Monday, October 8, 2018

Navy SEALs, Pixar, Spurs and Storied Cultures

Review by Bill Doughty

Former Marine Al Haynes had the controls of United Airlines 232 out of Denver heading for Chicago when he and first engineer and flight engineer heard an explosion – the tail engine had blown. "Shrapnel had sliced the main and backup hydraulic control lines through which the pilots operated the rudder, ailerons, and wing flaps." The pilots could not fly the plane and seemingly could not land.

Tail section of the DC-10 after UA-232 crashed July 10,, 1989.
The plane danced and porpoised thousands of feet each minute, wobbling above Iowa. Attendants moved through the cabin and tried to restore calm. In the cockpit Haynes and his first officer wrestled with controls, fighting a complete hydraulic failure.

Fortunately for the crew and passengers (185 people in all), United pilot trainer Denny Fitch happened to be aboard. He offered his help: "Tell me what you want, and I'll help you." Captain Haynes welcomed his and others' input: "Anybody have any ideas?" The team communicated in short bursts, called notifications.

The open, honest communication and willingness to express vulnerability built a team able to tackle the unbelievable challenge they faced. "They chose routes, calculated descent rates, prepared for evacuation, and even cracked jokes." Through it all, Captain Haynes remained calm and cool.

As they attempted to land Flight 232, "A wingtip dipped and dug into the runway, sending the plane into a fiery cartwheel. The crash was terrible, but 185 people survived, including the entire crew. Some walked out of the wreckage into a cornfield. The survival of so many passengers was termed a miracle."

This chicken-skin true story of an event that occurred nearly 30 years ago is one of several great stories and numerous examples presented in "The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups" by Daniel Coyle (Bantam Books, 2018). The stories reinforce Coyle's points.
"What matters is telling the story. We tend to use the word 'story' casually, as if stories and narratives were ephemeral decorations for some unchanging underlying reality. The deeper neurological truth is that stories do not cloak reality but create it, triggering cascades of perception and motivation. The proof is in brain scans: When we hear a fact, a few isolated areas of our brain light up, translating words and meanings. When we hear a story, however, our brain lights up like Las Vegas, tracing the chains of cause, effect, and meaning. Stories are not just stories, they are the best invention ever created for delivering mental models that drive behavior."
Coyle's great examples and the quality of his storytelling show not only how one person can make a difference, but also how a group can come together to excel. He discovers and shares how to foster trust, keep people close, make connections and build belonging in a group. He reveals why it's important for leaders to be humble, honest, gracious and good listeners.

Examples include NBA coach Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and NCAA coaches John Wooden (UCLA) and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke). Coyle references former USS Benfold CO Michael Abrashoff, author of "It's Your Ship," who made a concerted effort to listen to every crew member and get their perspectives and suggestions. We are reminded of the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol crisis and how a corporation responded correctly to a crisis by sticking to its credo to always do the right thing: Core values.

Coach Greg Popovich (second row, second from left) and San Antonio Spurs visit with staff and Wounded Warriors at Brooke Army Hospital, Oct. 21, 2015.
Coyle compares the cultures of two seemingly related groups, Air Force Minuteman missileers and Navy submariners aboard nuclear-powered submarines.

The missileers "are part of a system designed in the late 1940s by General Curtis LeMay, a larger-than-life figure..." Coyle rolls out a litany of failures over the past decade-plus. "Everyone agrees that missileer culture is broken," he writes.
"It's useful to contrast the missileers' dysfunctional culture with that of their navy counterparts who work in nuclear submarines. At first glance, the two groups seem roughly similar: Both spend vast amounts of time isolated from the rest of society, both are tasked with memorizing and executing tedious protocols, and both are oriented toward Cold War nuclear deterrence missions whose time has passed. Where they differ, however, is in the density of the belonging cues in their respective environments. Sailors in submarines have close physical proximity, take cpart in purposeful activity (global patrols that include missions beyond deterrence), and are part of a career pathway that can lead to the highest positions in the navy. Perhaps as a result, the nuclear submarine fleet has thus far mostly avoided the kinds of problems that plague the missileers, and in many cases have developed high-performing cultures."
Leaders must understand the importance of trust and proximity to achieve group cohesion, creativity and toughness. Good organizations value their history, heritage and artifacts.

SEAL training in TRIDENT 18-4 July 7.  (Photo bySSgt Corban Lundborg)
Coyle talks to Navy SEALs and Pixar executives and shows how their common approaches to building teams and creating the right environment contribute to mission success. "Showing fallibility is crucial." "Support, save, trust, listen." "Rank switched off, humility switched on."

This book is filled with military and civilian stories of how to build and maintain a team in order to meet a mission.

WWII veterans of USS Indiana (BB 58) salute at commissioning of Navy's 16th Virginia-Class fast-attack submarine USS Indiana (SSN 789), Sept. 29. 
Retired Navy SEAL CO Rich Diviney, director of outreach for the Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute, endorses "The Culture Code," saying, "Daniel Coyle has a gift for demystifying elite performance and breaking it down into empirical facts. This book is indispensable for anyone looking to lead, built, or find and elite culture." 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Marvel at this Navy Superhero: Don Winslow

Review by Bill Doughty

Thank goodness for Naval Institute Press and Dead Reckoning! They have revived the nearly forgotten comic book hero from the 30s, 40s and 50s in "The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy, A Collection of High-Seas Stories from Comics' Most Daring Sailor," edited by Craig Yoe (Dead Reckoning, 2018).

