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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Conversation III: CNO, Drones & Beer w/ Mahan

Interview by Bill Doughty

Professor John Jackson, creator of the Navy Professional Reading Program
He's the originator of the Navy's Professional Reading Program (NPRP, or CNO PRP), and this is our third interview. In this "conversation with the creator III" Naval War College Professor John Jackson, an expert in robotics and unmanned systems, provides insights into how the CNO's reading program, now 12 years old, has evolved over the years. Our interview begins with how the NPRP was personally reinvigorated by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. Like Navy Reads, Jackson aims to support reading and critical thinking.

Q. What was CNO ADM Richardson's contribution to the latest incarnation of the NPRP?

Adm. Richardson has been very “hands-on” in shaping his Professional Reading Program. In fact, we met with him prior to his assumption of the CNO job so we could get a head-start in ensuring that his program met his expectations. He has personally selected the books on the various lists and sub-lists, and has updated them about every six-months. He is a “true-believer” in the value of reading as a primary tool to improve the professionalism of our force. 

Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations
Q. The Canon seems to be a foundation – and a good starting point – for Navy readers.

The Canon represents books with which every Sailor should be familiar. It was very difficult to limit the number of books in this category since Navy professionals work in such a wide variety of jobs and specialties. Choices were made that cut across all communities and provided a baseline valuable to everyone in Navy blue and gold.  

Q. The NPRP has evolved since it started under CNO Adm. Mike Mullen. What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in how it's organized and presented?

Our original list in 2006 was categorized by “skills” such as leadership and critical thinking, and was further divided into collections based on experience/rank. The “junior enlisted” collection focused on issues young Sailors would contend with, and the “senior leaders” collection focused more command and large organization issues. We have now evolved into a reading program that is “rank agnostic” and allows everyone to read any book they desire.   

MASN Trevor Miller browses the LiveSafe app on a smartphone. (MC2 Ricks)
Q. Speaking of changes, how has the audience changed? What are some of the ongoing challenges of reaching the digital generations who seem to be tied to their smart phones?

Because of the issues you raise, the CNO-PRP is now based on e-books and digital content. We no longer distribute hard-copy books. As an old guy who likes paper, I tend to read more in hard-copy, but the younger crowd of “digital natives” prefers to read on Kindles, Nooks, or other readers… or to squint and read them on their phones. We don’t care, as long as they are READING!

Fleet Adm. Nimitz and Gen. Eisenhower loved reading about history.
Q. Does reading develop better leadership skills?

I can think of no better way to improve a person’s leadership skills than to read about successful leaders from today and yesterday. It is often said that no one can live long enough to make all the mistakes, but rather should learn from others' experiences whenever possible. It has been said that “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers”!

Q. How can reading and writing help develop better trained and ready Sailors?

Reading and writing demand concentration, much more so than watching a movie or a television program. Your brain must be fully engaged in translating the letters into words and the words into ideas. You can’t be a passive reader.  There are thousands of books on nearly every subject, so Sailors who want to be better at the profession should seek out the biographies and autobiographies of people who have succeeded on the paths they are beginning to walk.

Q. What are the best books right now in your specialty, the study of Unmanned Vehicle Systems?

P.W. Singer’s “Wired For War” is a bit dated, but is still a great source for understanding how we arrived at the place we are in the development and use of Unmanned Systems. “Killing Without Heart” by M. Shane Riza raises many thoughtful questions about what it means to fight a “robot war.” 

And there is a new book being published by the U.S. Naval Institute called “One Nation, Under Drones.” I am the editor, and 10 highly qualified chapter authors write at length about the world of “drones” as it exists today and how it will probably develop in the future. OK, so I plugged my own book! It will be out in December, and I know what everyone on MY Christmas list is getting!

Professor Sally Paine, USNWC
Q. Who are some good women writers you'd recommend?

Naval War College professor Sally Paine has written a number of top-quality books about Asian affairs and other subjects. "The Wars for Asia 1911–1949" (by S. C. M. Paine) is an award winner book that is highly regarded for its use of original source material in the native languages of the originators. 

Q. In May 2017 Navy Reads published a list of 50 books (for 50 years) about the Vietnam War. What are a few of your favorite titles about Vietnam?

Jim Webb’s novel “Fields of Fire” which describes in painful and searing details how U.S. marines faced the challenges of ground combat in the jungles of South East Asia, and “Two Souls Indivisible” by James S. Hirsch that tells the story of the friendship that saved two POWs in Vietnam. My close personal friend CDR Porter Halyburton, USN (ret), lectures annually at the Naval War College and shares the lessons he learned from his seven-and-a-half year ordeal in the prisons of North Vietnam. His inspiring recollections are full of faith, friendship and forgiveness.   

Q. If you could have lunch or a beer with any four or five historians (living or dead) who would be at the table? Why?

I have been blessed to be able to interact with a number of incredible historians, and have shared a meal or a drink with: 

1. David McCullough for his ability to capture the essences of historical events by mining the intimate details of the simple men and women involved. 

2. Craig Symonds, the author of 12 books and the editor of another 9, taught history at the U.S. Naval Academy for three decades and has been on the faculty of the Naval War College. His books (mostly on maritime subjects) are all considered classics. His book “The U.S. Navy: A Concise History” is THE source for understanding how our Navy grew into the incredible fighting force it is today. 

3. George Baer, whose book “100 Years of Seapower” is a classic in every sense. He helped shape thousands of young military officers during his long tenure at the Naval War College. 

