Category: rockets

Billions for rockets, not one cent for ground-based checkout

So, Boris Chertok‘s Rockets and People. This is a really amazing book, if you can find the time for it, as it weighs in at four volumes of 800 pages each and the NASA PDFs are a bit wank on the Kindle.

Chertok started out as an electrician at basically the first ever Soviet aircraft factory, which became their equivalent of Farnborough, and ended up building the control systems for essentially all OKB-1 and its successor organisations’ spacecraft. That’s a nugget, but it expands to several really interesting themes.

First up, thinking of Erik Lund, there’s the problem of control. Chertok got involved trying to fix bomb-release circuits and various radio systems in the 1930s, and became a controls/cybernetics engineer without really knowing it because the specialisation didn’t exist yet and everyone was making it up as they went, as well as cribbing shamelessly off the MIT Radar Handbook and the people from the Admiralty Shipyard, Leningrad, who did naval fire-control and were shamelessly cribbing off the Brits, to say nothing of cribbing hugely off the Germans.

Starting from there, they went on to do things like infrared horizon sensing, strapdown gyroscopes, flywheel control actuators, and eventually, digital computers. There was a Soviet school of thought about control theory that disagreed with everyone else, but seems to have been superseded by the ideas from MIT, and Chertok (who was a winner in this) implies that this was actually Lysenko-esque quackery that got as far as it did because he and so many of his colleagues were Jewish.

Another big, and Lund-inflected, theme was the social status of the engineer. Chertok came up from the shopfloor and later got a degree from night school, but it was during his career that the engineer was eventually defined as being a university-educated professional rather than a craftsman who qualified via an apprenticeship.

This had interesting consequences – the rocket-engine designer Isavey, a classic working-class autodidact, tried very hard to avoid getting his Doctor of Technical Sciences because he didn’t believe in engineering as an academic discipline rather than a trade. That said, later on he refused to be put forward for election to the Academy of Sciences for fear of the shame of being blackballed, which sounds like he was a raging case of impostor syndrome.

Similarly, the clashing personalities and styles of men like Korolev and Glushko had a lot to do with class in a society that denied it existed.

Something related was the role of the workers on the line. Again and again and again, OKB-1 ended up struggling to work out whether this or that subsystem needed to be fundamentally redesigned or whether in fact it had been defective from the factory gate. Terrible quality control dogged everything they did. In fact, you could make a case that quality control contributed much more to Apollo than computers ever did.

Because the Soviet space programme originated in the State Commission for Armaments’ artillery procurement system, the factories that produced rocket subassemblies were usually ones from the artillery or automotive industries and they struggled with the aerospace imperatives of precision, lightness above all, fanatical quality, and rapid turn-around of change requirements.

Chertok notes that they required production drawings so detailed as to permit them to run the line without ever consulting the development engineers, something which was simply impossible given the rate at which the technology was changing.

By contrast to the deskilled, high Taylorite plants OKB-1 had to use, when Vladimir Chelomey’s OKB-52 from the aviation industry got involved, they raced ahead because they were able to use the very aircraft plant where Chertok served his apprenticeship, with its depth of skills and familiarity with the problems. Chertok was astonished, when he was finally able to get a close look at the competition’s rocket, by the quality of the fit and finish compared to that on the Semyorka, R-9, and N-1.

It was also very hard to get budget for test equipment and infrastructure, while the funding for huge rockets was never a question. As a result, it wasn’t until the Energiya project that OKB-1 launched a rocket of which every subsystem had been fully checked out and every engine fired on the static test stand. This caused a lot of huge and expensive explosions, which we hear a lot about because far from the least of Chertok’s contributions was as a crash investigator. By comparison, each engine on the Saturn V was testfired once by the manufacturer, once at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville as a single engine, and once more at Huntsville as a whole stage.

