Sunday, August 13, 2017

North Korea's Real Problem

Review by Bill Doughty

What does the leader of North Korea want?

What was Soviet Russia's role in creating the so-called Democratic Republic of North Korea?

How did the Kim regime gain and keep total control over the people of North Korea?

Why is the best weapon against the totalitarian regime also the least destructive?

These and other questions are brought to mind in a bite-sized book of history and context: "North Korea: Unmasking Three Generations of Mad Men" (Lightning Guides, Callisto Media, Berkeley, CA, 2015).

Like Neil deGrasse Tyson's, "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry," this book offers quick, to-the-point, relevant information – in this case about the inscrutable black hole of North Korea in the 21st century.

Nothing illustrates the stark difference between the North and South better than the NASA image of the Korean Peninsula showing a bright South Korea with blazing lights of Seoul and Pusan compared with the North's blackness except for a "tiny speck of light in the region of Pyongyang."

The editors of this Lightning Guide enlighten readers with the origins of North Korea in the years following World War II. The Soviet Union wanted the entire peninsula under their control, so they supported Stalinist Kim Il-sung, who served as a major in the Soviet Red Army in the 1940s until Imperial Japan surrendered.
"Though both North and South were hoping for a unified Korea, the ideological tensions between the pro- and anti-communists were ultimately too powerful. In the short time between the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south, it became increasingly clear that each side would try to overtake the other. The conflict – one as much between the Soviet Union and the United States as between North and South Korea – cost millions of lives and cemented in place a division that brought chaos to one side and prosperity to the other."
Kim Il-sung launched an invasion of the south on June 25, 1950, taking control of Seoul. With the help of the U.S. military and the United Nations, the communists were forced back to the 38th Parallel, which became a demarcation line under the Korean Armistice Agreement and created a militarized demilitarized zone. Notably, China came to the aid of the North Korean regime to fight against UN forces.

The endangered Amur Leopard
One of the more fascinating chapters of this book is an examination of the DMZ, a "deceptively peaceful" swath of land that "crosses through prairies, mountains, lakes, tidal marshes and swamps" and is home to endangered species including the Amur Leopard. Naturally, the North opposes UNESCO's (United Nations Environmental, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) efforts to designate and protect endangered wildlife in the DMZ – "with typical North Korean rhetoric about the South's ulterior motives for the designation request."

The paranoia and resentment of leaders in the North creates an environment of fear, hate, intolerance and distrust, where absolute obedience is mandated ("Juche") and freedom seems like a fantasy.

This Lightning Guide quickly introduces us to each of the three Kims who have ruled with an iron fist and who continue to threaten the United States. "Son of the Sun" Kim Jong-il is introduced and described as leaving a "legacy of destruction and despair." He curried favor with his father through narcissistic fawning, built thousands of statues of his father throughout the countryside in the midst of a nationwide famine, and produced thousands of propaganda films. Kim Jong-un, the current dictator, continues his father's and grandfather's quest for totalitarian power and a reunited Korean Peninsula. But in the Kims' world, reunification can come about only if the peninsula is under the control of North Korea.

Will the United States be lured into another war? What if we have faith in our defensive capabilities and the power of a freedom and prosperity? Would knowledge of the outside world be the ultimate weapon to free the people of North Korea? When will the "light come on" for the oppressed people in the north?
"To those living outside North Korea, the situation can seem abstract. Oppression is less harsh without the sound of individual cries, and the Kims have gagged an entire nation. Starvation can be difficult to understand for people who have never been hungry, and the Kims have made it invisible. Perhaps their isolation is a blessing to North Koreans, since just across the Demilitarized Zone, so close and yet so far away, people with the same cultural legacy are thriving. Yet the electronics and digital revolution that has brought so much prosperity to the South may eventually be the undoing of the Kim Dynasty. When information [objective truth] is the greatest threat to a regime, a single tablet or cell phone may end up being more powerful than Kim Jung-un's weapons of mass destruction and repression."
That may be the regime's real problem: how to defend against the truth.

Freedom fighters, including defectors, routinely send information via balloons carrying information leaflets, snacks and even U.S. and ROK currency. Broadcasters send information over radio waves to the hungry people in the north.

This small book can whet your appetite to dig deeper for more information about the history of North Korea, and I'm working my way through Bradley K. Martin's 874-page "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty" (St. Martin's Press, 2004, 2006), which includes details of the USS Pueblo incident and the effects of "Vietnam Syndrome."

Martin considers options for dealing with North Korea and urges patience and understanding even in the face of heated hyperbolic rhetoric. His conclusion: "If the United States should feel compelled to fight with North Korea, I had been saying and writing for a decade, the war should be fought with information rather than bullets."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fighting Fundamentalism, Fanaticism and Tyranny

Reviews by Bill Doughty

Adm. John Sylvester "Slew" McCain.
One hundred years ago, in August 1917, Lt. John S. "Slew" McCain (grandfather of Sen. John S. McCain) served aboard USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6). 

