiration from the first, with more “structural” analysis, the 1965 Vintage paperback is the primary reference. The bullets points have correspondence with Brinton:

  • Page 86-90, Incompetent use of force. Quoting (p88)
The striking failure on the part of the rulers to use force successfully  is not, however, likely to be an isolated and chance phenomenon.  Indeed, it seems intimately bound up with that general ineptness and failure of the ruling class we have noted in the previous chapter. Long years of decline have undermined the discipline of the troops...There is no coordinating command, no confidence no desire for action. Or if there are some of these things; they exist only in isolated individuals, and are lost among the general incompetence...

In case you’re not familiar with this type of analysis, Brinton was not taking sides.  I’m not endorsing the use of force against the Kurds. But prediction isn’t about what you or I hope will happen.

Despite the taking of Mosul, which relied on heavy U.S. support, this characterization of the will to use force describes Iraq very well. (Reuters) Last flight departs as Iraq imposes ban for Kurdish independence vote. Iraq’s leadership lacks the will and the means to do more.  (I’m not unhappy about this.)

  • Prodromal changes. (Brinton, The First Stages, Chapter 3, Brinton Chapter 2, page 40.) This is the gradual expulsion of the recognized government, and replacement by an “illegal” government Although this has occupied all the years following World War I, the finality occurred with the toppling of Saddam Hussein, by April 2003.

Fitting the Kurds into Brinton’s framework may seem contrived. It works because Brinton’s histories are really the histories of sentiments, which carry over well even when the specific anatomy is different. Brinton considers four revolutions, the English, American, French, and Russian. Even though they are markedly different, takeover by more radical elements is a common thread. The history of Kurdistan post World War I actually includes the following stages, which are due for recapitulation. History may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes:

  • Rule of the Moderates, (Brinton, chapter 5)
  • Accession of the Extremists, (Brinton, chapter 6)

The recent period, before the referendum, is analogous to moderate rule. The 92% vote in favor of independence empowers the extremists. This is a landlocked quasi-state, surrounded by four hostile powers.  Iraq and Syria are weak; Turkey and Iran are strong. Both have their own “Kurdish problem”, in the form of bordering areas with Kurd majorities. The tenacity of the PKK in Turkey against obvious cultural repression gives an idea of the future of extremism in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The accession of the extremists, who because of the popularity of the cause, can’t really be accused of hijacking the situation, is illogical, and yet it will happen. The advantage of studies such as Edwards’ and Brinton’s is that it helps us overcome the relativism of our own experience. In the Middle East, a quiltwork of incompatible ethnicities, this is the way things go. Extremists are randomly extreme. There are almost  inevitably a few extremists who think that the assassination of Haider al-Abadi would further the cause, by causing repression that would further radicalize the Kurds.

Crazy? So was the Gavrilo Princip, assassin of Archduke Ferdinand. The randomness of this the kind of “heat engine” drives events in the Middle East.

The impact on the U.S. will occur mostly after ISIS has been mostly ground down. In Plan to Defeat ISIS Part 3; 1000 Troops to Kuwait; New Doctrine, 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.

Iraqi Kurdistan is economically viable. The surrounding states will destroy this by embargo and capture of the easy pickings of Kurdistan petroleum assets (map.) The “supergiant” field just northeast of Kirkuk would be first to go. The region is mountainous, excellent terrain for guerilla warfare. We’ve seen before starving populations, captive to wars that can be neither won nor lost.

The obvious flashpoint is Kirkuk, which was subject to “Arabization” under Saddam, and which the Kurds want reversed. This is a classic opportunity for the Iraqi government to reneg, and play, “What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is negotiable.”

In their drive for the Levant, in the absence of very strong U.S. support, Iran will steamroller the Kurdish region. As long as Iraqi Kurdistan remains a part of a federal Iraq, U.S. support serves three interests, containment of Iran, an independent Iraq, and support of an ethnicity with an arguably greater cultural affinity than any other in the Middle East.

The State Department has thrown a few words at the problem: U.S. does not recognize Kurdish independence vote in Iraq: Tillerson. It’s a good start. But we have seen that in the Middle East, words mean little unless backed by force and opposed by sheer exhaustion.