The Soviets also took a long, long time to invent Mission Control. Up until the mid-60s, after a space launch checked in with the first tracking station, the engineering team would disperse to the four winds, some going back to the Baikonur vehicle-assembly building, some to OKB-1 outside Moscow, some to their parent organisations, and some to the Evpatoriya radar and communications site. Inevitably, they all tried to take charge.

Interestingly, Yuri Gagarin was an early and powerful advocate of creating a mission control – up to the end of his life he acted as the capsule communicator, the voice of Mission Control, on the famous radio callsign Zarya, but for a long time there was no control centre behind the voice. Gradually, a nucleus of control emerged, usually based at Evpatoriya and including Gagarin and the indefatigable Chertok, but it wasn’t until the Apollo-Soyuz project in the mid-70s that it got its own building, staff, or budget and even then it was mostly authorised to impress the Americans.

Going with the title, this is a book about rockets and also people. Chertok at least paints himself as the token human being in the Soviet space programme, a reasonable man who managed not to fall out catastrophically with the giant planetary egos that cursed it. There are a lot of fascinating characters. He sketches Korolev and Glushko and their historic falling out, during which both of them implied to others that the other had informed while they were in the gulag together.

Chertok remarks that at times, he almost envied Korolev his stint in Siberia because if he himself had been a zek, he might have been able to understand him. There’s a lot of interesting stuff about being a Polish Jew in late Stalinism without being shot. Korolev, years later, told him that while he was trying to protect Chertok he took a phone call from a very important but unnamed politician who promised him that Chertok would come to no harm. Korolev took the secret to the grave.

He was also part of a mission to occupied Germany in which he failed to kidnap Wernher von Braun but did recover a huge range of scientific plunder including a whole team of German rocket scientists.

Hence we meet Frau Gröttrop, wife of Dr. Helmut, who turns up, sacks and replaces all the servants, misappropriates a stable of horses and when challenged swaps them for a couple of jeeps, and organises the debriefing of her husband’s colleagues as her own salon. Another German woman was recruited to manage the files, and when the group was transferred back to the USSR, insisted on coming along to look for her husband, last heard of posted as a prisoner of war. Chertok, Korolev et al tried to talk her out of this quixotic exploit, but eventually she went and distinguished herself by being an overt Nazi among the German expatriates. The decision was taken to find the husband, if he were still alive. There is only one problem: he has been talent spotted as a promising Communist, which is presumably why he’s alive. Eventually the decision is taken just to ship both of them to East Germany as quickly as possible.

There are some interesting discretions, too. By 1970, Chertok had surgery on the site of an old bullet wound in his leg, but oddly he never mentions how he came to get shot, despite never having served in the army. He was involved in a joint project with the British and the Polish resistance to recover V2 parts from the German test range in Poland, but he doesn’t say if he went into the field as well as taking part in the evaluation back in Khimki, which might resolve the mystery.

Guided?

Here’s something interesting. Andrew Krepinevich is quoted by the AOL News (!) blog criticising various aspects of US strategy, which is what he does. But this quote popped out of the background for me:

“The American military is losing some critical sources of advantage that it’s enjoyed over the last twenty years. One is the near monopoly we’ve had in precision guided weaponry,” he said. Not only are China and Iran investing in precision, he said, but even the terrorists who struck the US consulate in Benghazi may have used precision-guided mortar rounds…

May they really? If so, I think that’s the first confirmed use of guided indirect fire weapons against a US or “western” target, certainly by a nonstate actor, and a moment of some historic significance. Also, it’s Libya, which is currently leaking weapons in all directions. So if someone either has a supply of these rounds, or else an operation producing them, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they appear elsewhere soon.

That would include Syria and also Palestine, which makes it time to unfreeze this post out of the carbonite. Bill Clinton had a damn good point there.

GPS receivers available in commerce are restricted, via the CoCom export control machinery, to functioning below 60,000 feet altitude and at less than 1,000 knots ground speed. This is precisely intended to stop people building their own ballistic missile guidance systems, and greatly annoys amateur high altitude balloonists.