The USS San Diego joined the Atlantic Fleet to perform vital escort duties, protecting American ships from German attack in the First World War.

Out of the ashes of World War I, nationalism and Nazism arose in Germany. Tyranny grew and spread in Imperial Japan, leading to World War II. 

Sen. McCain's grandfather, Adm. John S. "Slew" McCain took a stand as Pacific Carrier Commander, alongside other heroes like Nimitz, Spruance, King, Mitscher and Halsey, to fight fundamentalism, tyranny and fanaticism nearly 75 years ago.

Three books explore those three concepts – fundamentalism, tyranny and fanaticism. One book also asks the question, "Can it happen here?"

From "A Little History of Religion" by Richard Holloway (Yale University Press, 2016):
"Fundamentalism is a tantrum. It's a screaming fit, a refusal to accept new realities" such as equality for women, gays and people of other races. "But if scientific change and the new knowledge it brings is hard for the fundamentalist mind to accept, even harder is change in the way we run society. In our era, religious fundamentalism became more agitated by social change than by the pressures of science. And in some of its forms not only did it get angry. It got violent."
Radical extremist fundamentalists such as ISIS claim their interpretation of reality is factual, even if it is not verified by a critical objective review of the facts.
"Fundamentalists don't debate. They don't try the evidence. They deliver a sentence. And it's always 'guilty' because their holy book has already decided the issue. This means that the crisis of fundamentalism in our time, including its violent versions, poses a question that goes to the heart of religions that claim to be based on a revelation that came directly from God. Surely, if it is used to justify not only the love of ignorance but the love of violence then there is something fundamentally wrong with it, to borrow their own language."
A contemporary of Adm. John S. McCain in both world wars, Sir Winston Churchill, believed that leaders must first and foremost have strong principles and then rely on objective facts upon which to base decisions.

The first targets of fascists and tyrants are reason, truth and free speech.

In Brian E. Fogarty's "Fascism: Why Not Here?" (Potomac Books, 2009) we see how authoritarianism arose in Germany in the 1930s, during the same years that Sen. McCain's grandfather was studying air warfare, on his way to earning his wings (at the age of 52) and becoming commander of USS Ranger (CV-4).

Fogarty defines fascism as "totalitarianism that enlists citizens against themselves."

Benjamin Franklin warned centuries earlier, "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Sir Winston Churchill speaks at Harvard, Sept. 6, 1943.
On Sept. 6, 1943, speaking at Harvard University, Winston Churchill said, "Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears, whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal, we must forever be on our guard, ever mobilized, ever vigilant, always ready to spring at its throat. In all this, we march together."

At the same time, in the late summer of 1943, Vice Adm. "Slew" McCain was the new Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), about to head back to Pearl Harbor to take command of "huge task forces, spearheaded by carrier-based aircraft" against Imperial Japan.

Fogarty, like Holloway, spotlights the importance of objective facts and reason. He notes how in the 1930s the Nazis sponsored public book burnings, abolished the free press and dissent, and began to ostracize Jews and other non-Aryans as members of the public went along.

Brian Fogarty
"More than anything else, the rise of Nazism was fueled by the negation of reason as a basis for government and for social and political discourse," Fogarty writes.

"Without universal or at least agreed-upon standards of knowledge, the truth of a statement comes to depend on the speaker's identity, persuasiveness or charisma." That can lead to blindly following, as happened in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the early part of the last century.

"People commit evil, or acquiesce as others do it in their name, when it is sanctioned and legitimated by the community in which they belong." He warns us to beware of a "vortex of fear that drown(s) out debate and reason."

So, "why not here?" or put another way in the book's final chapter, "Can It Happen Here?" Fogarty answers with "fundamental ambiguity":
"On the one hand, Americans have a history since the nation's beginning of fierce individualism and of resistance to authority. The national mythology is replete with challenges to every social institution – state, family, church, school – and Americans tell and retell the stories of dissidents and rebels. One of the abiding national myths is the revolution against the English mother country – the most powerful empire of its day – which gave birth to the nation itself. And viewed from this perspective, we have been a nation of rebels ever since, from the Shays and Whiskey rebellions, to slave revolts and the Underground Railroad, to the abolition movement and John Brown's insurrection, and to the Civil War itself. More recent social and cultural movements have also challenged popular convention if not the authority of the state ... It is true that Americans have not hesitated to defy authority when they found it necessary, but they also have been astonishingly conformist and willing to acquiesce in their own oppression when faced with uncertainty and threats. Even the most revered acts of resistance to authority – women's suffrage, civil rights, (the counterculture movement of the Vietnam era, gay pride), and many other movements – usually brought negative reactions from fellow citizens who viewed the causes as un-American, immoral, sinful, or just weird."
Germany and Japan suffered greatly after the worldwide depression. Both had a chip-on-their-shoulder nationalist attitude as victims who wanted to participate in global imperialism. That's why most of their citizenry supported race-based fascism leading to the Second World War.