Unless Brinton’s sequence can be averted, the U.S. position will become untenable. The nature of extremists could make resolution impossible. The curtain on this conflict rises perhaps a year, or a bit more, from now.







Cuba Warns Against Hasty Decision re “Sonic Attacks”

Reuters:  Cuba warns U.S. against hasty decisions in mysterious illness in diplomats.

The first challenge of an investigation is to prove that a sonic attack is actually feasible. Evidence of this, obtained from witnesses or leakers, is lacking. But the persistence of the reports, most recently (CNN) Mysterious attacks on US diplomats in Cuba occurred as recently as last month,  and the implied confidence of the F.B.I. that the attacks were real, indicated a real need for a feasibility study.

So as a kind of proof-of-concept, the series Havana Sonic Attack Weapon , parts 1-6, attempts to reverse engineer a hypothetical gadget, deriving a design from very specific details of the attacks.

The reality of the attacks, and the plausibility of the design suggest that there really is a sonic attack weapon, and it was not invented  in Cuba. The strength in physical sciences of the Soviet Union, inherited by Russia, lays obvious suspicion. The bonds between old-line communists of the KGB and the Dirección de Inteligencia date from 1962, and linger in the elderly, higher echelons of the DI.

This exceeds the  notoriety of the riddling death of Mikhail Lesin.  One would have to go back to the assassination of (BBC) Alexander Litvinenko. The British judge in charge of the investigation, Sir Robert Owen, came to the conclusion that it was probably personally approved by Vladimir Putin. But the behavior during the preceding year of the likely assassin, Andrei Lugovoy, was so bizarre, I lean toward significant possibility in place of probability. The choice between the two is very muddy.

It’s muddy because there has been a consistent failure of the Russians to correctly calculate the risk/reward ratio of clandestine operations. The fallout from Litvinenko’s murder has been devastating. It’s an enduring PR nightmare for the Russian image in Britain. The election hacks have bought Russia nothing but pain. In Cuba, they may think they have a zero chance of getting nailed. They are probably right. But in the U.S., conviction, even of a capital crime, can be based solely on circumstantial evidence.

It is very unlikely that the Cubans will ever hand over evidence of Russian culpability. But how could a Russian operative  sit in a car all night outside a U.S. diplomatic residence with a brain-fryer humming along? It’s pretty easy to imagine.

Some old fart in the upper echelons of the DI, whose buddies in the KGB go way back, is not happy with his pension. He’s smuggling Bolivar Corona Gigantes, but it’s not enough. Since he walks with a cane,  he got together with some slightly younger guys, who smuggle smaller cigars than the Gigante, and also want a taste of the good life. Old Fart is close to Raúl, who is not going to sell him out for the sake of the Yanquis.

We’ll probably never hear the end of it, but not for any sinister reason. If someone in the Ukraine digs up an early model of the dastardly gadget and hands it over to the CIA, the source will be protected. The Cubans may offer one or more of these as a resolution:

  • Public Contrition. We found the culprit, we offer our abject apologies, and will deliver him in chains for extradition.
  • Loud denial. This worked, after a fashion, for Moscow with Litvinenko, so why shouldn’t it work for Cuba?
  • Stonewall. An investigation by Cuba that goes nowhere.
  • Private admission. We know who is responsible, and will be careful to insulate you from him.

The last may be the best we can hope for.  The communist and ex-communist states have a hard time admitting mistakes. In notable exception, after Boris Nemtsov  was assassinated in sight of the Kremlin Walls, Putin seemed to grieve. Two of the trigger-men received judicial process. A harder-to-reach individual, (Guardian) Beslan Shavanov,  by some accounts fell on a grenade during a police raid mounted with great effort inside the hostile territory of Chechnya itself.

So an unlikely fifth possibility exists. Maybe Old Fart will smuggle no more cigars.

We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, have a rum and coke on me.




North Korea; U.S. “Declares War”; Prediction Update

Reuters: North Korea says U.S. ‘declared war,’ warns it could shoot down U.S. bombers.

