Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Arnold Lobel, Fabulist

by Bill Doughty

Aesop. La Fontaine. "Uncle Remus." Hans Christian Anderson. Thurber. Orwell. Among the great fabulists – fable writers – we can add Arnold Lobel's name.

Author of the "Frog and Toad" series, "Ming Lo Moves the Mountain," "Owl at Home," and Caldecott Medal-winning "Fables," Lobel (May 22, 1933 – Dec. 4, 1987) was an artist and writer, who said writing was difficult because he was such a visual thinker.

His simple stories for various "I Can Read Books" held profound timeless ideas about ethics and morality.

In fact, he is interpreted as channeling the Buddhist dharma in a fascinating essay by Kathyryn Jeser-Morton. Christians and Jews can see his stories consistently reinforcing the Golden Rule; protagonists in Lobel's story frequently turn the other cheek, do unto others or practice "an eye for an eye" while young readers can appreciate the paradoxes. Lobel also inspired at least one "green Muslim" in the garden. 

Lobel's fables are universal for believers or nonbelievers. A writer who believes in the power of fabulist philosopher Lobel as "my hero" is Julia Donaldson, who writes in "The Guardian" that "the stories have a quality of joyful optimism celebrating things such as the spring and friendship in a fresh, unsentimental way."

Such is true in "Mouse Soup" (HarperCollins, 1977) a "Level 2" I Can Read Book for first through third graders. The story is filled with potential danger and creative innovative solutions. Spoiler alert: The quick-thinking mouse uses his wits – and some natural "weapons" – to outsmart and escape from a predatory weasel intent on making mouse soup.

Lobel's books are a great way to teach reading to children. In some cases military service members on deployment can get two copies of children's books and read to their sons and daughters as they read along, connected electronically. United Through Reading helps military families through a feedback loop of reading and recording reactions, bringing sponsors and children closer over time and distance.

From the UTR website: "One of the most difficult things a child can experience is having a parent separated from them for an indeterminate period of time. United Through Reading helps ease the stress of separation for military families by having service members who are separated from the children they love read children’s books aloud on video for the child to watch at home."

UTR provides information on how and where to participate. Also offered: lists of books as suggested reading at various reading levels. Titles include "Amelia Bedelia," "No, David," "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed," "Charlotte's Web," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," and "Beyond Basketball: Coach K’s Keywords for Success," among dozens of others. 

Of course, families can choose their own favorite story book, nonfiction book, or book of fables.

Arnold Lobel's "Mouse Soup" is a fun choice and a good starting point for more discussion for military families about how to be cautious in a sometimes dangerous world.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

'United States of Jihad' & Homegrown Terrorists

Review by Bill Doughty

San Bernardino terrorists Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook at airport security.
The journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden nearly twenty years ago in 1997, four years before 9/11 – and who accurately predicted the location of bin Laden's hideaway more than a decade later – assesses the level of danger of neighborhood jihadists in his latest work, "United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists" (2016, Crown Publishers).

Peter Bergen's conclusion may surprise some Americans.

Bergen's work – which includes insights into the Boston Marathon attack by the Tsarnaev brothers, the killing of Omar Hammami, the hunt for and death of Anwar al-Awlaki, and the Malik/Farook attack in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015 – grips the reader with its sense of immediacy and Bergen's mastery at nonfiction storytelling. 

The book opens with "Americans for ISIS," describing teenager Mohammed Hamzah Khan's attempt to join the Islamist "caliphate" with his younger siblings. Other highlights include behind-the-scenes insights into deranged characters Major Nidal Hassan, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and David Headley.

Bergen examines the phenomenon of "lone wolves" as well as leader-led jihadists.

The roles of Navy SEAL Team 6 and CIA come up several times in the war against what Bergen calls "Binladenism." Bergen documents the success in tracking down and exterminating overseas terrorists. But, here comes the surprise: radical islamists were not the greatest threat to Americans on U.S. soil in 2015, he reports.
"Americans have also long tended to overestimate the threats posed by jihadists while underestimating the sources of other forms of terrorism, generally defined as any act of violence against civilians motivated by ideology. Since 9/11, extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right-wing credos, including white supremacists, antiabortion extremists, and antigovernment militants, have killed around the same number of people in the United States as have extremists motivated by al-Qaeda's ideology. As we have seen, by the end of 2015, forty-five people had been killed in jihadist terrorist attacks in the United States, while right-wing racists and antigovernment militants had killed forty-eight."
As an example, Bergen relates terrorist attack by Dylann Roof last year at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in which Roof killed nine African Americans vainly hoping "to start a race war." He reminds us of the historical terrorism in our country, including "an astonishing 112 hijackings in the States during the 1970s."

Yet, the fear of ISIS for some is all-consuming, even impinging on some Americans' "pursuit of happiness." The influential philosopher Epicurus (Thomas Jefferson called himself Epicurean) reasoned that people's greatest desire should be the pursuit of a life of happiness, and that the greatest barrier to that pursuit was fear.