As an immigrant nation, however, the United States may not be as susceptible. Here, "racism has been more divisive than unifying," for most Americans. Diversity may be our biggest strength in being able to resist fundamentalism, tyranny and fascism.

Fogarty writes, "American society includes too many ethnic and racial groups to form a credible 'them' from which 'we' can protect ourselves." But he says, we may not have faced a major enough threat to our security, and we may, when really tested, have the propensity collectively to choose safety over liberty.

"Our history demonstrates that Americans have the capacity to react to adversity in a general director toward fascism," he concludes.

"On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century" by Timothy Snyder (Tim Duggan Books, Penguin Random House, 2017) explores how leaders embrace fundamentalism, reject facts and rely on arguments of victimization:
"Both fascism and communism were responses to globalization: to the real and perceived inequalities it created, and the apparent helplessness of the democracies in addressing them. Fascists rejected reason in the name of will, denying objective truth in favor of a glorious myth articulated by leaders who declined to give voice to the people. They put a face on globalization, arguing that is complex challenges were the result of a conspiracy against the nation. Fascists ruled for a decade or two [Hitler and his ilk], leaving behind an intact intellectual legacy that grows more relevant by the day. Communists ruled for longer, for nearly seven decades in the Soviet Union, and more than four decades in much of eastern Europe [and to this day in North Korea]. They proposed rule by a disciplined party elite with a monopoly on reason that would guide society toward a certain future according to supposedly fixed laws of history."
As a champion for freedom and democracy – and an intense study of history – Churchill stood strong against Hitler. He was a lynchpin in opposing tyranny and fascism. "Had Churchill not kept Britain in the war in 1940, there would have been no such war to fight."

The late Christopher Hitchens warned of tyrants who are unpredictable and who don't believe in facts. 

Reading is inoculation to protect us from fascism and tyranny. Otherwise we're at risk of a society as painted by Ray Bradbury in "Fahrenheit 451" and George Orwell in "1984."

Bradbury's "firefighters" were authoritarian book burners. In "1984" Orwell describes not only the pollution of ideals and objective facts but also the dissolution of meaning and disappearance of words.

In his "The Principles of Newspeak" appendix to "1984," Orwell writes: "Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words to a minimum."

Among Snyder's recommended list of books and authors packed into this slim collection of how-to advice:

  • "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera
  • "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis
  • "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth
  • "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J. K. Rowling
  • "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell
  • "The Language of the Third Reich" by Victor Klemperer
  • "The Origins of Totalitarianism" by Hannah Arendt
  • "The Rebel" by Albert Camus
  • "The Captive Mind" by Czeslaw Milsosz
  • "The Power of the Powerless" by Vaclav Haval
  • "Nothing is True and Everything is Possible" by Peter Pomerantsev

Timothy Snyder
Snyder asks us to examine the difference between nationalism and patriotism.
"A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best. A nationalist, 'although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,' wrote Orwell, tends to be 'uninterested in what happens in the real world.' Nationalism is relativist, since the only truth is the resentment we feel when we contemplate others."
Chapter 10 is called "Believe in truth": "To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights."

Three generations of John S. McCains.
Chapter 10 is titled "Be a patriot": "Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it."

Adm. John S. "Slew" McCain demonstrated his patriotism fighting for his country in both World Wars, eventually standing aboard USS Missouri (BB-63) for the surrender of Imperial Japan. Militarists in Japan were purveyors of a spreading nationalism and fascist tyranny in Asia in the 1930s and 40s.

Adm. McCain's grandson, who, like his father Adm. John "Jack" McCain, served in the United States Navy and fought during the Cold War and, of course, during the Vietnam War, where Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain III was imprisoned as a POW for five-and-half years.

The McCains' story is one of service and sacrifice. Adm. "Slew" McCain, who saw so many naval aviators go to their deaths, died four days after Japan's surrender. Adm. Jack McCain had to carry out President Nixon's orders to bomb Hanoi, where he knew his son was a POW. Sen. John McCain served his country throughout his life.