It may help to frame the rhetoric against the timeline of event points. The current escalation sequence began on 4/13 with NBC: U.S. May Launch Strike on North Korea Nuke Test. Put these on your x-axis, to graph against rhetoric on the “y”:

Although the rhetoric of both sides includes threats, the motivations are completely different. The U.S. motivation is to be absolutely certain that Kim cannot be dissuaded by means other than force. The statements by General Mattis are particularly notable, because he is not known for spontaneity. You can’t be spontaneous when you are leading troops in battle. Everything must be calculated:

Rex Tillerson is at the opposite pole. (CNN, 8/9):

This clues us to U.S. strategy, the institutional responsibility of the NSC. An urban police department typically has several individuals trained in hostage negotiation. if you have a hostage crisis, you first try to talk the shooter out of his hole.  The U.S. approach has been to apply pressure with rhetoric,  backing off to check for an evolving response. While U.S. rhetoric, devised by a collegial administration, has varied, the purpose has been constant.

In news, drama, and fiction, Western media provide the public with a comprehensive education about violent offenders, interaction with law enforcement, and the eventual outcomes. Anybody who watches the six o-clock news on TV, day in and day out, has a visceral awareness of of cops,  offenders, and how they relate to each other. Omnipresent media links all of us in a social feedback loop.

Kim Jong-un has not had this experience.  His response to U.S. rhetoric illuminates this.  N. Korea Missile over Japan; Kim Jong Un’s Fakeout Move considers whether Kim has a strategy. I think he does, but it is shaped by partly by his inability to understand us, and strongly by the society that he both defines and experiences.

It is always surprising that an open society could be difficult for others to understand. The classic example comes from the Soviet Union’s  central planning agency, Gosplan. Everything driven elsewhere by supply and demand was tortuously mapped out by the economists of Gosplan in five year plans. Their perpetual question to the U.S. was, who does it here? It was beyond  comprehension that it happens here by a form of distributed intelligence.

This kind of misapprehension remains common in authoritarian regimes. The U.S. appears  an undisciplined society with a loose bucket of bolts for a government. Kim’s strategy is constrained by what he  knows about us.  N. Korea Missile over Japan; Kim Jong Un’s Fakeout Move, considers how Kim Jong-un may have converted one U.S. posture to another:

  • Strike North Korea to disrupt their missile/nuke program.


  • Strike North Korea in retaliation to a hostile act.

It is a pretty sophisticated tack, though we will never know if it was intended.  It has been superseded by events. But if we allow it was intentional, does he have more tricks in his bag?

North Korea is ruled by  a hereditary potentate, an absolute monarch. The history of the West was, until Napoleon, replete with monarchs whose social understanding was limited to “I am the state.” By upbringing and role in his society, Kim Jong-un is completely different from anyone we are likely to have ever met.

Kim’s rhetoric has escalated without a break. This suggests a person to whom very few people, perhaps none who are alive, have said no to, and survived.  Appreciation of a force against which he cannot prevail may not be wired into his brain. This encourages a strategy to push the boundaries.

To evaluate the probability of a strike, Benjamin Franklin’s method was used on 4/13, with 6 points pro U.S. strike / 2 con. It was updated on 6/1:

I did not assign a probability, an “XX percent.” As a member of the Forecasting World Events team, my numbers were weighted with many others — a “transverse ensemble”, so it made sense to do so. But Franklin’s score, formerly 6 pro/ 2 con, is now 8 pro / 2 con.

Since there are no positive signs from the (Atlantic) back channel  NY meetings, the table acquires two new elements. One is based on progression of rhetoric. Draw a graph of North Korea’s rhetoric through the event points. It goes up to the right without a break.

A new point is also provided by the objective increase in danger to the U.S. So these are added to Franklin’s table:

  • Escalation of rhetoric, without a break, by Kim.
  • Objective increase in danger to the U.S., which implies that doing nothing is not an option.

For reasons given in U.S. Strike on North Korea? Prediction Update, odds are not given. In the context of an individual prediction, odds have no statistical validity.

The updated prediction score is now 10 pro strike / 2 con.