In practice, as JGC points out, some manufacturers implement this as an AND and some as an OR, but overall it functions as a restriction on the range of such a device. 1,000 knots is 514m/s. Assuming a 45 degree launch, that would give a maximum altitude of 22,000 feet, well within the restriction, and a range of 27km/16.7 miles with a time of flight of 74 seconds. For example, one of the Fajr-5s the Iranians claim they supplied to Hamas, or taught Hamas how to make would be out of court on both counts. Of course, it’s more likely that guidance would operate after the rocket burned out.

2006 again, and a brief history of recent wrong

Adam Elkus has a piece out entitled The Hezbollah Myth and Asymmetric Warfare, in which he criticises what he sees as a tendency to over-rate the power of guerrillas in the light of the 2006 war. Having read it, I think the real question here is about expectations and goals. Hezbollah didn’t defeat the Israelis and hold a victory parade in Tel Aviv, but then nobody least of all them expected or aimed for that. The outcome of 2006 can only be understood in the light of a realistic assessment of the conflict parties’ capabilities, interests, and priorities. A score draw is a much better result for Stoke City against Manchester United than it is for Manchester United against Barcelona.

For Hezbollah, the first and overriding goal was surely survival – as it is for everyone, it’s even the title of the IISS Journal – followed closely by survival as a force in Lebanese politics, survival of their capability to maintain their self-declared insecurity zone in northern Israel, and finally, inflicting casualties and costs on the Israelis in order to create a deterrent effect. In that light, the result of 2006 was surely just as good from their point of view as they made out – they came away still in the field, still firing rockets, and with their status in Lebanese politics enhanced.

For Israel, well, perhaps one day they’ll work out what their strategic aims were.

Elkus argues that the tactical situation at the point when the UN ceasefire went into effect was favourable for Israel, and that had the war gone on they might have done better. This is possible. However, it’s also very common for wars to end like this. The Israelis’ campaign in 1967 was designed, once they got the upper hand, to get to the Canal and onto the Golan before the UN blew the whistle – one of Ariel Sharon’s frequent blind-eye manoeuvres in 1973 was also intended to complete the encirclement of the Egyptian 3rd Army before the UN ceasefire went into effect. The Indian plan for the 1971 war was explicitly intended to take Dhaka before a ceasefire was imposed. More recently, the Russian operation in Georgia was subject to a similar deadline. International intervention is part of the environment, and only fools wouldn’t take it into account as a planning assumption.

An interesting sidelight on this, also from Elkus, came up in a parallel blog debate about “network-centric warfare” – he pointed to this gung-ho but good piece about the action in northern Iraq in which John Simpson was blown up. What struck me about it, however, was more that it was an example of this kind of thing – which should certainly make you think about 2006, especially in the light of this.

Tangentially, Sean Lawson’s essay on the history of “network centric warfare” is well worth reading, especially for the way so many US officials in 2001-2006 seem to have been competing to see who could validate all the most extreme stereotypes of themselves the fastest, and more broadly on the way a basically sensible idea can become a sort of gateway drug to really insane strategic fantasies.

Cebrowski talked of a “booming export market for…security” and warned those who would resist, “If you are fighting globalization, if you reject the rules, if you reject connectivity, you are probably going to be of interest to the United States Department of Defense” (Cebrowski, 2003c).

Measured against the sort of capabilities the NCW thinkers knew they had, and the kind of goals they dreamed on the basis of them, what possible results wouldn’t look like failure? Compared with the enormous arrogance of this vision – they really did want everyone who thinks the CIA wants them dead, dead – what resistance wouldn’t look like success?