Super clean, incorruptible, invincible, multi-talented and always-serious avenger Don Winslow goes on adventures against Nazis, crime lords, pirates, The Scorpion (and his sidekick "Rubberface"), Long Hair (with his elaborate combover pompadour and mullet), and the notorious Singapore Sal:
"The wily wench known as Singapore Sal is as slippery as an electric eel and twice as shocking! Don't miss her next encounter with Don Winslow!"
My favorite evil criminal, though, is The Snake, who appears to be nine feet tall but weigh 90 pounds, built like Lowly Worm and capable of bending like a pipe cleaner.

Don Winslow, usually with his Robin-like sidekick, Red Pennington, and most often in a button-down service dress uniform tackles a sea monster, climbs Mt. Everest, fights corruption, clears mines, defeats kidnappers, locks up spies, and takes on a tribe of giant super-model-like cannibalistic Amazon women:
"They say that woman is the weaker sex, but when Don Winslow and Red Pennington wind up on Amazon Island, they find it's quite a different story ... and this is it!"
Of course, how Winslow defeats the cannibals, who are about to make a meal out of Red Pennington, is cringeworthy in its chauvinism yet revealing of the time. I won't ruin it for you but it has to do with vanity being able to bring down anyone in power.

Winslow with fists seemingly made of iron (and asbestos) can fight his way out of fires, armed enemy fighters, and even against a polar bear:
"The ominous perils of the spine-chilling Arctic outstretch icy talons to trap Don Winslow in an epic struggle against the elements in the Arctic Expedition!"
Don Winslow was the creation of Lt. Cmdr. Frank Victor Martinek, USNR, a former FBI agent and executive at Standard Oil and a national director and chairman of publicity for the Navy League of the United States, an organization set up by President Theodore Roosevelt.

One hundred years ago, 1918, Martinek, who had been stationed in Washington D.C. decoding encrypted messages, was promoted to command the intelligence division of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet in Siberia, helping Russia, then an ally of the United States.

After reading a Popeye comic strip in a newspaper, Martinek wanted to create a serious and action-oriented character involved in intelligence work to help with Navy's recruitment efforts. His character Don Winslow would eventually serve in both the Navy and Coast Guard, and apparently in all type commands; flying aircraft, operating submarines and driving boats and ships. Winslow appeared in comics, compilation books and in movie serials. Will he once more attract the attention of Hollywood?

At the beginning of this carefully curated compilation Yoe offers a fascinating history of the Fawcett-, Detective- (DC), and Marvel-inspired/influenced Don Winslow of the Navy.
"From time to time the Lt. Commander [Martinek] would also claim that he consciously created Don Winslow to warn of the growing threat of war, to, in his words, 'arouse America to the danger that threatened us from the Aleutians to the China sea.' In 1919, Martinek had begun writing a series of articles for the Chicago Daily News warning of Japan's desire for world domination, but his musings were ignored or written off. On another occasion, he added, 'Unless selfishness, greed, and intolerance – living by the code of I, me, and mine – are destroyed and replaced by mutual understanding, faith, and fraternal helpfulness, there will continue to be wars and America must be prepared for any eventuality.' He claimed he saw the comic strip as a better way to get his message across. 'Besides its entertainment value, the illustrated story, or so-called comic strip, can serve as a medium for distributing messages of vital importance to all of us,' Martinek said."
Martinek and a team of artists and collaborators created a hero with core values who until now was lost in the dim light of the last century.

But, as Yoe says, "Here we are at long last, ready to rectify the mistake that left Don Winslow a forgotten hero! Valor, righteousness, the intelligence, the unwavering patriotism, and selflessness of the ideal Navy man." 

According to Gary Thompson, Dead Reckoning's Assistant Acquisitions Editor and Graphic Novel Lead, "This is one of the first books to come out from Dead Reckoning, the new graphic novel imprint from the Naval Institute Press. We publish fiction and nonfiction with a  special focus on military history, history, and stories of the high seas. For years we have worked to develop this imprint to bring a unique voice to the graphic novel market, and to give creators a home for stories they have long thought were unwanted. With this book and the others coming out in our debut catalog, I believe we are taking the right steps to achieve that goal."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

McRaven's Relative Superiority / Six Principles

Review by Bill Doughty

Adm. (ret.) William H. McRaven believes in six special warfare principles of success. His theory of special operations, based on the six principles, can achieve "relative superiority" in combat.

Forty years ago – 1978 – McRaven became a Navy SEAL. He achieved a pinnacle as a special operations warrior as commander of the United States Special Operations Command in August 8, 2011. That year he oversaw Operation Neptune's Spear that captured and killed Osamu bin Laden. 

Fifteen years before that operation McRaven wrote "Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare, Theory and Practice" (Presidio Press, 1995).

The book uses six World War II case studies and two events in the 70s, written with clarity, detail and suspense, Tom Clancy-like, to illustrate how and why the theory of special ops works. Small teams, following the six principles, can prevail despite fortifications, in the face of greater numbers, and despite the inevitable hardships and challenges facing attackers.
"The theory states that special operations forces are able to achieve relative superiority over the enemy if they prepare a special plan, which is carefully concealed, repeatedly and realistically rehearsed, and executed with surprise, speed and purpose. Once relative superiority is achieved, the attacking force is no longer at a disadvantage and has the initiative to exploit the enemy's defenses and secure victory. Although gaining relative superiority does not guarantee success, no special operation can succeed without it. Consequently, by demonstrating how special operations forces achieve relative superiority, the theory can help explain the success or failure of a mission."
McRaven channels thinkers and theorists like Herman Kahn, B.H. Liddell Hart and especially Carl von Clausewitz. Frictions, as described by Clausewitz, can be minimized if a team applies McRaven's six principles: simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed and purpose.