The legacy of another WWII naval hero, President John F. Kennedy, recognized Sen. McCain's patriotism. Sen. John McCain received the JFK Profile in Courage award from the Kennedy family for his commitment toward campaign finance reform. In his acceptance speech of May 24, 1999, McCain said: 

JFK's brother, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and daughter, Caroline, present Sen. McCain the courage award. 
"Most Americans believe that we all conspire to hold on to every political advantage we have, lest we jeopardize our incumbency by a single lost vote. Most Americans believe we would let this nation pay any price, bear any burden to ensure the success of our personal ambitions – no matter how injurious the effect might be to the national interest. And who can blame them. As long as the wealthiest Americans and the richest organized interests can make six figure donations to political parties and gain the special access to power such generosity confers on the donor, most Americans will dismiss the most virtuous politician’s claim of patriotism ... In John Kennedy’s memorable phrase, 'without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget the courage with which men have lived.' I’ve seen more than my fair share of both kinds. And I could not forget them if I wanted to." – Sen. John S. McCain.

According to Fogarty in "Fascism: Why Not Here," again from 2009, citing the work of Nancy Bermeo, "The mutual demonization of opposing parties locks up the machinery of government":
"The single best predictor of success for fascist movements is political polarization ... Such movements tend to be antidemocratic because they blame the democratic process itself as the cause of the gridlock. When parties have become so polarized that all anyone – voters included – can think of is vanquishing opponents, then a sort of political disillusionment sets in, and political principles give way to an empty contentiousness. A second useful generalization about the rise of such movements is that they tend to occur when existing democratic regimes are incompetent. Government is not just a theater for ideological or political drama; it is also an essential institution to human life. People get hurt when it doesn't work ... These two generalizations offer a warning to Americans: beware those who seek always to discredit government, to blame it for the nation's ills, and to alienate citizens from its workings ... Their game is to alienate citizens from their government, to trivialize the vote, and to make the democratic process look ineffective and foolish. The best way to prevent fascism is to avoid alienation, to resist extreme polarization, and to remain connected to the political process."
Looking toward the future back in 2009, in the face of crises, when the Great Recession and Iraq and Afghanistan wars were deepening, Fogarty asked, "How will Americans react ... Will we still value our individualism and love of liberty? Or will we find a leader with a bold plan that requires new conquests, new enemies, or a new world order. Will Americans reject the cool rationalism of the Obama presidency and rush to a bold outsider with a simple explanation and audacious plans?"

CAM RANH, Vietnam (June 2, 2017) Sen. John S. McCain III is piped aboard during a visit to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) in Cam Ranh, Vietnam. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Mortensen/Released)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Learning: Stay Gold

For a Navy Chief about to become a naval officer, a trip from Gig Harbor, Washington to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in a 36-foot sailboat "Stay Gold" became a lifetime adventure. Brian Bugge ("Boogie") and his crew mates Beau Romero, Willy Kunkle and Chris Ryder completed the journey this week, a journey and learning experience made possible because of the love and support of Brian's wife, Ashley. Anna General, editor of Navy Region Hawaii's "Ho'okele" published a three-part series about the team's adventure, "From Gig to Pearl," available at Of course, Navy Reads focused in on what was on the crew's reading list. Here are some excerpts of Anna's series:

by Anna General

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Bugge received orders to transfer to Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet Hawaii and will be promoted to an Ensign Limited Duty Officer on Aug. 1.

(Courtesy Stay Gold)
Prior to receiving his orders to transfer, Bugge had purchased a 36-foot sailboat which now gives him an opportunity to sail across the Pacific Ocean with his crew members Beau, Willy and Christopher.

After a year and a half of planning and preparing to get the crew physically, emotionally and financially ready, the boat (Stay Gold) was ready for its voyage to Hawaii.

“We decided to sail to Hawaii because it has been a lifelong dream of mine,” Bugge said. When the Navy said I could work in Hawaii and we just bought a boat that was capable of the journey, it seemed like the perfect thing to do.”

Ashley Bugge said, “Brian has put countless hours  literal blood, sweat and tears into making this dream come true for himself and it is the best feeling to be a part of this accomplishment for him. This is something he will look back on for the rest of his life and be able to say ‘I did that. I made that happen for myself and I'll have it forever.’”

(Photo from NOAA)
Although they have faced some challenges along the way, the crew encountered a wondrous sight as they sailed from Seiku to Cape Flattery, Washington at sunset.
“That night we passed through a massive pod of humpbacks, we even had two within a few feet of the boat! Yesterday, we had Pacific white-sided dolphins riding our bow wake for over an hour. Pretty amazing sight,” Bugge said.

Overcoming and tackling obstacles along the journey has been an adventure for the four-man crew as they approach Hawaii at average speeds. As they face the challenges of the open sea, their journey continues to their destination — Pearl Harbor.

“I think the most stressful part of being at sea so far away from anyone else is the total trust you develop in your fellow crew members and the boat,” said Brian Bugge, skipper of the Stay Gold crew.

“I’m really impressed with everyone’s cool heads and ability to solve problems under pressure. I feel like sailing is just a series of problems that require solving, along with some wind and sails,” he said.