So what about our fears? Bergen writes:
"Americans' persistent fear of terrorism can be explained partly by the disparity between expert and lay evaluations of risk. In the words of Clinton Jenkin, a psychologist writing in the peer-reviewed journal Homeland Security Affairs, 'Experts view risk as the likelihood of actual harm based on mortality estimates, whereas lay perceptions of risk are based on a number of qualitative (and subjective) characteristics.' The average person's perception of risk, he explains, is influenced by 'the voluntariness of exposure,' how much control we feel we have, how great we judge the potential damage, how unpredictable the situation seems, and so on. Since terrorists can strike anyone, anywhere, in a random and dreadful manner, we tend to fear them more than we fear far more common and predictable causes of death. In any year since 9/11, Americans were twelve thousand times more likely to die in a car accident, for instance, than in a domestic terrorist incident."
Bergen continues to put fear and Americans' actual risk in perspective:
"The extent to which our government and the media participate in this endemic paranoia is damaging in that, apart from doing the terrorists' job for them, which is to terrorize, it helps to crowd out the far more serious issues the planet faces. Climate change is far less telegenic than ISIS. More to the point, homicide is the fifteenth leading cause of death for Americans. The scale of this death toll resembles both a national security problem and a public health issue. Around 70 percent of American homicides are accomplished with firearms, according to an authoritative study by the United Nations; some eighty-eight thousand Americans died in gun violence between 2003 and 2010. This means that in the years after 9/11, an American residing in the United States was around five thousand times more likely to be killed by a fellow citizen armed with a gun than by a terrorist inspired by the ideology of Osama bin Laden. It's probably more or less inevitable that most Americans will die of cancer or a heart attack, but why is it even plausible that Americans in high schools, colleges, movie theaters, and churches should die at the hands of young armed men?"
Kerry Cahill and Nader Hasan
He concludes his book with a hopeful profile of Kerry Cahill (whose father, Michael, was killed by Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood) and her bond of friendship with Nader Hasan, cousin of the terrorist assassin, who reached out to her. 

Nader Hassan's Nawal Foundation is dedicated to American Muslims speaking out against terrorists and terrorism. Kerry joined the foundation after bonding with Nader over homemade baklava and a children's book ("Mouse Soup" by Arnold Lobel, author of "Frog and Toad"). "Mouse Soup," Bergen writes, "had been Michael Cahill's favorite book to read to them as kids."

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Worst and the Best – of the Pacific

Review by Bill Doughty

Tragedy and triumph. "Collision" and cooperation. War and Peace. 

Simon Winchester, author of "Atlantic," explores the yin and yang of the world's biggest ocean in "Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers" (2015, HarperCollins). "Pacific" is a great read for Earth Day.

Winchester's clear-eyed assessment ranges from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, garbage gyres, el Niño and the "Ring of Fire" to the joys of surfing in a book he calls "a description of the modern Pacific Ocean" that begins at the end of the Second World War.

Japan rose from the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to become an innovative and inventive world power, creating the transistor and transforming business. The Japanese people rejected an authoritarian military-controlled government to "display a mettle quite unimaginable in its scope, heft, and range" in the Pacific theater:
"In those first months after the surrender, the country was gripped by a spasm of self-repair, of make-do and mending, of precipitous institutional about-faces and adaptations. Factories that had weeks before been making war materials switched their production lines to start making items needed not by generals and admirals, but by the bone-tired civilians and by the ragged menfolk returning from the battlefields. So bomb casings became charcoal burners, sitting neatly upright on their tail fins and helping households get through that first bitter winter. Large-caliber brass shell cases were modified as rice containers, while tea caddies were fashioned from their smaller shiny cousins. A searchlight mirror maker turned out flat glass panes to repair thousands of smashed Tokyo windows; and for country dwellers, a fighter plane engine piston maker turned his factory to building water pumps. A piston ring fabricator named Soichiro Honda took small engines used during the war as radio generators and strapped them onto the frames of Tokyo's bicycles – the resulting Bata-Bata motorcycles, the name being onomatopoeic, later evolved into a brand of bike still famed from 1950s Japan as the Dream. Its popularity and commercial success heralded the birth of today's automobile giant, the Honda Motor Company."
Supercyclone Tracy bears down on Darwin, Australia in 1974.
The end of empires casts a long shadow in this book: Imperial Japan and especially the British Empire – and how the monarchy's influence faded in Hong Kong and Australia.

Darwin, Australia becomes a focal point in a discussion about Pacific storms and the effects of global climate change. "During the war, more Japanese bombs rained down on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor," Winchester writes. But when Supercyclone Tracy turned from the sea toward Darwin on Dec. 25, 1974, it destroyed 80 percent of the city. "There has never been a more dreadful and destructive event in recorded Australian history."

Winchester mentions how the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii tracks storms in the Pacific, including Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which "devastated much of the Leyte Gulf region of the southwestern Philippines." 

Northern Lights seen in ICEX 2016. Photo by Aerographer's Mate 2nd Class Zachary Yanez
He quotes former U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear III, who, three months before Haiyan, said changes in the climate were causing increased typhoon activity. "Significant upheaval related to the warming planet is probably the thing most likely to happen ... and that will cripple the security environment," Locklear said. "Probably that will be more likely than the other scenarios we often talk about."