Advice for a New Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Part 2

The goal of “linkage”,  as implemented by Henry Kissinger,  was to disincentivize Soviet subversion of third world countries, by linking improvement in behavior to things the Soviets wanted in other areas. (Galegroup) Linkage is an excellent summary. Quoting a little,

Linkage was an active instrument of policy used by Nixon and Kissinger to exploit the Soviet desire for Western credits and technology in order to moderate their conduct in foreign policy and curb their military buildup. Critics of linkage argued that Nixon and Kissinger did not have the degree of control over positive inducements (such as economic aid to the Soviets) or negative sanctions (such as intervening economically or militarily in regions contested by the Soviets) to make the policy work.

The July sanctions of Russia, which (NBC) passed in Congress by a near-unanimous vote, have remarkable analogy to the 1974 Jackson Vanik Amendment and the 1975 Clark Amendment, which deprived linkage-the-tool with meaningful issues to link with.

The Russia sanctions may have been justified, but they were not adroit. Subversion in the United States by a foreign power has come alive again, with a reality not evident since the middle of the 20th century.  It is soon to be recognized as a chronic problem that, defying elimination, requires management. In Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 6, I wrote,

If an adversary concluded that frying the brains of Havana diplomats would be a profitable thing to do, we have only ourselves to blame. In what intelligent manner, devoid of emotional considerations, beneficial to us, our values, and our allies, should this influence foreign policy?

Now for a digression. It might look like I’m abandoning advice for Rex Tillerson for discussion of Russian subversion. But down the line,  one of the most  effective tools of defense, avoiding damage to our civil liberties, is  linkage, to disincentivize subversion.

During the Cold War, subversion was almost entirely confined to the intelligence agencies, penetrated by operatives known as “moles” for their burrowing character. Outside of attacks on the intelligence agencies themselves, there was very little a mole-member of the political structure of government could do to benefit the Soviet Union. The ideology barrier was too great. This is why Harry Dexter White, who shared economic data, is not recognized as a spy. If he had instead given the Soviets military secrets, there would be no doubt.

The new subversion has no ideology; it is motivated by Russia’s nationalist, geopolitical goals. The purpose is to weaken the political consensus of the adversary by clandestine purchase of influence and, if available, control. The methods include extensions of the Russian domestic business environment.

The barrier of ideologies is gone. The”good guys/bad guys” divide has faded in the public mind. Vladimir Putin is an ambiguous figure, defying the stereotypical appearance of authoritarianism for something much more subtle. He presents a genial face to Russians, and, in historical perspective, may be the best ruler Russia has ever had. He is an internationally popular figure, regarded sympathetically even by many Americans. He projects none of the qualities we associate with egocentric dictatorship. Caricatures of Putin are notably rare.

But Russian subversion as a tool of foreign policy, of which Putin is a significant author, is a malign influence to  democracies that aspire to the highest Western standard, including the U.S. Russia seeks something which would have been unimaginable in the Cold War, to actually influence U.S. policy in the many areas where the U.S. could relax what remains of containment to permit expansion of Russia’s sphere of influence into areas now occupied by young democracies. While Russian military posturing gets the attention, economic integration is more dangerous. Because Russian business practices are an active instrument of Kremlin control, economic integration with Russia threatens political freedom.

An ex Soviet KGB officer, whose name I can’t recall, has said that the priority of the secret  is obsolete. There are very few secrets of significance. What is now recognized as important, according to this veteran, is what the other side is thinking. To this, I add my own extension, which comes many years later: And if you know what they are thinking, to change it.

To change the thinking of what was formerly known as the “main enemy” would be an unimaginably powerful tool. During the Cold War, we had something analogous to the “species barrier” of infectious diseases.  Radio Moscow was a joke, except to the diehards still peddling the Daily Worker on the streets of NY. As a strategy, deception was not practical.

Deception was touted early by the Bolsheviks, but massive deception first shows up in the annals of intelligence in the imagination of defector Anatoliy Golitysn, who claimed that the KGB had launched a massive strategy of deception, to completely change the foreign appearance of the Soviet Union to  a completely benign entity. Most analysts recognized this as an idiotic flight of imagination. But although Golitsyn was on balance immensely damaging to the Western intelligence community, what he mistook as an operational strategy, massive deception, probably did exist as a think-tank exercise.