  • Simplicity: Less is more. Limit objectives. Incorporate intelligence and be agile and open to innovation.
  • Security: Conceal timing and details/methods of the operation.
  • Repetition: "Routine hones those tactical skills to a degree that allows quick reaction to a threat..."
  • Surprise: Deception causes confusion. Timing needs to be carefully planned to take maximum advantage of the enemy's vulnerabilities. 
  • Speed: Relative superiority is achieved in the first few minutes of an operation. Time is measured in seconds and minutes.
  • Purpose: "Purpose is understanding and then executing the prime objective of the mission regardless of emerging obstacles or opportunities." Two aspects of purpose: It's clearly defined (focused) and there's personal commitment by all participants.

A German DFS 230 glider, used in special operations in World War II.
"The case studies span time and nationality and are not subject to trends in military thought or practice," writes McRaven. The principles are organized in three phases: planning, preparation and execution.

In the execution phase he takes us inside British X-craft midget submarines, aboard German WWII giant glider planes and into dictator Idi Amin's Uganda.

The Raid on Entebbe and the attack on Germany's battleship Tirpitz, are edge-of-the-seat highlights in this book that demonstrates the need for reasoning and critical thinking.

We read about Adm. John S. McCain II being notified of a raid on Son Tay POW camp on Nov. 21, 1970, during the Vietnam War. One hundred and sixteen aircraft participated in the attempt to rescue POWs thought to be at the camp just west of Hanoi. U.S. Navy ships of Carrier Task Force 77 provided a textbook diversionary raid:

"It is estimated that twenty SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) were fired at the force, but no casualties were sustained. It was later reported that 'the density of the Navy operations in the Gulf of Tonkin [during the Son Tay raid] was the most extensive Navy night operation of the SEA [Southeast Asia] conflict.'"

Yoni Netanyahu, hero of Entebbe rescue.
Israel's bold extraction of more than 100 hostages, led by brave Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu, is considered the "best example yet of how the principles of special operations are used to achieve relative superiority," McRaven concludes. The account is dramatic:
"One of the Israelis, Amir, was the first man into the terminal. He penetrated through the second door of the main hall. inside was a large, well-lit room where all the hostages were lying on the floor. A terrorist, who had been lying on the other side of the door, fired a burst from his Kalashnikov but miraculously missed Amir. Amir returned fire. His rounds sliced through the door and killed the terrorist instantly. As trained, Amir turned right and cleared his side of the room. Behind Amir came another commando, who turned left and picked up coverage on the other side of the room. As the second commando entered, he saw two terrorists lying on the floor to his left, their rifles trained on Amir. Immediately he fired and both terrorists were killed."
A British captain aboard an austere X-craft mini submarine.
Loaded with maps, diagrams, photos (including collected by the author), and crisp prose, this book is a highly recommended textbook on strategy for military leaders. 

Early in "Spec Ops" he makes a key point about sustaining relative superiority. "The ability to sustain relative superiority frequently requires the intervention of courage, intellect, boldness and perseverance, or what Clausewitz calls the moral factors."

McRaven shows how the lessons of history apply to strategy and tactics to educate future generations.

After his distinguished career, Adm. McRaven served from 2015 to 2018 as the chancellor of The University of Texas System. He is the author of "Make Your Bed," featured last year on Navy Reads.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

'F-Word' Questions

Review by Bill Doughty

Our answers to ten questions can provide "reassurance or a warning we dare not ignore," says Madeleine Albright, author of "Fascism: A Warning" (Harper Collins, 2018).

Albright tracks the ebb and flow of fascism, "the F-word" she says, through history – taking root in modern times in the fertile period of discontent and upheaval between the two World Wars in the 1920s and 30s. 

Italian Mussolini arose in the Fasces movement, born nearly 100 years ago and modeled after concepts from the Roman Empire. Their symbol was a "fasces," a tight bundle of sticks with an eagle-headed scepter tied with an axe, an implement carried by Roman consuls. Germany's Hitler and Mussolini, at first, marched in lockstep.

Albright, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who became U.S. Secretary of State, shows that fascism can come from either the right or the left. She identifies North Korea as an completely outright-fascist nation.

Another F-word: Fear

Fear is fascism's oxygen. "Fear is why fascism's emotional reach can extend to all levels of society," Albright says.

The America First movement in the late 1930s, founded in fear, culminated with the formation of the America First Committee in 1940. AFC "brought together pacifists, isolationists and Nazi sympathizers to fight against the country's prospective entry into World War II," she writes. "Four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Hitler declared war on the United States the AFC soon disbanded."

Chaplin as Hitler; Oakie as Mussolini in "The Dictator."
Albright gives poignant history of modern fascism, largely but not exclusively from a European perspective. We "meet" Mussolini and Hitler, and we come face to face with Venezuela's Chavez, North Korea's Kim Jong-il (who Albright met 20 years ago), Hungary's Orbán, Turkey's Erdogan, Duterte of the Philippines, and Russia's Putin, a man she describes as "small and pale, so cold as to be almost reptilian."

One way to fight fear and fascism is with fun, making fun of falsehoods by a cult of personality. That's what Charlie Chaplain did in the 1930s, helping Americans understand the flaws in Hitler's and Mussolini's vision and resulting idolatry of their followers.