French bloggers, Scud missiles, etc

There’s a new strategy blog about, this time a French one. They have an interesting discussion about the suggestion/rumour/story that Hezbollah might be trying to acquire Scud missiles. They’re dubious about it, although open to the suggestion that the organisation might be developing its own inter-service politics, with the big rocket people perhaps constituting the “air force”. Relatedly, this pair of Tom Ricks posts is stuffed with interesting links about the 2006 war. In the light of those, you might almost think that any effort to acquire something like a Scud, with its huge transporter-erector-launcher truck, would be more of a deception or disinformation tactic than anything else.

there are, however, rockets in this post

Via Airminded, find your local V2 rocket strike. London, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Tehran have what in common? That’s right, it’s the list of cities that have been subjected to attack from space.

Then, why not go here and look up how big a hole it made? Someone’s photographed and flickr’d a whole set of London County Council damage assessment maps.

My local strike is now a small, never-used park on one side of the street and a pretty grim council estate on the other. But damage in this corner of London was limited compared to further down the Holloway Road. Oddly, there seems to be a correlation between the degree of damage and the London Profiler crime rate; the area south of Torrington Way, which has a sky-high crime rate, was pretty much flattened. (Sadly, the LCC maps aren’t geotagged, so making up a KML overlay would be annoyingly difficult.)

Question – is it that these areas were rebuilt as council housing and filled with the poor, or that the architecture caused the crime? After all, they were hardly peachy suburbia before being destroyed. Strange, though, to think that Wernher von Braun partly decided where tonight’s post-pub kebab stabbing is likely to happen.

mentalities, bunker, and otherwise

This BBC Radio 4 documentary about the British nuclear deterrent and the people who operate it is absolutely cracking. Not surprisingly, the man behind it is none other than Professor Peter Hennessy (can we call him Henn-dawg yet?).

One of the things that stands out is the amount of desperate psychological coping going on. The forms vary; the RAF V-Force crews of the 1960s, who were not only expected to carry in the warheads themselves but also very likely to ditch the aircraft somewhere beyond, also had to taxy the Vulcans out for every mission past the school playground. Their wives were more than familiar with the desperate QRA launch scenarios; it seems remarkable that anyone could put up with that.

One day at RAF Cottesmore, the public-address speakers, which were wired directly to the Bomber Controller telebrief feed from High Wycombe, went click just as a group of families visited, and everyone ran like hell to the flight line without even waiting for the voice from headquarters, still less saying a word. We’re talking about 1950s telecoms and electronics here – it must have gone click ten times a day.

A different style from this barely contained hysteria was reserved, indeed still is, for the top civil service and since 1969, the Royal Navy submariners; here, they deal with a much slower and more considered form of killing and dying. It’s a neurotic rather than a hysterical scenario: what can I tell them? what will they think? am I doing the right thing?

Was, for example, Denis Healey doing the right thing, in the High Wycombe bunker during 1960s transition to war exercises as one of the Prime Minister’s deputies for retaliation, when he repeatedly pretended to give the authorisation to scramble the V-force – although in fact, he had decided that should it come to that he wasn’t going to launch? (Keighley Man Saves The World.)

Interestingly, James Callaghan, despite the conventional wisdom, was very clear that he would certainly have pressed the button – or rather, his half of the button. One thing that seems to be clearer in the memory of the top officers Hennessy interviews than has been in the past is the duality of civilian and military control – as no civilian can give a military order, the PM or the deputy can only authorise, not order, the launch. (You thought our constitution was weird? Wait ’til you see our nuclear command authority.)

There is a logical AND gate – rather as NATO shared weapons are subject to the dual-key arrangement between NATO and the host-nation, and Soviet ones were to split control between the military (for the aircraft or missile) and the Communist Party/secret police (for the warhead fusing), UK nukes are subject to a dual-key arrangement between the civilian and military authorities. Another of Hennessy’s interviewees, Lord Guthrie, the Chief of Defence Staff who read Tony Blair in on the nuclear files, made clear that he thought this was very much a real constraint on both parties.