Since 2000, ex-KGB officers have been ascendant in Russian government. The old papers and exercises have doubtless been reviewed. Some, like the deception exercise-study, doubtless inspired some aspects of current Russian policy, which works  too well for the Russians to give up. It is highly corrosive, and it may have mole-like characteristics that go beyond hacking and fake news production.

The recent sanctions bill resembles going after a swarm of bugs with a claw hammer. It is a one-shot response that does not disincentivize the activity. A bug zapper, fly paper, and repellent work better. Particularly, repellent.

Homework:  Google Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature, 1977-92, by Cleveland Cram. download the pdf, and read. (I can’t provide a functional direct link.)

Next: How to apply DEET.

To be continued shortly:



Advice for a New Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Part 1

Most of the people  who Rex Tillerson is likely to hear from have tried and failed, or have not tried but have fancy credentials. If he is reading this, I offer these observations only as someone who has been observing for a long time.

Only one former secretary is  alive today whose tenure was skillful.  Secretary Tillerson should read all of Kissinger’s books, beginning with Diplomacy,  which provides the theoretical underpinnings.  The practicum consists of the three volume account of his tenure as secretary,  beginning with  White House Years.

Some secretaries may have had inherent skill, but  prevented by circumstance from blossoming. Colin Powell and John Kerry  come to mind as possibilities. Great achievement is captive to circumstance.

As a direct consequence of Dr. Kissinger’s tenure as secretary, his reputation suffered in some quarters. This is an occupational hazard that can be completely evaded by doing nothing. So that is my first piece of advice to Tillerson: Sit on your hands, and you will exit with your reputation intact. If, on the other hand, you choose involvement, the millions of people who died for one reason or another will write your epitaph.

We give generals a complete pass on this. All they have to do is follow the Laws of War, and court-martial the unseemly. If a general performs poorly, he is removed from command, but seldom is he pilloried as a person. Secretaries of State are reviled for no more than the words they speak. It is not too late! You can still resign. But I sense that you intend to stick it out. So what can I tell you?

When I was a mere grasshopper, I rode a 727 down to Florida. The next seat was occupied by a member of the U.S. whale-negotiating team, which engaged Japan on the subject of whale hunting. The muscles of her face, twisting it to give the appearance of a pickle, gave hints of her personality. She gave out a couple of paragraphs about why whales in Japan are such a complex issue. When she was done, I asked, “Isn’t really that Japan wants to eat whales, and we don’t want them to?”

She sputtered with animated irritation, like a charcoal fire stirred with with a stick, and launched into a tirade. The issue was incredibly complex, like the wisdom of the Krell, far beyond the comprehension of a mere mortal, requiring many years of study and mastery of lengthy documents of great import. it was easier to just not to talk to her. It would be interesting to check back with her and see if Japan is still eating whales.

If she is still negotiating, I would ask her what are the prospects for the next several centuries. Maybe she will say that things are looking up. But it seems to me that the number of negotiators who actually are good at negotiating is vanishingly small.

Again, Kissinger is a standout. He has the touch. Art Buchwald called him the “super negotiator.” The courts have a term for this. If someone has an acknowledged area of expertise, backed by credentials and/or practical experience, he can be qualified by the court as an expert. An expert does not have to justify his testimony entirely by facts. Once qualified as an expert, the mere fact of his assertion carries weight, which can, of course, be buttressed by corresponding examples from his experience  or public  record. The recognized “expert” came about because there are people who do something well who cannot fully explain how.

It  is likely that Dr. Kissinger cannot bottle his skill and give it to Tillerson in a way that he can apply. Sometimes a parent can pass it on; sometimes  life experience does this, but I still wonder how Kissinger picked it up? Labor negotiators, up from the rank-and-file, are naturals. They trade with management in a peculiar coin, security, pay, layoffs, working conditions which is not shared by the other side, management, who deal in dollars.

This situation, where opposing sides have different monetary conditions, is also a fact of diplomacy. When we negotiate with the Russians, we are not asking them to give up something and transfer it to us. We are losing and gaining in different coin. The huge exception is trade.