Fight for Freedom

She also introduces us to heroes of freedom and true representational government who were willing to fight racism and fascism.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mandela
Consider South Africa's Nelson Mandela.
"(In 1962) Nelson Mandela began serving twenty-seven years, the prime of his life, in prison. His crime was to oppose the racist oppressors who had secured a monopoly on power and privilege in his country. The courageous dissident had a profound cause for grievance, a legitimate reason for bitterness, and thousands of days behind bars to cultivate hate. Instead he chose to spend time learning about the people who had put him in jail – the Afrikaners. He studied their language, history, resentments and fears. When the long-awaited day came and he was finally released, Mandela not only understood those who had thrown him into prison; he was able to communicate with them, find common ground with them, and – most astonishingly – lead them. As president, Mandela pushed back against the many in his party to wanted immediate justice for the multitude of wrongs done to members of the anti-apartheid movement. He appointed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that received testimony from all sides. Unlike so many, he found the trappings of high office eminently resistible and refused to stand for a second term."

We also meet a founder of an independent Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, a believer in constitutional democracy 100 years ago. Albright writes:
"In 1918, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was sworn in as president of an independent Czechoslovakia. With his erect bearing, old-world manners, modern outlook, and fearless commitment to democratic principles – including feminism and pluralism – Masaryk commanded a global reputation, despite the modest dimensions of the nation he led. Due to his age, his health declined even as the threat from the Third Reich grew – in the 1930s, no fully democratic nation was more endangered. His response, when asked to explain what was at stake: 'Democracy is not a form of state, it is not just something that is embodied in a constitution; democracy is a view of life, it requires a belief in human beings, in humanity ... I have already said that democracy is a discussion. But the real discussion is possible only if people trust each other and if they try fairly to find the truth.'" For all its shortcomings, there is no other form of government to which such words apply. It is up to us to remedy democracy's faults when and wherever we can, but never to forget the underlying strengths. Up to us, as well, to realize that democracy has enemies who do not advertise that fact."
Above all, Albright warns against complacency and taking our democracy for granted.

She notes the watershed event for Americans in the previous century as the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941 forcing the United States into a two-front war. That war ultimately defeated fascism in Imperial Japan and in Germany and Italy. In 2018 all three of these former enemies of liberty are free, prosperous and democratic societies.

Albright provides decades of examples of the rise of despotism that seem to chip away at democratic nations – away from, in her words, "the wisdom of Lincoln or Mandela's largeness of soul." "Lincoln and Mandela fought with monsters; neither became one."

Ten F-word Warnings + Five More

Her ten "right questions" to us are directed to current and potential leaders to identify and fend off fascism as it develops:
  • Do they cater to our prejudices by suggesting that we treat people outside our ethnicity, race, creed, or party as unworthy of dignity or respect?
  • Do they want us to nurture our anger toward those who we believe have done us wrong, rub raw our grievances, and set our sights on revenge?
  • Do they encourage us to have contempt for our governing institutions and the electoral process?
  • Do they seek to destroy our faith in essential contributors to democracy such as an independent press and a professional judiciary?
  • Do they exploit the symbols of patriotism – the flag, the pledge – in a conscious effort to turn us against one another?
  • If defeated at the polls, will they accept the verdict or insist without evidence that they have won?
  • Do they go beyond asking for our votes to brag about their ability to solve all problems, put to rest all anxieties, and satisfy every desire?
  • Do they solicit our cheers by speaking casually and with pumped up machismo about using violence to blow enemies away?
  • Do they echo the attitude of Mussolini: 'The crowd doesn't have to know,' all it has to do is believe and 'submit to being shaped'?
  • Or do they invite us to join with them in building and maintaining a healthy center for our societies, a place where rights and duties are apportioned fairly, the social contract is honored, and all have room to dream and grow?
She praises George W. Bush for his even-keeled rejection of fear and hate in the wake of 9/11. We are reminded of the late Sen. John McCain's honorable stance against racist hatred when he politely but firmly corrected a supporter who attempted to slander his opponent, Barack Obama. McCain's concession speech is a much-cited example of grace, humility, honor, courage and commitment to the Constitution.

Albright and McCain discuss the legacy of Czechoslovakia's late President Václev Havel at the Library of Congress in 2014.
Albright said this about McCain in a tribute published by BBC: "I will remember him as one of the most valiant, patriotic and dedicated public servants I've ever met, somebody who understood the honor of serving his country and who served his country with honor." Albright and McCain traveled to her country of birth, Czechoslovakia, in 1990 to monitor fair elections.

Former U.S. Navy POW John McCain; Sen. McCain's strategist Steve Schmidt
McCain's former Republican campaign strategist was Steve Schmidt.

Schmidt sees a simple formula that explains the rise of fascism wherever it occurs, threatening and sometimes ending democracies. 

Would-be strongmen, he says: (1) incite "fervor in a base through constant lying" + (2) scapegoat "minority populations" + (3) allege "conspiracies" + (4) spread "a sense of victimizations among those fervent supporters" + (5) assert "the need to exert heretofore unprecedented power" to protect the victim class from the scapegoated minority.

"Through all of history," Schmidt says, when totalitarianism rises and democracies fall, "you will find those five behaviors." Schmidt warns of leaders who use fear, falsehoods and fake pronouncements that they are above the law. He also warns of attacks on a free press and the rule of law.