With minimal sleep, dead batteries and a malfunctioning backstay (part of the sail rigging), they always keep their spirits high and work as a team to keep the boat moving.

Along the voyage, they spot a few albatross — said to be a sign of good luck and favor to the Sailor.

“It’s believed that the albatross holds the heart of a Sailor and they bring good omen,” Bugge said. “Let’s hope so.”

After their first week out to sea, their voyage has been more relaxing.

For tracking the weather conditions and communication, the crew uses an IridiumGo and Predict Wind to stay connected with the world while they are out to sea on the boat. This allows them the ability to post updates to their Facebook page, blog and have access to email.

As they motored on in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the time under the motor has given them the opportunity to relax, change batteries and catch up on reading despite having to shout to talk to someone four feet away.

“Beau (who hadn't decided what to pick from Stay Gold's library) finally picked 'John Adams' by David McCullough. I’m working through 'True Spirit' by Jessica Watson (the story of an Australian teenager's around-the-world sailing adventure)," Bugge said. 

"Willy is reading 'Blood Meridian' by Cormac McCarthy and Chris is reading 'Adventures at Sea in the Great Age of Sail,' edited by Captain Elliot Snow.

Earlier in the afternoon that day, the crew comes across a pod of dolphins and whales.

“It was hard to tell. We thought they were orcas at first but after they came closer they seemed like really big dolphins,” Bugge said.

As weather conditions continue to change and the wind started to pick up, they make it to the middle of the Pacific — closer to Hawaii.

While the tradewinds picked up, they reach 70 miles in the last nine hours.

“That’s quick for a 36-foot sailboat; we were able to keep a layline for Hawaii. The boat and crew are holding up well and we are in good spirits enjoying the ride.

The night before was magical as they witness the bioluminescence in the water.

“As the hull cut through the waves it would leave a trail of brightly shimmering creatures on the waters surface. You could look out from the boat, in the pitch black, and see the crests of the waves as they disrupted the water surface what would normally be white water glowed in the dark,” Bugge said.

“It looked like something out of a children’s book or another world even! So beautiful, it just reminds me how much there is to discover about the world we live in and how much of it is right in front of our eyes.”

As they made progress towards Honolulu, they were all getting anxious to get off the boat and get some downtime, take a good shower and sleep in a clean bed…

“We’ve seen a few aircraft flying overhead…first signs of civilization after venturing through 1500 miles of uninhabited badlands. The ocean is huge, it really makes one feel insignificant,” Bugge said.

Brian Bugge arrives in Pearl Harbor July 27. (Photo by MC1 Hinton)
(Stay Gold arrived safely in Pearl Harbor early on July 27, 2017.) This voyage has been a lifelong dream for Bugge and his crew as motivation drove them to take on this Pacific adventure.

“I had to do this voyage, I’ve recently realized, because I needed to know who I am,” said Bugge as he continues to share what motivated him.

“Ashley has encouraged me to live my life to the fullest, not anyone else’s. I didn’t even know what that was until recently. We have kids now, bills, houses and cars. Surely it wouldn’t be possible to undertake something as massive as crossing an ocean in a 36-foot sailboat. Her encouraging spirit has sparked my inner vision for who I am and what I want from life,” Bugge said.

“I can say with confidence — I am a Sailor. Through and through.”

(From Stay Gold's blog: "Ashley is a big reason why we are here ... To see this dream realized is almost too good to believe. I’ve laid awake at night thinking what it will be like to sail in the middle of the ocean, with nothing around but the stars and the sound of the waves to keep company – without Ashley and her tireless efforts, this endeavor would have never occurred. A debt I can never repay but I’ll spend the rest of my life trying.")

[Learning: Also on Brian's reading list: "Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation" by Thich Nhat Hanh, Thich Nhat Hanh, Penguin Random House (1999)]

Sunday, July 16, 2017

'Tides' Turn

St. Mary's lighthouse, Whitley Bay, Northumberland.
Review by Bill Doughty

"Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean" by Jonathan White (Trinity University Press, 2017):

"Although we think of ourselves as sailing across the ocean's surface, we are also sailing down the low tide's valleys and up the high tide's mountains."

"Large or small, the tide is always on the move, swelling against one coast while shrinking from another. It never begins and never ends."

Can we fully understand the mysteries of time and tides?

Aristotle was mesmerized and "perplexed" by tides and currents. Maori of New Zealand believed a woman-god who lived on the moon caused the rise and fall of the tides. Ancient Chinese saw the Milky Way as a great waterwheel that filled the oceans, and the tides as "caused by a sea serpent slithering in and out of its cave."

For the Mayans, a giant crab stirring caused the tides. Plato believed the earth was a large animal and "the tides were the sloshing of its inner fluids."