An odd feature of the whole thing was the repeated suggestion that, had the UK been devastated by Soviet missiles and the deterrent not been used, the remaining subs or aircraft might have been turned over to Australia. This would have been a challenging redeployment for the V-Force, to say the least, although they did exercise Far Eastern deployments. Of course, the submarines would have had no such difficulty. In this weird way, the last remnants of imperial feeling were to be saved from the ashes, and the deterrent’s true role – to maintain credible independence from the United States – would be maintained under a slightly different flag.

Ah, the Americans. They have a sort of shadow presence in the whole thing. One thing that the broadcast makes clear is that yes, there is a UK national firing chain as well as the NATO SACLANT one. They visit the cell in the Navy’s bunker at Northwood which handles the link between the Government and the extremely-low frequency transmitters – two crypto officers independently authenticate the message from the Cabinet Office and retransmit it via multiple redundant routes. They each need codebooks from two safes, neither of which can be opened at once, and which are permanently monitored by armed Marine Commandos. We hear a simulated authentication; interestingly, the crosstalk suggests that there is a specific distinction between a NATO and a UK national signal.

But each submarine, as she collects her load-out of rockets from King’s Bay, Georgia, also picks up an American shakedown crew for the test launch down the Eastern rocket range from a spot off Cape Canaveral, and the actual handle the submarine Weapons Engineering Officer pulls is the butt end of a Colt .45.

In all, however, it was a story of people in an insane situation working hard at staying sane.

After the show, I looked up some news and saw this. Jamie Kenny deals with it here, but the facts are worth repeating. Some random just rang up Mr 10% and claimed to be the Indian foreign ministry, and threatened war. Pakistan responded by increasing air force readiness; fighters were placed on combat air patrols. We don’t know what happened with the Pakistani nuclear weapons, which are delivered by aircraft; did the F-16s load up and move to the runway’s end?

Pakistan apparently believes it really was the Indians; the Indians claim it was some maniac with a telephone. The Pakistanis also say it came from a phone number at the Indian foreign ministry. This is fairly meaningless – not many bulk SIP carriers, and not that many old fashioned telcos, check or filter the Caller Line Identification strings, and software like the Asterisk free IP-PBX will let you send whatever CLI you like. After all, the head of the Islamic Students’ Movement of India is supposedly a geek.

The answer to this is of course the one the MI6 station chief in Moscow in 1962 used when the secret signal he gave Oleg Penkovsky for use in the event he learned of a nuclear attack came down the phone: do nothing. The crisis was on its way down; Penkovsky had been missing for days, and was presumably in the hands of the MVD. Therefore Frank Roberts decided to ignore the signal. Few feedback loops of such criticality can’t do with some more damping.

Two odd things

First: the Ethiopian army claims to have killed a Canadian colonel fighting with Somali insurgents. I assume they mean a Canadian who claims to be a colonel in the insurgency, rather than a Canadian colonel who joined, but who can tell these days?

Secondly, here’s a special one – Jewish settler caught firing improvised rockets into his Palestinian neighbours’ land. If you’ve got a grievance these days, improvised rocket artillery is the way to go, clearly. Maybe I should dust off that article I wrote back in the autumn of 2006, widely rejected by a cross-section of the national and international press?

I’m especially amused by the Danish design collective that published details of a rocket “intended to help the citizen express his or her protest at events such as the G8″; sometimes, 2001 seems as far away as the 1960s. I suspect anyone doing so now would be shot, which among other things is why I am mostly encrypting my stuff today.

(BTW, Jim Henley is wrong about this. Improvised multiple-launch rigs with RPGs on the back of a Toyota are a tactic that served the Afghan mujahedin very well, as a quick way to bring down a volley of explosions an shrapnel an stuff on targets some distance off. Further, don’t forget the rocketing of the Palestine Hotel in 2003, which nicely capsized the CPA’s decision loops and scared the living shits out of Paul Wolfowitz. Further, the Viet Cong were past masters at arranging for a barrage of mortars or rockets to happen, and then vanishing. Steve Gilliard did a very good post on this stuff years ago.)

scaleydelic!