Attacks on truth, justice, accountability and the free press are steps on the road to an acceptance of fascism.

How can we fend off fundamental attacks on freedom? By recognizing attempts to influence us with Orwellian attempts at creating hyper-nationalism through fear and feelings over critical thinking and reason.

A Final Word

Scholar and modern philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, author of "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind," "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" and "21 Lessons for the 21st Century," gives compelling advice for the Information Age in this TED talk: "Why fascism is so tempting -- and how your data could power it."

From TED Talks: 

"In a profound talk about technology and power, author and historian Yuval Noah Harari explains the important difference between fascism and nationalism – and what the consolidation of our data means for the future of democracy. Appearing as a hologram live from Tel Aviv, Harari warns that the greatest danger that now faces liberal democracy is that the revolution in information technology will make dictatorships more efficient and capable of control. 'The enemies of liberal democracy hack our feelings of fear and hate and vanity, and then use these feelings to polarize and destroy,' Harari says. 'It is the responsibility of all of us to get to know our weaknesses and make sure they don't become weapons.'"

Sunday, August 26, 2018

'The Acuity of Hindsight' John McCain

“I am the luckiest guy on earth. I have served America’s cause – the cause of our security and the security of our friends, the cause of freedom and equal justice – all my adult life. I haven’t always served it well. I haven’t even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by other interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past.

– from Sen. John McCain's remarks at the 2017 Liberty Medal Ceremony

John McCain on Navy Reads, including his "found haiku." 
Senator McCain was a Vietnam Veteran and former Prisoner of War. He was the son of two four-star admirals and an American patriot. McCain passed away Aug. 25, 2018, four days before his 82nd birthday.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Yin/Yang Truths of Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations

Review by Bill Doughty

Technology, information, cyber warfare, and operations in the littorals take the spotlight in the third edition of "Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations" by Capt. Wayne P. Hughes Jr., USN (Ret.) and Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier, USN (Ret.), with foreword by Adm. John Richardson, USN, Chief of Naval Operations (Naval Institute Press, 2018). 

We get the yin and yang of history/now, art/science, human/machine, and tactics/strategy, among other balanced tensions. 

Updated for modern combat in the information age, this edition is a must for any naval officer and strategist and is part of the Blue & Gold Professional Library, which includes classics such as the "Watch Officer's Guide" and "The Bluejacket's Manual."

Capt. Wayne P. Hughes Jr., USN (Ret.)
Author Hughes writes in the preface, "This book is not a comprehensive guide to all the lessons of twenty-first-century naval warfare, but anyone who reads it will be better equipped to reach sound conclusions about modern combat at sea."

Lessons in history come from the age of sail, Civil War, Mahan's golden age of tactics, World War II battles including Battle of Midway, and maritime operations through the Cold War. Modern revolutions include the influence of information, cryptography and cyberwarfare, new forms of deception and surprise, unmanned vehicles and countermeasures, artificial information, space satellites and tactical information warfare.

Expansion/compression: The book drops anchor on the tense intersection of an expanded battlefield (thanks to "greater weapon range and lethality") and compressed inshore operations (due to geography and "strictures of littoral warfare" resulting in "an explosive mixture of threats – from air, land, sea and undersea").

Old/young: The yin/yang applies to patience and wisdom of experienced seniors compared with the creative insights, confidence and skill of young leaders using new tools. The authors advise, "Preparing future Navy leaders for information warfare should start early."
"To add weight to the case for youth and the need for seniors to help them stay ahead in creativity we remind the reader of some combat leaders and the age when they achieved greatness: Napoleon was a general at age twenty-three, J.E.B. Stuart at age twenty-eight, and George Custer at age twenty-three; and Lt. W.B. Cushing was only twenty-two when he sank the CSS Albemarle. The list of past heroic military achievements by creative young men is a long one. Perhaps skill in information warfare among young men and women today is analogous to the talent exhibited early on by mathematicians and classical music composers. In both of these sharply contrasting professions the truly great ones made lasting contributions while still in their teens."
Sailors pull together at the Center for Information Warfare Training, Information Warfare Training Command Monterey. (Photo by YN1 David Lee)
Control/freedom: "To a person, strong military leaders want freedom for initiative from their seniors and reliability from the juniors," the authors write. "Good doctrine reduces the number of command decisions in the heat of battle, for even a cool head will be gripped by passion and, very quickly, bring emotional and physical exhaustion." "Doctrine must be whole and firm but not dogmatic."

Art/science; leader/follower; East/West:
"Some people emphasize war as a science, while others view it as an art. This book emphasizes the special qualities that commanders must have, which seem to historians or journalists to be instinctive, almost like a 'sixth sense.' An effective leader has the human qualities that brave, wise and inspiring leaders have displayed in the past. When these are present, the debate over whether war is an art or a science seems unimportant. Good practice is an art that grows from good theory that is more scientific. Both are necessary, but neither of them is sufficient by itself to explain the repeated successes of great tactical leaders such as Jervis, Nelson, Suffren, Togo, Spruance and Burke."
Fact/Fiction (truth is truth): The authors bring in examples presented in works of fiction by Erskine Childers, Tom Clancy and Peter Singer and August Cole. The third edition culminates in a fictional narrative by the authors to synthesize their points in an extended "The Battle of the Aegean." While the scenario is false, the principles remain true.

Strategist Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, former CNO.
Finally we get appendices on terminology and principles of war from Sun Tzu, Clauswitz and Mahan to Nimitz, Mao, Montgomery and Hayward, among others.