Winchester discusses coral bleaching, first seen on the Great Barrier Reef in late 1981, "under threat from a rise in sea temperature and acidity." He also describes the Pacific garbage patch, effects of plastic pollution on birds, efforts to stop overfishing, and rising sea levels in Kiribati.

Staff Sgt. Skinowski from the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing watches Mt. Pinatubo eruption, June 1991.
The explosion of Mt. Pinatubo, accompanied by a devastating typhoon in 1991, is described as a pivotal moment in the history of the region. Winchester reports how the USS Midway (CV 41) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) were diverted to the Philippines to help with evacuation and recovery (Operation Fiery Vigil) and of the vacuum created by the loss of Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base.

The U.S. Navy figures prominently in "Pacific," from the USS Pueblo incident with North Korea in 1968 at the height of the war in Vietnam and during the Cold War to deployment of littoral combat ships today to Singapore. 

Winchester shows how the border for North Korea was created by a grease pencil on a National Geographic map early in the Cold War and what that meant for those affected by the "wretched annoyance" of the "pariah state."

Exploring with science and helping try to understand the origins of life: HOV Alvin.
The author takes us aboard the Navy-commissioned, civilian-operated Human-Occupied Vehicle HOV Alvin, a submersible that made a startling discovery 39 years ago.
"On a Thursday morning in mid-February 1977, this doughty miniature research submarine, so precisely engineered and so heavily armored as to allow three explorers to be brought down into the ocean deeps and then drive safely back to the surface, was lowered into the warm blue waters of the eastern Pacific for the 713th logged dive of her career. What she would find later that day, in the abyssal gloom almost two miles down, would laser-etch her name into oceanography's history books as having made perhaps the greatest maritime discovery of all scientific time. For she discovered down in the dark a whole new undersea universe, a previously unimagined dystopia of crushing pressures and scalding temperatures, of curious topography and even more curious life-forms, all gathered around a family of hitherto unknown phenomena that were immediately named for the gaseous torrents that they spewed ceaselessly out into the sea. Alvin, on that midwinter's day in 1977, first discovered the existence of what were to be called deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, gushings of gas and superheated water in places where all was believed to be cold and dark and dead."
The Navy, with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution aboard Alvin, had discovered new forms of life that existed through chemosynthesis, providing "information about the origins of life itself."

While he focuses primarily on the United States, Japan and Australia, Winchester presents an enlightening discussion about China and it's "new Great Wall" at sea, saying the founding of the People's Republic "would eventually turn the Pacific into a cauldron of contention," challenging ships in international waters with claims of sovereignty.
"And still the contagion spreads, and becomes ever broader. In recent years, China's dominance of the South China Sea has been followed by attempts to impose similar hegemonic control over the East China Sea. A long-standing claim made by the Chinese to the disputed Diaoyu Islands, an uninhabited cluster northeast of Taiwan that the Japanese have long called the Senkaku Islands, was suddenly backed up in 2013 when the Beijing government declared the airspace overhead a restricted area, and demanded that all aircraft, civilian and military, report and seek permission before entering it."
Past and future. Destruction and renewal. Fear and hope. Symbolism and stark reality. The yin and yang of "Pacific" rides on warships and surfboards.

Through the words of Jack London and Mark Twain and his own storytelling, Winchester introduces us to surfing icons George Freeth, Hobie Alter and Duke Kahanamoku – "a swimmer to beat all and a surfer to crown all, and if not the father of surfing ... its greatest of ambassadors, to America and beyond." His writing about the sport comes alive:
"The Pacific is a liquid place, and on most of its inhabited coastlines this liquid is warm and ultramarine and inviting. It is also by its very nature ceaselessly in motion. For centuries native peoples who lived on many of the islands of the ocean's tropical interior have made great use of all this motion in ways that provided them with the purest joy imaginable. they rode out on long wooden boards through the beachside surf and spume and waited, floating, for a wave to lumber in from the ocean, and then stood up on the boards, toes gripping the leading edge, and from the wave's summit crest, rode the boards down its steep green face, all the way back into shore."
The love for the sea becomes transcendent and expansive in "Pacific's" epilogue, "The Call of the Running Tide," as he describes the "duty of humanity" for Malama Honua, "to care for our island Earth." Malama Honua. That's the name of the three-year worldwide voyage of traditional waʻa, or sailing canoe, Hōkūleʻa, sailing with, as Winchester points out, "No compass. No extant. No radar. No radio. And certainly no GPS."
"They have left the Pacific behind. The crew have now to divine their way across seas – the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea – that are very different from their home waters. They will pass beneath skies and patterns of stars quite strange to them. Whether or not they succeed, those aboard all keenly believe that their simple attempt will serve as a powerful reminder of the sea's singular importance. That is what all on the boat and back in Hawaii believe lies at the heart of their venture. Malama Honua: that all should be urged to care for a body of water that nourishes every living thing on earth, that gave it life in the first place, and yet that is now wearily compelled to absorb all the excesses of the humans who live beside and around it."
Winchester concludes:
"It seems to me there is even more potent symbolism to the Hōkūleʻa's journey, symbolism that relates quite specifically to the ocean where the boat was born, where her crew members revived and then learned their skills, and from where she came to venture out to the rest of the planet. The Pacific occupies a unique position among the world's seas; the Hōkūleʻa's journey has served as a reminder of why."
At the end of this insightful book about the modern history of the Pacific, readers can be excused for wanting more stories from the author. But as one considers China, North Korea, global climate change – and the hopefulness of Malama Honua – history is still being written.