So we had the world’s first military coup motivated by a 3G network licence, in Thailand; we had the shootout between the Chalabi Boys and Orascom security men in Baghdad. Now, there’s the Hezbollah/Amal coup de force (or de folie as Robert Fisk preferred), motivated in part by the Lebanese government’s desire to control their secret telecoms network, including a CCTV system they installed at the airport to monitor the comings and goings.

Curiously, I’ve yet to hear any actual details of the system, except that it provides 99,000 “lines” (an increasingly meaningless metric, but one that implies it has a softswitch architecture rather than straight IP) and uses buried fibre. But there are also tales of WiMAX and other things radio. Apparently, the leader of Hezbollah has claimed that their signals were their most important weapon back in 2006. Perhaps – you’ve got to know when to move your ATGW team back over the reverse slope, I suppose. Some doubt this on the grounds that a fixed net doesn’t seem that useful, but then, all mobile networks are fixed at some point, and if the fibre is dual SONET it needs a minimum of four independent cuts to partition the system. The Lebanese Army has now said that

it would handle the issue of the communications network in a way “that would not harm public interest and the security of the resistance”. It also said it was reinstating the head of airport security [CCTV Guy].

Which, I think, means they’re going to let it slide, if they don’t actually hook it up to their own signals network. This is of course one of the least obvious features of the whole crisis; all the territory Hezbollah and Amal took was immediately handed over to the official Lebanese military, an increasingly powerful force in politics.

Arguably, this suggests that some of the ideas floated in 2006 about incorporating Hezbollah in the Lebanese military as some sort of reserve/militia/national guard/territorial army/jagers/greenjackets/cossacks/whatever else you call those crazy bastards on the border, as long as they don’t bother you and keep the roads open, are being put in effect de facto. Perhaps the military have a deal, under which the Shia will support their commander in chief for president (and they do), and in return they will have a free hand to create their not-state in the south? It’s a solution to the problem of a bunch of dangerous and independent-minded borderers that has a long pedigree indeed.

You could call it the Haganah-isation of Hezbollah; it’s changing not just from a guerrilla force to an army, but also from a political party to an unstate with a shadow administration, an economy, and its own infrastructure, just as the Israeli founding generation built a mixed economy, a trade union movement, a shadow civil service, and a highly capable semiguerrilla army/intelligence service long before the state became a formal reality. I’m only surprised they didn’t start a commercial GSM network as cover for their own command-and-control system; perhaps they will.

Meanwhile, again, this is an example of the democratisation of technology. You don’t have to invoke a secret Dr Evil to explain how they built this; annoyingly, I see some people are yelling about Huawei and how it’s all teh secret Chinese-Iranian plot. Perhaps. But they’ll sell to anyone. And if there is WiMAX gear in there, it’s cheap; the base stations are already under $10,000, and the biggest expense in a fibre build is always at Layer Zero, that is to say the business of going and digging the holes and renting the transmitter sites. I suspect right-of-way is less expensive in southern Lebanon than it is in Surrey, armies are rarely short of people if they need to dig a hole, and Hezbollah presumably doesn’t have much trouble with NIMBYs. (See also.)

Was this a civil war? Perhaps the idea is wrong; it seems to me more like one of Gwyn Prins’ “diplomatic-military operations” in one country, perhaps something an unstate like Hezbollah – or the Sadr movement – is uniquely suited to, as this superb article of Spencer Ackerman’s argues.

A unified theory of stupidity on terrorism

I’m beginning to think that it’s possible to discern so many similarities between really stupid opinions on terrorism that we can call it a theory. Specifically, if you’re talking about state sponsorship, you’re probably wrong, unless overwhelming evidence contradicts this. As far as I can tell, the modern version of this theory originated in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It had been about – Shakespeare has Bolingbroke in Richard II allege that “all the treasons for these eighteen years/complotted and contrived in this land/have in false Mowbray their first head and spring” – but the strong form seems to have originated then.