Here are some nuggets of wisdom spicing this very readable book:

  • "Tactics and technology (are) two sides of the same coin."
  • "Our ablest naval officers were tacticians who knew their technology."
  • "What is true in ground combat where machines serve human beings, is magnified at sea, where human beings serve machines."
  • "A fleet fights on the momentum of two flywheels. One is fleet doctrine; the other is stability in the fighting force."
  • "The first aim of every seagoing captain and commander should be to find two officers better than himself or herself and help in every way to prepare them for war. That done, everything else follows." 
  • "Ideas not communicated are seeds cast on rocks."

Prose/Poetry: Sun Tzu meets Nelson in this found haiku of their axioms: 

"The seat of purpose
is found on the land" ... ''a ship's 
a fool to fight a fort"

Information warfare tactics inform the truths of strategy and policy, according to the CNO in the book's foreword. 

"Tactics are inextricably linked to strategy and policy," Adm. Richardson writes. "The Information Age is upon us and has dramatically changed everything, including naval warfare and fleet tactics."

In Richardson's words, "This update is a timely 'kick' to remind us to rig for sea and get underway."

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 28, 2018) An MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, right, conducts underway operations with an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter and the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). The Fire Scout variant is expected to deploy with the LCS class to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness and precision targeting support. Coronado is working with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 to test the newest Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison/Released)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

John McCain: The Bell Tolls

Review by Bill Doughty

The bell tolls for John McCain.

He says so in "The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations" (Simon & Schuster, 2018), a book mentioned last May in "The Found Haiku of John McCain."

Senator McCain, a Navy veteran and former POW, calls for civility, humility and compassion in this heartfelt memoir. He opens the book with "accumulated memories" while attending the Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony on December 7, 1991 on the 50th anniversary of the attack; he attended with fellow senators Bob Dole and Dan Inouye. President George H. W. Bush delivered remarks.

Among Bush's remarks were these words: "World War II also taught us that isolationism is a bankrupt notion. The world does not stop at our water's edge. And perhaps above all, that real peace, real peace, the peace that lasts, means the triumph of freedom, not merely the absence of war."

Vice Adm. John S. McCain Sr., the senator's grandfather.
"That day, we watched two thousand Pearl Harbor survivors march to honor their fallen," McCain writes. In recent years only a relative handful of survivors are able to attend the ceremony in Pearl Harbor.

Among his accumulated memories: the service and sacrifices of his grandfather, father, mother (matriarch of a military family) and other family members and friends. Many of his closest friends were fellow prisoners of war and other Vietnam veterans.

"I feel the weight of memories even more now, of course," he writes in "The Restless Wave."

John Donne
Written with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, McCain cites several times both Hemingway's war novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and the lines of prose by John Donne that inspired Hemingway's title:
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."
Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in 1954 for "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
John McCain will turn 82 this August 29. Now, as he reflects on a life well-lived in "The Restless Wave," he calls for greater concern for the civil rights of those he considers less fortunate than himself.
"I believe the United States has a special responsibility to champion human rights in all places, for all peoples, and at all times. I've believed that all my life. I was raised to believe it, to see it in the examples of gallantry put before me, in the histories and novels and poems I was encouraged to read, in the conduct of the heroes I admired, those to whom I was related or knew personally, and those who were commended to me. I am a democratic internationalist, a proud one, and have been all my public life. I could have been nothing else given my role models and influences. I took from Hemingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' that defending the dignity of others is never a lost cause whether you succeed or not. And I thrill to the exhortation in the poem that inspired the novel, to be 'part of the main,' to be 'involved in mankind.'"
McCain reflects on his experience in the Senate – as the Navy's liaison while still on active duty – to his fights "with and against" Ted Kennedy. He recounts his stand against torture,  experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, position on Putin and pivotal vote to save the Affordable Care Act.

Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy.
Defending dignity is at the core of Americans' national identity, McCain writes. "The right to life and liberty, to be governed by consent and ruled by laws, to have equal justice and protection of property ... and it is fidelity to them – not ethnicity or religion, culture or class – that makes one an American." Our creed "gave us a purpose in the world greater than self-interest."

Consider that perspective this weekend on the first anniversary of the murder of a civil rights activist by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Humility," McCain writes, "is the self-knowledge that you possess as much inherent dignity as anyone else, and not one bit more." He approaches the issue of immigration with humility, offering practical and compassionate solutions as he acknowledges the problems of illegal immigration and the challenges of border control but balanced with an understanding of the causes and a humane response.

Common themes throughout "Wave" are reasoned humility and a principled tough stand for human rights.
"Human rights are not our invention. They don't represent standards from which particular cultures or religions can be exempted. They are universal. They exist above the state and beyond history. They cannot be rescinded by one government any more than they can be granted by another ... Human rights advocacy isn't naive idealism. It's the truest kind of realism. Statesmen who think that all that really matters in international relations is how governments treat each other are wrong. The character of states can't be separated from their conduct in the world. Governments that protect the rights of their citizens are more likely to play a peaceful, constructive role in world affairs. Governments that are unjust, that cheat, lie, steal, and use violence against their own people are more likely to do the same to other nations."
McCain talks tough about the dangers posed by authoritarian leaders, including Russia's Putin, who he met and spoke with several times over the years. McCain warns specifically of "Russia's nostalgia for empire" after the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union.

"Resentment and humiliation spread in Russia in the chaos, dislocation, and corruption of the erratic Yeltsin years, and eased the way for that striving, resentful KGB colonel, who seems to feel those emotions sharply and, to borrow an observation from 'Game of Thrones,' used chaos as a ladder," he writes.