Superstitions ruled the world before the age of enlightenment, when science began to explain some of the mysteries of the universe, including the nature of the planets and the powerful relationship between our planet and its moon.

Newton discovered the "ghostly force called gravity" as the unseen cause of the tides.

Leonardo da Vinci (and recently Adm. James Stavridis) compared the oceans to lungs, vital to life on earth.

In "Tides" Jonathan White explores the history, science and study of tides, with short detours to examine Newton's death mask, contemplate gifted Polynesian navigators, listen to acoustic resonance in the ocean, observe a coming-of-age ceremony in the Caribbean, and jump in for discussion of big-wave surfing at Mavericks, California. 

He examines treacherous tides, rapids and passages, including Vancouver's Ripple Rock, which claimed the U.S. Navy steamer Saranac in 1875. "A crewmember wrote, 'Here the contending currents take a vessel by the nose and swing her from port to starboard and from starboard to port as a terrier shakes a rat.'" Over the decades Ripple Rock killed at least 144 people, until the rock was blown up and obliterated in 1958.

Rene Descartes
The quality of White's prose and his exploration of science are a joy for readers. Books/authors in epigraphs and text include:

  • John Steinbeck's "The Log from the Sea of Cortez"
  • Sir Walter Scott's "Redgauntlet"
  • The Bible -- story of Moses [in Bruce Parker's "The Power of the Sea"]
  • James Frazer's "The Golden Bough"
  • Pliny's "Natural History"
  • Benjamin Franklin's observation about wind and waves
  • Newton, Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Hugo, Bacon, Milton, Laplace, Whewel, Harris, "and scores of others" who championed science in the face of religious persecution

Some of the interesting science revealed in "Tides":

  • Four zones of tidal exposure
  • Grunion runs in southern California and northern Baja
  • The fact that the Atlantic is tied to the moon, and the Pacific is tied to the sun (Tied tides?)
  • The Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, off France's Normandy coast, with its 45-foot tidal range
  • Qiantang River bore-watching in China, where the tide comes in not in six hours but in six seconds.
  • One can be killed fighting a tide
  • The tide always turns.
  • Friction and energy run deep:

"Through friction, (the tide) loses energy – lots of it. Some is absorbed in the ocean floor as heat, but most of it exerts a torque on the earth's rotation, slowing ever so slightly the length of our days and, in turn, causing the moon to speed up and spiral away. Thus, the moon, which causes the tide, is in turn pushed away by the tide. What we witness when we sail through narrows is friction at work. Every whirlpool, every eddy, every dimple of tension is evidence of energy moving from the moon to the water and back to the moon."
White explores the potential of renewable energy and the future possibilities of tide, wind and wave energy.

The Kennedy administration examined tide energy possibilities in the early 1960s in coordination with Canada to address the energy needs of New England. 

"Harnessing the energy of the tides," Kennedy said, "is an exciting technological undertaking ... Each day, over a million kilowatts of power surge in and out of he Passamaquoddy Bay. Man needs only to exercise his engineering ingenuity to convert the ocean's surge into a great national asset."

According to White, "Kennedy's bold advocacy of tide energy ended abruptly with his assassination in November 1963, just four months after his groundbreaking speech at the White House." That speech included this insight from former naval officer President Kennedy: "The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need people who can dream of things that never were."

Does a nautilus shell transcribe the nature of tides?
White explores not only the evolution of nature as discovered by Charles Darwin, but also the nature of evolution in dynamic environments, including the early formation of life. "What if we were born in a tidepool and our attraction to the sea is a coming home."

He asks: Can evidence of the earth's rotational history be found in coral and nautilus sea creatures? Can accelerating climate change be stopped in time to prevent increasing rises in sea level?
"Sea level itself is a slippery concept – not at all easy to distill into definitive measurements or predictions. The sea, in fact, is not level. It doesn't lie flat like undisturbed water in a bathtub or pool but piles up in one place and retreats from another. The western Pacific is about three feet higher than the eastern Pacific (due to the northeast trade winds), and the eastern Pacific is ten inches higher than the Atlantic. On the U.S. Atlantic coast, sea levels slope downward from south to north by four or five inches. Different landmasses, due to variations in density and gravitational pull, force seawater this way or that. The oceans are lifted by the Himalayas and Andes and sucked downward by undersea mountain ranges. In the Pacific during El NiƱo years, when the trade winds relax, seawater that had been pushed westward sloshes back eastward, bringing higher ocean levels to the U.S. west coast."
Kircher's 1646 "shadowdial" shows the yin and yang of moon phases.
White takes us from Alaska and the Arctic, to India and China; from France and UK, to Suriname and Venice; and to oceans, rivers and bays, including the Bay of Fundy in Canada. 