From today:  "After arriving in Newport News on Friday, April 22, Hōkūleʻa will (be) celebrating Earth Day with the Mariners’ Museum at the James River Fishing Pier on Saturday April 23rd. Canoe tours will be available to the public from 10 am to 2 pm. Enjoy fun and engaging educational activities for families, learn about traditional Polynesian voyaging and wayfinding, and meet the crew of Hōkūleʻa."

Friday, April 8, 2016

Exploration, Navigation, Commitment to Care

Master builder Wright Bowman Sr., born in 1907, created this scaled reproduction sculpture of Hōkūleʻa in 1978, on display at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

by Bill Doughty

U.S. astronaut Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Lacy Veach looked out the window of the space shuttle as it passed over Hawaii and had an epiphany about "island Earth."

"Lacy could see all the islands, and he could see his whole spirit and soul here. He could see the entire planet as one vision," said master navigator Dr. Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Thompson credits Veach for inspiring Mālama Honua ("Care for the Earth"), the worldwide journey of a double-hull voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa, using traditional navigation techniques. The voyage is underway to raise awareness of our collective responsibility to protect and cherish our home planet.

"Hawaii is a laboratory for living well on islands, including Island Earth," according to Thompson, in an interview with PBS.

Kathy Muneno of Hawaii's KHON reports, "Thompson says it’s when Veach saw Hawaii from space that he knew it held the answer to a beautiful, sustainable and caring Earth. He says Veach actually planted the seed for Hōkūleʻa to sail around the world."

Muneno writes, "Veach and Nainoa Thompson became fast friends and hatched a plan for a three-way call: Veach in the space shuttle, Thompson on the ‘spaceship’ of ancestors, Hōkūleʻa in the South Pacific, both fielding questions from children in Hawaii and broadcasting to hundreds of classrooms."

Friends Nainoa Thompson and Lacy Veach.
They answered students' questions and put navigation by the stars – and with the stars – in context: "exploration."

Hōkūleʻa ("star of gladness," named for the star Arcturus, which passes over Hawaii) departs from Titusville, Florida today after a poignant visit to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where Thompson and other voyagers paid tribute to Veach's legacy before continuing their voyage up the East Coast.

“The country needs to know that Lacy was the one that planted the idea as a seed into us in 1992 to take Hōkūleʻa around the world.” said Thompson, “Florida becomes foundational for us to articulate and communicate to this country that that’s why we’re coming – out of respect, and out of honoring and making sure that they know that Lacy’s legacy counts. I don’t think we can go up the coast until we establish that.”

Arriving in Titusville, Florida. Photo courtesy and Oiwa TV, by Niehu Anthony.
Thompson held a ceremony aboard the canoe to honor the memory of Hawaii astronauts Ellison Onizuka and Lacy Veach and their contributions to exploration in space. He spoke with NASA employees and shared stories of how Veach inspired a generation of students and voyagers at sea and in space.

“Coming to NASA for me has been an amazing celebration,” Thompson told Hōkūleʻa and NASA crew, as reported on “Lacy is our navigator on this voyage, and for that, this is the most important two days for me.”

Thompson's tribute to Lacy and his vision of "the beauty of island Earth" is published by the Polynesian Voyaging Society. It's a beautiful tribute and shows Veach's commitment to teaching the next generation.

Like President Obama, Veach is a graduate of Punahou School in Honolulu. He was commissioned in the United States Air Force upon graduation from the Air Force Academy in 1966 and served as a USAF fighter pilot. According to his NASA bio, he flew "the F-100 Super Sabre, the F-111, and the F-105 Thunderchief, on assignments in the United States, Europe, and the Far East, including a 275-mission combat tour in the Republic of Vietnam."

Lacy Veach in space.
He was a member of the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, in 1976 and 1977. Veach left active duty in 1981, but served as a F-16 pilot with the Texas Air National Guard before becoming an astronaut in June 1985. 

From his bio: "He held a variety of technical assignments, and had flown as a mission specialist on two Space Shuttle missions, STS-39 in 1991 and STS-52 in 1992. He had logged 436.3 hours in space. Most recently, Lacy had worked as the lead astronaut for the development and operation of robotics for the International Space Station."

Veach is mentioned in the same breath as Pinky Thompson (Nainoa's father), Mao Piailug and Eddie Aikau, inspirational leaders who are part of a seafaring tradition. 

Eddie was an experienced waterman and crew member of Hōkūleʻa who was lost at sea in 1978 when he set out on his surfboard to get help after the canoe capsized. "Eddie would go" symbolizes determination, commitment and selflessness.

U.S. Navy Sailors in Hawaii have a history of working with the Polynesian Voyaging Society – volunteering to assist with fixing and painting facilities, sanding and refurbishing canoes, and advising voyagers.