The part of Kissinger’s experience that is transferable through his books is mechanism, such as

  • Negotiation with an adversary for mutual benefit.
  • Negotiation with an untrustworthy adversary.
  • Linkage.
  • Methods by which dialog can be accomplished when personal interaction is not favorable.
  • Negotiation on behalf of third parties.
  • Prerequisites for successful negotiation.
  • Real change in the posture of an adversary versus deception. How to test.
  • Strategic priorities with limited resources.
  • Realpolitik.

The right mechanisms can serve as scaffolding for someone new to the job.

To be continued shortly.


North Korea; EMP Attack Rehearsal; Nuclear Weapons as a Political Tool

Reuters: North Korea fires missile over Japan that lands far out in the Pacific.

A Google search with “Kim threatens EMP”  retrieves many secondary news outlets, but none of the first tier. Quoting the Toronto Sun,

The North said it had tested an H-bomb that was “a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals.”

In recent threats of annihilation of the U.S. and Japan, North Korea has used extreme language. We have to look at the possibility that Kim’s logic is different from what we assume with state actors that don’t use that kind of language. With the sole exception of North Korea, the nuclear powers assume that these ideas are mutually accepted:

  • Nuclear weapons have no political purpose.
  • The consequence of use to destroy another power is self-destruction.

This is the basis of MAD, mutual assured destruction. Like  balance of power in the 19th century, MAD has been credited by many for the longest era without general war. But now a state actor has indicated by language that it does not adhere to these principles of peace. The language could be a bluff. North Korea could secretly subscribe to MAD. But there is no way to know. Let’s now consider what Kim’s alternative logic may be. Exclude unbridled madness. It’s possible, but then there’s nothing to analyze.

This alternative logic  is based on analogy with the internal loyalty ranking system, Songbun, which applies to individuals and their extended families. This system applies extreme penalties, including starvation, to the lowest ranking 30% of the population.

North Korea’s problem:

  • Diplomacy no longer offers an avenue for nuclear state acceptance.
  • The newly imposed sanctions are not tolerable in the long term.
  • North Korea must be accepted as a nuclear state. All means that do not result in destruction of the state may be considered.
  • Songbun applies extreme penalties to large segments of the population, a widespread material aggression with material substance by the state against the individual.
  • The foreign-relations analogy to Songbun material aggression is physical aggression against enemy states.
  • North Korea has accomplished many small-scale acts of aggression against South Korea, and the U.S., without retaliation.

The solution:

  • Prepare an  analog to Songbun material aggression to use against Japan and the U.S.
  • The analog must be severe, but not symmetric with the MAD scenario. It cannot have a symmetry that would cause the attacked state to invoke the MAD response.
  • The option is EMP attack. See North Korea ICBM & EMP Attack.
  • The first target of choice is Japan. This provides three layers of safety against a MAD response:  asymmetry with MAD, Japan’s lack of a nuclear deterrent, and a low angle trajectory that passes beyond Japan.
  • The attack must not, by technical error,  be symmetric with a MAD retaliation. The trajectory of the missile must guard against low or ground burst of the nuclear weapon.
  • An attack against the U.S. by a suborbital weapon has none of the three layers of safety. An orbital warhead will be used.
  • A non-attributable nuclear attack, possibly a decapitation strike via a smuggled weapon, may be acceptable.

Quoting Reuters,

North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean on Friday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, further ratcheting up tensions after Pyongyang’s recent test of its most powerful nuclear bomb.

The flight path of a ballistic missile is called the “trajectory.”  When a missile or baseball is thrown by the hand, you can pitch it high, or pitch it low. It is determined at the moment of throw, or in the first few minutes of powered flight by a missile. Thereafter, and unlike a cruise missile, a ballistic missile proceeds on a fixed course. Advanced powers can maneuver the reentry vehicle, but North Korea cannot.

By tracking the missile during the phase of flight when the rocket engine is still burning, North Korea can know with high certainty how the missile will pass over enemy territory; at what height and angle. Once it is determined that the impact point would not be in the territory of the enemy, the nuclear warhead can be detonated at any time with assurance it will be at high altitude. A low-angle trajectory, passing over Japan at high altitude,  is inherently safe against ground impact.