Science and spirit: He examines how tides were described by ancient monks and scholars, including in "The Selenic Shadowdial or the Process of Lunation" from Athanasius Kircher's "Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae" (1646). And he contemplates how the tides influence biology.

The book begins and ends with what can be revealed in the life, bodies and "internal clocks" of mudshrimp, Corophium, that are the size of rice grains. These translucent organisms' lifecycles are tied to tides, as is are the lives of the sandpipers who feed on the tiny shrimp. 

Marine animals and birds aren't the only ones influenced by the tides; "More than half the world's population lives on or near the coast, and there is no coast or ocean without a tide," White writes.

"The economic and scientific, social and biological dynamics at play here are also at play for billions of people across our watery planet."

White concludes: The tide teaches. The tide vibrates. The tide lives. And the tide can kill.

The Kuna Yala people in Panama are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. (Courtesy Jonathan White)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Stavridis on 'Sea Power,' Service

by Bill Doughty

Retired Admiral James Stavridis told NPR's Steve Inskeep last month, "You know what you see when you look out the bridge of a ship? You see eternity."

He spoke about being a young ship handler coming into Pearl Harbor for the first time, and seeing the experience as a lesson in not being “overly impulsive,” not acting unilaterally, and instead relying on the power of teamwork. “It's a powerful metaphor for almost everything in life.”

In a talk to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Policy on June 5, Stavridis says, "Sea Power is at the heart of American Power":

We are a maritime nation in an ocean-reliant world.  

Stavridis, a surface warfare officer and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, takes readers on a personal journey at sea and on the world stage, reflecting how the seas have shaped who we are today.

The author of "Sea Power" (Penguin Press, 2017) has a wide and long vision. His book is subtitled, "The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans."
He calls the oceans the "lungs" of the earth. He notes that 95 percent of the world's trade is by sea. And, he shows that today's potential conflict flashpoints are tied to the waters: western Pacific (North Korea), Arctic (as climate change creates new sea routes), Indian Ocean ("a space of geopolitical criticality), South China Sea (with key sea lanes), eastern Mediterranean Sea (which "has seen more war than any other sea space on earth").
He looks at the Caribbean as a region shared by many people "of the America's" and a zone of partnership. And he singles out India as a hopeful beacon for the future of democracy. He is an advocate of humanitarian missions as good investments for a more peaceful world.

Earlier this year Stavridis served as a keynote speaker at West 2017, where he spoke about what we need for interconnected global and national security:

He facilitated a discussion with the chiefs of the sea services, too, posing and leading questions with the commandants of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard and with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson:

In April 2017, he presented the commencement address at Dickinson College and spoke about education, political diplomacy, humanitarian medical care, entrepreneurial spirit, freedom of the press, and volunteerism. The theme is the importance of service, exemplified by the Greek general Themistocles and his army/navy in defeating Xerxes and the Persians in 480 BCE:

In a fascinating talk at the Naval War College in 2014, Stavridis, who is now Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, spoke about the importance of building bridges in the modern world:

In his "Sea Power," Stavridis brings the legacy and insights of Mahan into the 21st century, expanding Mahan's critical thinking to include not only history, but also literature, environment and future-focused thinking – including the role and threat of cyber warfare. We look forward to reading and learning more.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Woman's Place...

Review by Bill Doughty

... is "Serving Proudly."

This "History of Women in the U.S. Navy" by Susan H. Godson (Naval Institute Press, 2001) shows how women's roles evolved in the sea service, especially at first in Navy medicine.

Women served in defense of the nation even before there was a United States Navy, but women like Clara Barton (for the United States in the War of 1812) and Florence Nightingale (for Britain in the Crimean War) proved the value of women near the battlefield in the early and mid 1800s. By the end of the century, during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps was created (1898). 

The book opens with an epigraph by Rear Adm. Grace M. Hopper: "The highest award I have received is serving proudly in the U.S. Navy."
"By the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S. Navy had developed into a world-class naval power with fleets to sail and colonies to administer. The Navy's evolution had been uneven and sporadic, and growth had depended on external threats or, by the 1890s, on markets to open, colonies to supervise, and primitive people to uplift. Concurrently, training and requirements for officers and men had become professionalized... But the Medical Department still lacked a vital element: professionally trained nurses – those women who had taken two- or three-year courses in hospital training schools. Nursing, along with teaching and social work, was one of the few professions open to women. During the nineteenth century, many women emerged from their prescribed sphere and went into reform movements, clubs and associations, and higher education. And they were no strangers to the seafaring life; they had been in virtually all types of vessels, both private and naval. The Navy needed professional nurses, and such women had proven their worth during the Spanish-American War. Could the two, in fact, be mutually beneficial?"
In 1908 the Navy Nurse Corps was born. Esther Voorhees Hasson, Lenah S. Higbee and J. Beatrice Bowman were the first superintendents.