Just prior to Hōkūleʻa's voyage, Rear Adm. Frank Ponds (then-Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific) spoke with Kathy Muneno and spoke about mitigating the dangers they could face transiting the Pacific, including pirates, storms and rogue waves.

Lt. D. Stayton holds a sextant in a class at USNA. (Photo by MU2 T. Caswell.)
Recently the Navy announced a renewed interest in teaching traditional navigation techniques at the Naval Academy (USNA), using constellations, the sun and moon as Hōkūleʻa does, without relying on global positioning satellites.

National Public Radio published a story about the initiative, noting "Navigation by the stars dates back millennia. The ancient Polynesians used stars and constellations to help guide their outrigger canoes across thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean. And right up until the mid-20th century, navigation on the sea was usually done by looking at the heavens."

As for Hōkūleʻa, the voyaging canoe heads north up the East Coast now toward Washington D.C. and New York via South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. At the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, the voyagers plan to participate in the Earth Day celebration there April 23. 

In a post on

"After spending about a week in Washington DC, Hōkūleʻa will sail to New York City, where she will be a focal point at World Oceans Day events hosted by the United Nations on June 8, 2016. The theme of this year’s World Oceans Day is 'Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.' While in New York City, Hōkūleʻa will also participate in the Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge, which is the East Coast’s largest Pacific Islands festival and one of the world’s most competitive outrigger races. Hōkūleʻa is expected to depart New York City on June 18 for several engagements in the New England area."

To follow the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, visit

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Father of the Navy: GW

Review by Bill Doughty

Was George Washington the first Chief of Naval Operations? Was the Revolutionary War the first world war? Did the colonial navy provide the decisive power that achieved America's independence?

Author Sam Willis brings an objective international perspective to these questions in "The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution" (W.W. Norton & Company, 2016). Willis shows how and where privateers and sailors fought up and down the East Coast, across the Atlantic, and in Canada and the Caribbean.

The book opens with how to burn a wooden war ship in the age of sail. Not as easy as it sounds. A group of Americans – angry about authoritarian British customs rules – set fire to a grounded British schooner, HMS Gaspee, in June 1772.

There were other incidents leading up to the war, too, along with the burning of Gaspee and the first shots fired at Lexington.

Rebels launched whaleboat attacks against the mighty Royal Navy and burned another armed schooner, HMS Diana, in Boston Harbor in 1775. It was "a hostile act in the lion's den itself that displayed both American courage and resourcefulness and convinced many of the direction that the revolution was taking," Willis writes. The act planted the idea to create an American navy.
"The man with the idea was George Washington: by profession a surveyor and farmer from Virginia, by limited experience a frontier soldier, by political demand the new commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. In 1775 Washington knew more about farming than anything else."
Washington had fought with the British in the Seven Years' War, but his experience with sea power was nearly nonexistent. But, Willis writes:
"Washington may have lacked experience in sea power, but it is too easy to overlook his knowledge of waterways and skill in boatmanship. He may well have been a 'farmer' – a traditional seaman's insult – but he was a farmer in Virginia, and in the 1770s all farmers in Virginia had a keen nose for matters maritime. Virginia was a colony that constantly looked to the sea. The most significant aspect of the Virginian economy was the exportation of tobacco, and vast fleets, well over 100 ships strong, made an annual migration to Virginia to move the tobacco crop from its magnificent natural harbour at Hampton Roads back to Europe."
We're reminded of Washington's crossings of the Delaware (three crossings and returns) and of his profound faith in the Navy. He told Count Rochambeau: "In any operation, and under all circumstances, a decisive naval superiority is to be considered as a fundamental principle, and the basis upon which every hope of success must ultimately depend."

Faith and hope was embodied in the innovation and industriousness of American shipbuilders from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island, North Carolina and other colonies.

Building the Navy for national defense required a centralized government – a fiscal-military nation state to provide oversight. "This is why the birth of the American navy reflects the birth of America itself."

In fact, the Navy directly contributes to the spread of liberty and broadcasting of the Declaration of Independence worldwide. In the week after July 4, 1776 American ships carried printed copies of the Declaration to the rebels' potential allies including to France and to the Dutch island of St. Eustatius. From there, news of the document and copies of its text quickly traveled to Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Germany and Scandinavia.

Willis calls Part 3 of his four-part book "World War, 1778-1780."

He shows how France and Spain became committed allies. French help was invaluable to America's maritime war effort, despite "a fascinating and paradoxical mixture of distrust and exceptional high levels of expectation."

Like the British, the French suffered from overconfidence in their own maritime prowess.

And on several occasions major strategic mistakes were made when control over the navy was given to army leaders who tried to apply land tactics to the maritime domain.

Both the British and French underestimated the problem of providing adequate logistics, "finding the realities of prosecuting an aggressive naval strategy 3,000 miles from home extremely difficult."

Lessons apply today in the exercise of forward presence, the need for strong allies, and the importance of protecting sea lanes to ensure the free flow of trade.

In the 18th century, from Europe and the New World to Asia and the Silk Road, "trade ran from Britain and America to Newfoundland, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the Indian Ocean and beyond, and where trade went, navies followed."