Without detailed knowledge of the trajectory of the recent launch these are the possibilities:

  • An intermediate range missile that passed over Japan at altitude low enough for an effective EMP detonation. With the yield of the recent weapon, the altitude is not critical.
  • If the missile passed over Japan at too high an altitude for an effective EMP attack, a continuation of the ICBM test sequence.
  • Attack of the U.S., with asymmetry avoiding a MAD response, awaits the development of an orbiting nuclear weapon. A stable near-earth orbit provides a high degree of confidence against low altitude detonation.

The takeaway: A trajectory may be observed that is compatible with an EMP attack against Japan. With the possible alternative logic explored above, it may not be a continuation of missile development. It may be an attack rehearsal.

Attack rehearsals have been carried out as drills by other nuclear powers. But never have they been accompanied by language that tempts MAD. If Kim employs an alternative logic, he may think he can get away with it.






Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear; Mattis Plan; More Aggressive U.S. Strategy

CBS(7/26) Trump hints U.S. could withdraw from Iran deal, and

Reuters(9/11 ) Exclusive: Trump to weigh more aggressive U.S. strategy on Iran – sources, said to be authored by Mattis.

Iran is the latest Middle East entity with aspirations to a caliphate stretching to the shores of the Levant. We want to prevent this. The means:

  • Economic sanctions.
  • Nuclear and missile restrictions, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
  • Re legitimization of Sunni governance, and Kurd governance, in suitably defined territories. In their resistance to encroachment by Iran, they create an insuperable barrier for Iran’s land forces.
  • Support the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in Yemen. There is a note of hope, with reported cracks (Stratfor) between Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis. It’s surprising this took so long, since Saleh was originally the Houthis’ chief persecutor.

Only the last two, part of the Mattis plan, can be effective in thwarting the Iranian caliphate. The threat of revocation of sanctions and treaties would be expected to cap Iran’s confrontational behavior. It does not appear so to us, but they can undoubtedly be worse if they want to. The mullahs miss the old revolutionary fervor, and know they can get it back if Iranians are deprived of  material connection with the West. Put concretely,

  • In the Iran-Iraq War, Iran relied heavily on martyrs.
  • The ideological theme that created the martyrs is still alive, maintained in reserve by the Revolutionary Guards.
  • As with post-9/11 terrorism, Iranian martyrs came almost exclusively from lower economic strata.
  • Impoverishing Iran increases the size of this class and so, the available pool of martyrs.
  • In the warfare of this region, the pool of martyrs is far more important than disadvantaging Iran’s technical war machine by sanctions.

A couple of reasons not to withdraw from the treaty:

  • Simultaneous withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan, and implementation of the Mattis plan, do not compliment each other. It doesn’t leave Iran with anything to lose.
  • Iran’s technical resources are much greater than North Korea’s, and we’ve seen what the Koreans can do. The political climate does not exist to isolate Iran to the degree of North Korea. A noncompliance declaration converts an unsolved problem into another unsolved problem that is probably worse.

If the Mattis plan goes well, then in several years, there may be a somewhat stable territorial division of Syria. The Sunnis of Anbar may crystallize around a stable politics. The Kurds may finally have a stake in the ground. The Houthis may be pushed back into the northwest corner of Yemen. Iran’s push may stagnate.

Then, if still feeling the urge, U.S. diplomacy can toss another coin into the Iran nuclear fountain, and hope it clogs the drain.



Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 6

Let’s look at the homework. Once every 15 cycles, all four crystals line up. Once every 375 microseconds, all the crystals are pushing.  So we could expect an audible tone at 2667 Hz. There is also a half-height reverse pulse in the middle of these, which combines to a second harmonic. In fact,  a variety of pulses  interact with the nonlinearities in the gadget itself to create all kinds of audible tones. Quoting CNN again,

Other attacks made a deafeningly loud sound similar to the buzzing created by insects or metal scraping across a floor, but the source of the sound could not be identified, the two US officials said.

This is about what these frequencies sound like. They are generated in the gadget itself, and by mixing of ultrasound inside the dwelling. Generation in the gadget is serious, because then we have a noisemaker in our hands, on the street, late at night.