Godson examines the Navy's influence in breaking down walls, promoting education and progressing toward greater equality for women throughout the 20th century. 
"During World War I, the U.S. Navy grew in men and ships to address the demands of the European conflagration. How it met wartime requirements depended largely on Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. Because of his vision and boldness, the Navy embarked on the temporary and unprecedented wartime expedient of bringing women into its enlisted ranks as yeomen (F) and Marine Reservists (F). Those women who entered the naval service had no idea that they were pioneers. They joined the Navy because the country needed their talents."
The author relates the early influence of civilians Margaret Sanger, who "launched the birth control movement, which gave women the knowledge and ability to control family size;" Alice Paul whose party proposed an equal rights amendment; and Eleanor Roosevelt, who championed social-welfare causes.

"A dramatic breakthrough for women" came during the Second World War, when some 350,000 women served in the military ashore. Women throughout the nation saw greater opportunity serving in the industrial sector. Of course, it was in WWII that  WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – was created, in the face of quite a bit of resistance to change.

The Marine Corps, part of the Department of the Navy, was most recalcitrant about integrating women into its ranks. Although only a small number of women Marines were allowed to serve temporarily during the First World War in the Reserves, they were welcomed back in 1943, again in support roles, separate but unequal.

WAVES march in a parade for Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and Medal of Honor veterans in New York City, Oct. 9, 1945. (NHHC)

After the war, pioneers like Cmdr. Joy Bright Hancock "firmly believed that women should be allowed to serve in the regular Navy as a regular career." She traveled around the country, coordinated with the newly formed Department of Defense, and lobbied Congress, causing the "House Armed Services Committee to run up the white flag."

Women were in a "holding pattern" mid-century, but the 60s brought about great change in civil rights, including for women, and the Navy was in the forefront of the changes. A small number of WAVES served in support roles in Vietnam, but "the Navy never hesitated to dispatch nurses to the war zone," according to Godson. The 70s brought more demonstrations, class-action lawsuits and a "new brand of feminism," resulting in the Equal Opportunity Act and the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), which "represented another victory for equality."

"Guiding the Navy from 1970 to 1974 was CNO Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., who undertook to modernize both the fleet and personnel policies... Zumwalt issued the famous (or infamous) Z-116 on 7 August (1972), giving equal rights and opportunities to Navy Women," Godson writes.

Zumwalt opened the U.S. Naval Academy to women and opened avenues for women to be able to achieve flag rank. Once again, Navy Medicine was in the lead with the first women allowed to serve aboard ships going aboard the hospital ship USS Sanctuary (AH-17). The Navy's newest warship in early 2017 is named for the visionary Navy leader. According to the Navy, "USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is the largest and most technologically advanced surface combatant in the world."

The 80s were a period of entrenchment, with greater participation and new roles for women in the Navy, leading to the early 90s and the repeal of combat exclusion for women, thanks to Rep. Patricia Schroeder, DACOWITS (The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services) and Secretary of Defense Les Aspin.

Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, Commander U.S. Third Fleet.
Godson's book ends on a hopeful note as she wonders about the "long-term impact of these sweeping changes" (initiated more than twenty years ago). She reflects on women's achievements in the first Gulf War, at sea, in aviation, at the Naval Academy, and of course in the Navy Nurse Corps.
"The story of all Navy women is one of dedication and valor. They proudly chose to serve their country as part of the U.S. Navy and pursued their goal with dogged determination. They would not be denied such an honorable calling. As in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women's familiarity with maritime matters and their nursing skills have made them essential to the naval service. Tributes to their service have been many. One of the most touching came in 1996, when the Navy named the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) in honor of Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, who had led the Navy into the computer age. And in the fall of 1997, a lasting monument to Navy woman, as well as to all 1.8 million women who have served in the military was dedicated: the women in Military Service for America Memorial at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, which stands as a fitting reminder of all women who have volunteered to defend American freedom."
Working with renowned Navy historians such as Jan K. Herman, Robert J. Schneller, Dean C. Allard and Edward J. Marolda, Godson provides a wealth of information and some great photos in "Serving Proudly."

She presents controversial issues such as sexual harassment, sexism, discrimination against lesbians and uniform issues. And she gives a wide-ranging history of the progress women have made in and out of the Navy, acknowledging that the history of women in the military is still being written.

Commodore Grace Hopper, special assistant to the commander, Naval Data Automation Command, gives an autograph and a length of wire representing distance an electron moves in an nanosecond during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Grace M. Hopper Navy Regional Data Automation Center at Naval Air Station, North Island, California, Sept. 27, 1985. Photo by PH2 Michael Flynn, Naval History and Heritage Command.