The 13 colonies had strong affinity for India, which was also under the shadow of the British Empire. A warship in the Pennsylvania State Navy was named Hyder Ali, after an Indian warlord.

The British Navy in Quebec.
If it was indeed a world war, Willis writes, "the first shot of this war was fired between soldiers at Lexington Commons in 1775, but did you know that the last was fired between warships at the battle of Cuddalore in the Bay of Bengal on 20 June 1783."

The rise and fall of empires is a theme in "The Struggle for Sea Power." So is the nature of naval warfare, which included littoral combat. Rivers and lakes presented deadly challenges to mariners. Contemporaries did not see distinction between the importance of command of the seas and control of inland navies, considering both "command of the water."
"If you are struggling to see a lake in the same terms as an ocean, I urge you to stand on the shores of Lake Michigan in a storm. You will not want to go out in a boat. Shallow it may be, but that shallowness and the relatively short fetch of the shores make for particularly brutal conditions on the water. And what about rivers? Rivers were to an eighteenth-century army as railways were to armies of the nineteenth century, but these were no passive, gently bubbling streams but evil and treacherous tongues of brown water whose currents could create whirlpools big enough to suck down a fully manned cutter. Figures do not survive, but it is safe to assume that during this war hundreds, perhaps thousands of sailors drowned in rivers or otherwise died fighting on, in or near them. Most of the riverine warfare I describe in this book, moreover, happened on the lower reaches, where powerful ocean-bound currents met relentless land-bound tides. Operating vessels in such conditions was the ultimate test of seamanship."
"Struggle" offers more than a dozen pages of cool contour maps and charts, beautiful photos, and strange political cartoons of the time. Willis provides extensive notes, bibliography and even a glossary of nautical terms.

The author credits today's U.S. Navy, especially the Naval History and Heritage Command, along with other entities, with providing the background and information necessary to bring his book to print.
"These focused studies are supported by an ongoing project of astonishing scale to publish significant documents pertaining to the war at sea. Under the aegis of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, the 'Naval Documents of the American Revolution' series has been running since the mid 1960s and has become an important historical document in its own right. It now stands at twelve volumes, each over 1,000 pages long, with forewords from several generations of American presidents: from Kennedy through Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush to Obama."
Willis offers a compelling perspective, and it's obvious he achieves the goal he set in writing this important history. The book's opening epigraph is by Herman Melville: "To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme."

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Women 'Beyond Happy'

Review by Bill Doughty

Why do women hold themselves back? Nature or nurture? What does research say about gender differences? How can you stay positive?

These are some of the questions presented in "Beyond Happy: Women, Work and Well-Being" (ATD Press, 2015) by Dr. Beth Cabrera, a deceptively simple easy-to-read guide for women who want to achieve balance on and off the job, with how-to strategies and self-assessment tools.

Cabrera takes the reader on "journey toward a more joyful, meaningful life." Women and men can take the journey.

She examines how "feeling good" and "doing good" overlap to create well-being. Anyone can thrive if they know their work is making a difference, either for their family or for the world.

For women and men serving in the Department of Navy "doing good" and making a difference is easy to see: Sailors and civilians work together every day to defend the nation, Sailors forward deployed to protect freedom on the seas.

But service in the military can take its toll on families. 

We can see how Cabrera's insights apply: 
"The extreme hours and relentless travel [such as deployments] that are often requirements for success in many jobs make it impossible for women to perform their various roles. Men often can't help because they put their jobs at risk if they ask for flexibility. This leaves women feeling pressured to choose between work and family."
Views of traditional roles have changed in society, there is more access to affordable childcare, and the general culture respecting work-life balance has improved. Still it can be difficult for people to achieve happiness on their journey to joy and meaning.

Cabrera analyzes what comprises happiness, moving from coping and striving to hoping and thriving.

To achieve meaning in their lives, people have four needs, according to researchers: purpose or a "life aim" with goals and objectives; values (as in the Navy's Core Values of honor, courage and commitment); "a feeling of self-efficacy" or control over one's life and "can choose to make a difference"; and self-worth, that they are good and deserving of success.

Cabrera shows various ways some women hold themselves back, but then she examines how women and men can rewire, especially by moving from negative to positive thinking.
"This means that intentionally saving what is good, holding positive experiences in your awareness a bit longer, can train your brain to focus on the good so that gratitude becomes part of your everyday thinking pattern. As you push yourself to look for what is positive and ignore small negative annoyances, you will replace your brain's natural tendency to focus on the negative with a preference for noticing the good. Over time, this will create new pathways, rewiring your brain to scan the environment for positives rather than negatives."
And it's not just about being mindful, grateful, hopeful and positive. Building on strengths, including natural talents, helps achieve and perpetuate success at work and at home. Smart leaders build to the strengths of the individuals on their teams, providing opportunities for their workforce to gravitate to what they enjoy doing at work. Smart parents encourage their children to excel in what they enjoy studying. A job is not work when it's something we enjoy.

More workplace advice in this small but packed book: sharing and trusting builds more trust, strengthening relationships creates a supportive network, and accepting mentors and sponsors can smooth a path for the journey upward. Yes, it's deceptively simple, but Dr. Cabrera provides the research to make these revelations more than just common sense.