We would like to get rid of the sounds in the gadget itself, but it is bound to be unstable, with constantly shifting frequencies and resonances, depending on internal tensions of the parts, ambient temperature, warming up, cooling down, and aging of the materials. We can put our brain fryer in a double or triple-wall case. But the radiator exposes the internal noise. Don’t underestimate Russian ingenuity. But an efficient acoustic mechanical high-pass filter may be impossible. A car muffler is a much easier low-pass filter.

Noise can be masked by spreading the spectrum. Some computer motherboards have an option to spread the clock frequency, to avoid interference with nearby devices. But since the power efficiency of this gadget derives from resonant principles, it would be complicated. If the amplifiers driving the crystals can recover reactive power, it might be possible to keep most of the power in the ultrasonic range, while spreading the audible sounds into Gaussian noise. With an operator switch to turn spread spectrum on and off, it would explain why some of the attack victims heard nothing at all.

That’s a tall order, so let’s consider if we could null out the unwanted sounds instead.  How can we do this with a gadget that is constantly changing its notes? There are several possible approaches.

  • In the coupling between the crystals and the radiator, include a 5th piezo  to serve as both the input and output ports of an active, causal  filter.  Unlike a purely mechanical filter, it doesn’t soak up a lot of power.
  • We can also do something with the other four crystals. Each crystal is driven by an individual power source. Instead of sine waves, we can use signals derived from a static model of the system, reducing output of the unwanted audible sounds.
  • But we’re going to need a microprocessor anyway, so why not try to anticipate the unwanted sounds, and be more specific about reducing them electronically?

We can do this with a predictive algorithm that adapts in real time. Since we don’t want an earsplitting racket, even for an instant, this implies, on top of our pulse scheme, a second time variation, a ramp. On the scale of seconds, we ramp it up. This solves overheating too.

  • As the gadget ramps up, starting from a whisper, the predictive algorithm takes note of audible sounds, and synthesizes an adjustment to the four crystal drive signals.
  • With time allowed for the microprocessor to think, the correction is applied on the next cycle, or the one after.
  • If the ramp up is slow enough, the error from this look-ahead is minimal.
  • At maximum intensity, the gadget heats up. The algorithm continues to compensate until a limit is reached. Then the ramp drops to zero, the device cools a little, and the ramp repeats.

Everything about this problem is a little dirty, physically as well as motive. How do we know the window glass is vibrating to the max? Or if there is no glass, how do we get an idea of what is going on inside the room? Since the gadget has some frequency agility, we can tune it to the situation. But how do we know what to tune to?

If there is glass, traveling wave vibrations can be detected with a laser microphone, using an interferometer to measure the minute changes in path length. If there isn’t, then we listen, with a microphone for audible mixing products,  which by signature are produced inside the dwelling.

This is an elegant yet simple approach. The ancestral gadget may have existed well back in the 20th century, held back by excessive audible noise. The American approach might be twice as good, and 10X the cost. My first thoughts were something akin to a traveling wave amplifier, or a photonic pumped system like a neodymium fiber amp. The pulse would be accurately synthesized, made to order with great flexibility, and amplified by a pumped system.  But how much precision do you need to fry a brain?

Since that distant time of origin, numerous developments have disseminated to second-rate technical powers and even developing countries:

This means that practically nothing electronic has to be the size of a car anymore.  Current and power densities are immensely higher than just ten years back. The limit is now heat dissipation, not size. We may want to include a Peltier cooler.

Let’s party, comrades! I will get the Order of Lenin for  this! What do you mean, “They don’t give it anymore”? Come and celebrate anyway. This evening we  get drunk on Stoli instead of hooch. I don’t see any company, so I’ll just suck my pinkie like Dr. Evil. But how can I make some dough out of this? How about  a  low-fat fryer for late night TV ?

We’re done with the technical. If the device exists, this discussion might help, along with the Havana investigations, to discourage the use of it. It will be very discouraging if the F.B.I. determines that something like this was in fact used in Havana.

If an adversary concluded that frying the brains of Havana diplomats would be a profitable thing to do, we have only ourselves to blame. In what intelligent manner, devoid of emotional considerations, beneficial to us, our values, and our allies, should this influence foreign policy?

This will come in an article of the near future.