Key features are that 1) terrorist or guerrilla activity is never the work of the people who appear to carry it out, 2) instead it is the work of a Sponsor, 3) that only action against the Sponsor will be effective, 4) even if there is no obvious sign of the Sponsor’s hand, this only demonstrates their malign skill, and 5) there is evidence, but it is too secret to produce. In the strong form, it is argued that all nonconventional military activity is the work of the same Sponsor.

Reasons for its popularity: 1) it suits existing 2nd/3rd generation military-bureaucratic structures, intelligence collection and analysis processes, and presents targets to traditional weapons systems, 2) it removes agency from the terrorists, 3) because of 2, efforts to engage with the population from which the terrorists come are delegitimised, 4) it postulates a centralised enemy and hence enhances the power of the central government.

Intellectual archaeology: US response to 1979 Iranian revolution/South African military’s “total onslaught concept” of same period/Israeli (specifically Likud) efforts not to engage with the PLO/USSR’s belief in global capitalist conspiracy/1950s McCarthyism/Rollback doctrines.

Warning signs: States that espouse this theory are often in a position where they have to deal with guerrillas/terrorists in day-to-day practice, whilst political considerations incline official discourse towards Dr Evil theories. This entails a divide between the military/intelligence professionals and the government, or else a horizontal division between those lower on the rank scale who actually deal with the problem and the senior panjandrums. The end effect, and screaming red-flasher warning sign, is a deprofessionalisation of analysis.

Consider Dick Cheney, trying to talk Schwartzkopf into dropping the 82nd Airborne in the desert of western Iraq and then march to Baghdad, on the basis of the US Civil War documentaries he’d been watching. (At least Churchill got his crazy military ideas from books.) Consider Dick again, dragging the Iraq Survey Group inspectors out of bed with suggested WMD locations in the Beka’a Valley. The cultural role of the Beka’a in all this is nontrivial. It’s the state sponsorship fiend’s happy hunting ground, a zone onto which any kind of political fantasy can be projected. This began when it was hard to reach during the Lebanese civil war, but those days are 15 years gone now, and press men regularly drive over from Beirut to find…nothing.

A key point is fictionalised difficulty. Consider this tale, via Gilliard’s. JSOC was so convinced that Lebanon was so wildly dangerous to deliver a radio there, a night-time HALO jump from outside Lebanese airspace, sideslipping in towards the beach, and swimming in with wetsuits would be necessary. And they were desperately pissed off when it was suggested that it just be put in the diplomatic bag and driven over the border (through the Beka’a – did they realise that?) Michael Ledeen continues his career as an “Iran expert” despite the handicap of never having visited the place, as if it was North Korea or Cambodia under Pol Pot. Mike, the cellphones work and you can catch a flight via Heathrow.

Now, as an exercise, let’s have a read of this. Apparently the new RPG-29 rocket has reached Iraq. Not good news. But look at this:

“The first time we saw it was not in Iraq. We saw it in Lebanon. So to me it indicates, number one, an Iranian connection,” he told defense reporters here. “It’s hard to say in our part of the world that we operate in as to whether or not people have given us a hint about things to come,” he said.

He said only a single RPG-29 has turned up in Iraq so far, and it was unclear how it was smuggled into the country. But he said it was the latest in a number of new and more sophisticated weapons that appear to be moving onto the region’s battlefields from Iran.

He said longer-range Chinese rockets that looked new also have been found in Iraq. Abizaid said he believed the Chinese rockets came from Iran although they may have been taken from the arms inventories of the former Iraqi regime and cleaned up.

So, because they were used in Lebanon first, the one in Iraq must come from Iran. Does he realise that the shortest route between Iran and Lebanon is through Iraq? Surely he does. Later, he mentions other possibilities – but dismisses them. You can almost hear the cognitive dissonance jarring away.

Update: Readers may wish to apply the principles of this post to this.

Update again: Ouch. Terrible mis-Shakespeare corrected.