Reading about the power of encouraging the team to take credit for individual achievements, I was reminded of a mentor and friend, former Command Master Chief Bill Holz, who likes this quote that's credited to President and Commander in Chief Ronald Reagan: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.”

As with many self-help books, there are personal and third-party examples here applying the advice. Some names in quotes or anecdotes include Oprah Winfrey, Lennon and McCartney, Viktor Frankl, Rachel Ray, Meryl Streep, Roy Disney, Tina Fey, Winston Churchill and Aristotle. Fey and Adelle share a common trait, "imposter syndrome," or a feeling of unworthiness, discussed in more detail on Cabrera's blog, Cabrera Insights.

Reading "Being Happy" I enjoyed discovering a "found haiku" in a quote from the Dalai Lama that introduces Part 2, Feeling Good:

happiness is not
something ready made; it comes
from your own actions

The whole "power of positive thinking" is made palatable for a new millennial generation, with specific, almost Zen-like, advice on how to stay positive:
"Clear benefits are associated with positive interactions, both for your personal relationships and for your success at work. So it is in your best interest to try to keep your interactions with others positive. Use supportive, affirmative language as often as you can. Give more compliments and limit your criticism. Don't nag. Look for what is good and mention that instead. Respond to people when they initiate a conversation. Ask to hear more and then listen with empathy. It takes a conscious effort to keep the balance of your interactions with others positive, but the effort can greatly enhance the quality of your relationships."
At just 149 pages, this well-written paperback is easy to read, and the advice is easy to apply at home and work. Although she doesn't do so here, we can see how her advice can help women and men in the military. The author, an organizational psychologist and senior scholar at George Mason University's Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, backs up her advice with more than 150 references to research, texts and journals.

This is a good and gentle guidebook for the journey toward a more joyful and meaningful life.

160313-N-HD670-076 VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (March 13, 2016) Builder 2nd Class Gafayat Moradeyo, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, greets her son and daughter on the flight line at Naval Base Ventura County following her return from deployment. The Seabees are returning following a regularly scheduled six-month deployment to the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations. While deployed, NMCB 3 conducted maintenance and infrastructure improvements at U.S. military facilities, provided exercise support, and employed construction civic action details in support of theater security and cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 3rd Class Stephen Sisler/Released)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

'In Europe's Shadow' – Between the Seas with Kaplan

Review by Bill Doughty

Happiness is a new Robert D. Kaplan book, even if it's filled with grim reflections. But wait – there's more...

Kaplan presents a large sweep of history Central and Eastern Europe as he captures a "perishable moment in time" in "In Europe's Shadow" (Random House, 2016). He looks back so we can look forward. Will Russia continue threatening its neighbors? Will the European Union survive?

Authoritarian Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu
Kaplan's personal but shared journal reflects on his travels through the Balkans and through time. He examines "Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond."

Naturally, the author of "Balkan Ghosts" and "The Revenge of Geography," begins with 14 pages of maps showing how Romania's borders changed over the centuries.

The Byzantine, Ottoman and Habsburg empires used the region as a punching bag, as did Communists and fascists more recently, especially Stalin-like Nicolae Ceausescu, who took "eminent domain" to another level as part of a "drumroll of violent catastrophes."

Cold War shortages and depressed lives loom in Kaplan's earlier visits to the region.
"Soon the bread and fuel lines began ... The silence of the streets was devastating as I alighted from the bus with my backpack on Strada Academiei. The city had been reduced to a vast echo. There were few cars, and everyone was dressed in the same shapeless coats and furry hats that evoked internal exile somewhere on the eastern steppe. People clutched cheap jute bags in expectation of stale bread. I looked at their faces: nervous, shy, clumsy, calculating, heartrending, as if they were struggling to master the next catastrophe. Those clammy complexions seemed as if they had never seen the sunlight."
Kaplan introduces us to another authoritarian nationalist and mass-murderer who preceded Ceausescu by a generation, Marshal Ion Antonescu.

Antonescu's Romania "was Adolph Hitler's second most important Axis ally after Benito Mussolini's Italy." Antonescu contributed more than half a million Romanian troops to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. "Antonescu's crimes against humanity are beyond adequate description," Kaplan writes.

Romania's Antonescu goes over war plans with Hitler.
He describes the violence and turmoil the people of Central Europe have faced during wars, crusades and empire-building. The Ottomans enforced edicts of fratricide to ensure sovereignty, castration to maintain a palace corps of eunuchs, and slavery and forced conversion to Islam.

Today, Romania is a victim of geography after the "eruption of a new Cold War in 2014," according to Kaplan, who reports that Poland and Turkey ("ironically the former Ottoman enemy") are Romania's most capable regional allies, according to Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta. 