McCain describes a fascinating interaction with Putin at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. While still on active duty, McCain first attended the conference in 1970 when he was Navy liaison to the Senate. In 2007, in the face of a fiery rhetorical attack on the United States, McCain responded with quiet resolve: "The United States did not singlehandedly win the Cold War in some unilateral victory," he told Putin and the European conference attendees. "The transatlantic alliance won the Cold War."

In "Wave" McCain recounts his interaction with Bill Browder, whose Russian lawyer, Sergei Manitsky, 37-year-old father of two, was arrested under Putin's orders and beaten to death by eight prison guards and orderlies. McCain, along with Representative Jim McGovern, Senator Ben Cardin and "a long list of co-sponsors," introduced what would become the Global Magnitsky Act calling for sanctions against Russian oligarchs, among others.

Profiles in Courage: Sen. John McCain meets with Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Putin's reaction to the Magnitsky Act likely contributed directly to Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

McCain reflects on human rights in his discussion of Ukrainian independence and threats to Balkan states by Putin's Russia.

He invokes Martin Luther King's "'the fierce urgency of now,' the transformational moment when aspirations for freedom must be realized, when the voice of a movement can't be stilled, when the heart's demands will not stand further delay."  Human rights is at the forefront in his interactions with leaders and dissidents in dozens of countries:
"I have done what little I can to stand in solidarity with forces of change in countries aligned with us and opposed to us, in Russia, in Ukraine, in Georgia and Moldova, in China, in Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, in Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, in Cuba, Nicaragua, in Zimbabwe and South Africa, [in Burma (Myanmar)], and wherever else people fighting for their human rights wanted our help. I've protested killings, torture, and imprisonments. I worked to sanction oppressive regimes. I've encouraged international pressure on the worst offenders. I've helped secure support for people building the framework of an open society. I've monitored elections, consoled the families of political prisoners, worried about the risk-takers and mourned their deaths. I've gotten more from them than they've gotten from me. I've gotten their hope, their faith, and their friendship."
He devotes one of his ten chapters to the Arab Spring and laments the situation in Syria:
"As of today, as the Syrian war continues, more than 400,000 people have been killed, many of them civilians. More than five million have fled the country and more than six million have been displaced internally. A hundred years from now, Syria will likely be remembered as one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of the twenty-first century, and an example of human savagery at its most extreme. But it will be remembered, too, for the invincibility of human decency and the longing for freedom and justice evident in the courage and selflessness of the White Helmets and the soldiers fighting for their country's freedom from tyranny and terrorists. In that noblest of human conditions is the eternal promise of the Arab Spring, which was engulfed in flames and drowned in blood, but will, like all springs come again."
One of the best parts of this memoir is the final chapter, where McCain reflects with humble poetic insight about family, home, friendship, service and true patriotism as the bell tolls:

"'The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,' spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.' And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don't have a complaint. Not one. It's been a great ride," McCain writes.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Bubbles of 'Factfulness' – Thinking Right

Review by Bill Doughty

In "Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think" (Flatiron Books, 2018) author Hans Rosling sets out to help the way we think and counter "fake news," "gaslighting," repetitious name-calling, media distortions and conspiracy theories.

Rosling shows ways to achieve critical thinking and reliance on facts over fear.

Perception may not equal reality, and reality can be distorted if seen only from one viewpoint. Rosling uses his Gapminder bubble charts to analyze data and understand our world and world trends.

"If you are interested in being right than in continuing to live in your bubble; if you are willing to change your worldview; if you are ready for critical thinking to replace instinctive reaction; and if you re feeling humble, curious and ready to be amazed – then please read on," Rosling writes early in "Factfulness."

With his unique tools, made famous in TED talks, Rosling reports remarkable progress in the world in these categories: infant mortality, immunizations, literacy and democracy, among many others. Overpopulation is coming under control as the world becomes more prosperous and parents have an average of two children that can be depended on to survive childhood.

An example of progress: reduction of nuclear warheads in the world from 64,000 in the mid 80s to around 15,000 in 2017. Plane crash deaths fell over the past century – from 2,100 per 10 billion passenger miles (1929-1933) to only one (2012-2016); global cooperation has led to 40 million non-crashing aircraft. Deaths from disasters are down from 971,000 a year in the 1930s to about 72,000 a year in this decade.

Prosperity is up, and war is way down over the past century. Rosling showed 200 years of progress in the world more than a decade ago:

Continued prosperity and security in the world is a goal of the Navy's biggest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC.

The about-to-be-completed Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2018 has been held biennially to build understanding, preserve peace and promote prosperity throughout the Pacific through cooperative naval partnerships. Most of RIMPAC is held in Hawaiian waters, and this year 25 nations participated. Navy ships assembled to form the multinational fleet for a photo exercise off the coast of Hawaii July 26. (Photos above and below by MC3 Dylan Kinee.)

"There are different uniforms, different faces, and different cultures, but we share a common purpose here at RIMPAC," said Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. John C. Aquilino. "Those countries are investing in the security and stability in this maritime region that has allowed all nations to enjoy unprecedented prosperity for decades."

Preserving peace, Rosling postulates, is key to a sustainable future.
"The general trend toward less violence is not just one more improvement. It is the most beautiful trend there is. The spread of peace over the last decades has enabled all the other improvements we have seen. We must take care of this fragile gift if we hope to achieve our other noble goals, such as collaboration toward a sustainable future. Without world peace, you can forget about all other global progress."
He distinguishes between unproductive fear (being frightened) and focused fear (about something truly dangerous).
"...'Frightening' and 'dangerous' are two different things. Something frightening poses a perceived risk. Something dangerous poses a real risk. Paying too much attention to what is frightening rather than what is dangerous – that is, paying too much attention to fear – creates a tragic drainage of energy in the wrong directions ... I would like my fear to be focused on the mega dangers of today and not the dangers from our evolutionary past."
Transit routes are expected to change, according to climate change scientists. (U.S. Navy)
"Five global risks we should worry about," Rosling says, are "risks of global pandemic, financial collapse, world war, climate change and extreme poverty."

He says Al Gore was wrong for wanting to fan the flames of fear of global warming, as if climate change is an immediate threat. "Climate change is too important for that," Rosling writes. "It needs systematic analysis, thought-through decisions, incremental action, and careful evaluation." In other words, not dire warnings of impending catastrophe. 

Once we understand the risks to the environment we can adjust our behavior. Change may appear slow but it's change nevertheless.

We've changed our collective behavior before. Aluminum cans used to have pull-tab flip tops. Plastic straws are going the way of smoking in the workplace. The Navy takes extraordinary steps to keep plastic out of the ocean. Communities are encouraging use of renewable shopping bags.

In 1986, 193 countries allowed lead in gasoline; in 2017, only three countries did so, according to Rosling. The use of ozone-depleting substances worldwide dropped tremendously in the past fifty years. PV solar modules that cost $66 in 1976, were 60 cents in 2016.

Some bubbles are frightening and dangerous, Rosling says. "In a globalized world, the consequences of financial bubbles are devastating. They can crash the economies of entire countries and put huge numbers of people out of work, creating disgruntled citizens looking for radical solutions."
"The simple and beautiful idea of the free market can lead to the simplistic idea that all problems have a single cause – government interference – which we must always oppose; and that the solution to all problems is to liberate market forces by reducing taxes and removing regulations, which we must always support. Alternatively, the simple and beautiful idea of equality can lead to the simplistic idea that all problems are caused by inequality, which we should always oppose; and that the solution to all problems is redistribution of resources, which we should always support. It saves a lot of time to think like this ... But it's not so useful if you like to understand the world."
Rosling's prescription: Be humble, be curious and be willing to put your instincts up against the data. Be open to being open and accepting of others – and reject evolutionary-based binary thinking. Understand that perspective can change our understanding or reality.

There is no positive value in "us and them" viewpoints, Rosling says, or "the mega misconception that the world is divided into two."

Rosling tells revealing and personal stories of his lifetime of public service as a physician in Africa and other continents. He reflects on visiting Vietnam in 1987. "The Vietnam War was the Syrian war of my generation," he writes.

During his visit to Hanoi, Rosling asked colleague Dr. Niem to show him the monument to the Vietnam War that killed 58,000 Americans and 1.5 million Vietnamese.

These monuments tell the story of Vietnam's constant battle to keep its northern neighbor, China. (from
He was shown three monuments: the first, a brass plate three feet high to commemorate the "Resistance War Against America"; the second, a marble stone, 12 feet high to commemorate independence from two centuries of French colonial rule; and the third, "a large pagoda, covered in gold. It seemed about 300 feet high," a monument to Vietnam's wars with China.
"The wars with China had lasted, on and off, for 2,000 years. The French occupation had lasted 200 years. The 'Resistance War Against America' took only 20 years. The sizes of the monuments put things in perfect proportion. It was only by comparing them that I could understand the relative insignificance of 'the Vietnam War' to the people who now live in Vietnam."
The new perspective and understanding of the tragedy of war in Southeast Asia 50 years ago is demonstrated in new relationship-building with former enemies. Vietnam is a first-time participant in RIMPAC 2018.

Germany, Italy and Japan, by the way – our mortal enemies 75 years ago – are reliable Allies and partners and RIMPAC participants today.
"My whole life I have done all I can to establish relations with people in other countries and cultures," Rosling writes. "It's not only fun but also necessary to strengthen the global safety net against the terrible human instinct for violent retaliation and the worst evil of all: war."
Bill Gates offers summer reading recommendations, including Factfulness.
Bill Gates recommends this book and calls it "One of the most important books I've ever read – an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world."  CNN's Fareed Zakariah had a fascinating discussion with Rosling in 2011. Using his bubble chart, Rosling showed how quickly China and other nations have progressed to join the United States in a "converging world," up in the high-end of a cooperative continuum.

A self-described "possiblist," Rosling said, "I say that it's possible if we keep peace, if we keep free trade and if we keep human rights we can all live up in there."

Does Rosling see the world only through rose-colored glasses?

It's hard to argue with the data presented in "Factfulness." But, what about trends in cyber warfare and social media, including election tampering, and what that means to democratic societies? How will carbon use be curbed by a rising standard of living, especially in India and China, where individuals understandably feel entitled to a better life? Will the obesity epidemic grow as nations grow, and how will that impact trends?

How will the rise of artificial intelligence – and singularity – affect global trends of stability and prosperity?

"Factfulness" may not have all the answers, but it has many fascinating insights about our world that can help burst bubbles of misunderstanding, fear and hate and make each of us a possiblist. Imagine.

(This book is written with Rosling's son, Ola Rosling and daughter in law, Anna Rosling Ronnlund. Hans Rosling died last year, yet his work continues at