Kaplan writes, "Men in high positions of power in Bucharest labored under the knowledge that the average Romanian would never again accept a border with Russia – but if Ukraine were ever overrun, that would be Romania's fate."
"Precisely because Romania was historically a victim of geography, nobody here dismissed geopolitics. And geopolitics, in a variation of Polish statesman Jozef Piludski's 1920s concept of an Intermarium ("between the seas"), demanded the re-creation of a belt of independent states between the Baltic and Black seas, to guard against Russian expansion westward. On this visit to Bucharest, I constantly had maps and pipeline routes thrust at me."
Vlad "the Impaler" Dracula
Kaplan reflects on people who have influenced the region – or influenced his thinking about Cold War Europe: Isaiah Berlin, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Reagan, George Shultz, Kissinger, and (more than 500 years ago) "Vlad the Impaler," Vlad Tepes Dracula, who was the inspiration for Irish writer Bram Stoker's vampire novel.

Great thinkers and writers are mentioned throughout "Shadow": Voltaire, Lord Byron, Camus, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Herman Melville, Hannah Arendt and Elie Wiesel.

But the famous are sometimes overshadowed by the obscure.

Marinuta (left) is among international leaders the Army honored at Fort Leavenworth in 2011.
In Moldova, the "poorest country in Europe, behind Albania even," Kaplan interviews Vitalie Marinuta, defense minister from 2009 to 2014, who "personified the robust investment of the West and the United States in this part of the world. Marinuta studied at Lackland Air Force Base, Fort Leavenworth and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. before being assigned to Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

Kaplan expresses his apprehension for Moldova, whose army numbers only 5,000 soldiers. Moldova's air force is only a few helicopters. The country faces an autocratic Russia after the annexation of Crimeria. "I feared for Moldova ... I worried that Moldova had a future in the headlines," Kaplan writes.
"Were Moldova to fall into hostile hands, Ukraine would be threatened, for Moldova combined with Transdniestria occupies what I like to term the Pontic Breach, the hinterland of the Black Sea that offers and invasion route to (or from) the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Just as the North European Plain – Poland, Belarus, and the Baltic States – comprises the northern invasion route between Europe and Russia, the Pontic Breach comprises the southern invasion route."
The author is an unabashed supporter of the European Union.
"If the European Union crumbled, there was only unbridled German power, exclusivist ethnic nationalism, and the dementia of ideologies. To wit, Russia was now a threat not because it was Russia essentially, but because Putin's neo-czarist oil and gas empire had reduced geopolitics to the zero-sum factor of ethnicity."
Is Russia a threat to Central and Eastern Europe?
"For years I had passionately countered that the Russians, taking advantage of Europe's fiscal woes, were attempting to buy banks and electricity grids, oil refineries, and natural gas transportation networks, in addition to other infrastructure, even as they extended their energy pipeline network throughout the former Soviet satellite states. Meanwhile, a financially weakened Europe had less political capital to draw countries like Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine closer into its fold, in exchange for social and economic reforms."
But "In Europe's Shadow" is not all geopolitics and depressing post-imperialist, post-Communist history. This journal is filled with bits of analysis, introspection, beauty, philosophy and sage advice about life:

"You don't grow up gradually. You grow up in short bursts at pivotal moments, by suddenly realizing how ignorant and immature you are."

"New surroundings prompt forgetfulness of old ones, and thus speed up the passage of time."

Predicting the future "is impossible, for so much depends not only on impersonal forces like geography and technology, but on the actions of individuals – themselves motivated often by the disfiguring whirlwinds of passion."

"Travel and serious reading, because they demand sustained focus, stand athwart the nonexistent attention spans that deface our current time on Earth."

"Travel is linear – It is about one place or singular perception or book at a time, each one etched deep into memory, so as to change your life forever..."

Reading this book is like finding Kaplan's diary left behind in some train station in the Balkans. You sit and read his personal reflections, insights, anger and love, half-hoping Kaplan will walk in to reclaim his journal so you can ask him more about what he's seen between the seas of time.

Kaplan's travel writing sometimes brings Mark Twain to mind. Both know how to convert monochrome to high-resolution color.
"From Cluj I drove north into Maramures, which had the calm purity and femininity of a New Testament landscape ... Each tree as he would say was a hieroglyph, speaking so much with just a few lines, and with wine and gold on its breath as the autumn advanced. How distinct the colors were! We think of the past in black-and-white because of the state of photography at the time. But the past before the age of smokestack economies was even richer in primary colors than the world of today. And in Maramures, mountainous isolation had meant a degree of safety from the environmental ravages of Communism. In the glistening swards, the hayricks took on a remote, prehistoric quality. Fruit orchards and flower beds abounded. Nothing in this landscape was unnecessary. I thought not of painting but of music: Saint-Saens, Debussy, with their spare and haunting notes, touching you for moments after. There was such abundance yet concision everywhere."
Another pleasure in "Shadow" is reading about Kaplan's love of books. It's how this book opens, and references to great authors and their works are listed throughout. As this insightful book comes to a close, Kaplan finds himself "looking out over the glittering Danube between the neo-Gothic towers" and reaching for a book: Cambridge University professor Brendan Simms's "Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy from 1453 to the Present."

"The printed book was still for me the greatest expression of art," he concludes.

Robert D. Kaplan is a visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, and a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. 

Tom Brokaw, author of "The Greatest Generation," calls this book "a masterly work of important history, analysis, and prophecy about the ancient and modern rise of Romania as a roundabout between Russia and Europe ... I learned something new on every page."