…. And in addition to the remarkable men above, I would make special room for Winston Churchill and Alfred Thayer Mahan.   

Q. Adm. Richardson encourages writing as well as reading. For my money, Zinsser's "On Writing Well," is indispensable (a recommendation from Adm. Richardson and Rear Adm. (ret) John Kirby). What's your advice for writers? What should be in their toolbox?

The best way to become a good writer is to write as frequently as possible. You must exercise your “writer’s brain” and seek out other authors/writers and ask them to critique your work. You must have tough skin, since the comments could be harsh. But accept the criticism with the good intention with which it is provided…. write another draft….. rinse and repeat. 

Q. What do you see on the horizon? What's ahead for the Navy's Professional Reading Program?

The CNO-PRP will continue to provide digital access to books that matter. We will do all that we can to promote a reading culture within our Navy and help every Sailor become more effective as they labor in support of our great Navy and our treasured nation. I salute “Navy Reads” for doing a superb job of fanning the flames of learning through reading!

Professor John Jackson (right), program manager for the CNO-PRP, discusses reading with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Daniel Dolan and Rear Adm. Walter E. Carter Jr. (center), president of the Naval War College, in Newport, R.I., in Dec. 10, 2013. (Photo by MCC James E. Foehl)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Destroyers for Democracy / SCOTUS Legacy

Review by Bill Doughty

U.S. and British sailors examine destroyers prior to transfer in 1940.
It's hard to imagine the depths of fear and fascism washing over the world in the wake of the Great Depression and approach of war in the 1930s, a fear that intensified in 1941 when Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Hitler declared war on the United States.

America had sided with Great Britain, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt providing 50 World War I navy destroyers to fight German submarines in exchange for the use of military bases on British territories in the Caribbean and western Atlantic.

The man who made that deal happen, despite entering a "sea of troubles" was new U.S. Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice, Robert Houghwout Jackson.

Jackson's story, intertwined with FDR's, is captured in "That Man: An Insider's portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt" by Robert H. Jackson, edited and introduced by John Q. Barrett (Oxford University Press, 2003). Barrett cobbles together Jackson's manuscript with Jackson's oral history narrations and adds key documents and explanations.

The destroyers for bases deal, including the behind-the-scenes machinations between FDR and Churchill, will be interesting to Navy readers. So will Jackson's insider insights as WWII became a reality.

By the summer of 1941 Hitler had crushed Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia and Greece. Jackson writes:
"By June 15, conquest and demoralization had so far subdued France that the French fleet, under the ambiguous Admiral Jean Francois Darlan, seemed likely to be surrendered and thus added to the German and Italian navies. Churchill again cabled Roosevelt ... The specter of overwhelming German naval power, added to her seemingly irresistible air and land forces, deeply troubled the President. If the Germans should capture the French fleet, it – with Germany's own and that of Italy, and with probably cooperation from Japan – would leave the United States to face alone a most formidable naval and air power. But in the early days of July, Britain, defying what seemed to be forces as inexorable as fate and risking alienation fo the French people, boldly attacked and largely disabled the French fleet so that it could no longer be of any substantial service to Hitler. Britain won not only our admiration for her courage and audacity but our gratitude as well."
By the way, a great movie released last year, highly recommended, is "The Darkest Hour," directed by Joe Wright, written by Anthony McCarten and starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. It's a slice of history as Churchill deals with challenges and the need for toughness in his first weeks as Prime Minister. Churchill was elected to the position after serving as First Lord of the Admiralty, the U.S. counterpart to Secretary of the Navy.

In "That Man" Jackson shows the back and forth between Churchill and FDR. 
"Churchill," Jackson writes, "seemed not to comprehend the very different constitutional and political position of President Roosevelt, who was bound by a written Constitution separating executive from legislative power and putting in Congress the control of disposal of government property."

Churchill reads
Eventually, Jackson worked out a legal transaction that helped both nations and navies. His artful deal assisted European Allies at a critical time and helped set the stage for American involvement in the war.

"That Man" gives us a front-row seat to the impact of the attack on Hawaii of Dec. 7, 1941 and its reverberations across the world to the White House.
"I think Pearl Harbor was a great shock to the President – that with all the war talk there had been, he did not believe Japan would make a surprise attack. Of course it was a great embarrassment to him ... How long the war would last and what the prospects were, I did not have much opinion. I was baffled. Our intelligence had proved to be wrong on nearly everything. American intelligence services let us down at every point. I had heard in Cabinet discussions the views that had come from our intelligence services. We had enormously underestimated the strength and striking power of Hitler. We had overestimated the staying power of France. We had overestimated the strength of England. We had overestimated the attitude and stamina of Belgium. We had terribly underestimated Japan, at least her immediate striking power. We had terribly underestimated the power of Russia ... The conquest of Russia was expected to be a very short matter. Based on such information as I had, it was a very dark prospect indeed. I was very pessimistic about it. It looked like a very long war and a war that would be terrifically costly in lives because Hitler would have to be dislodged from the position that he held. We had to wage a war of attack. The foolish optimism that had prevailed, such as the invincibility of the American navy and this and that, all went out of Washington very fast. In place of it, a very deep pessimism came in. There was talk about a war of a decade and all that. In the early part of December and the following months, spirits were pretty low here."
Daughter Mary and son Bill flank Irene and new Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, June 2041.
During the war, FDR appointed Jackson to the Supreme Court, but Jackson did not always side with the president. He recognized the importance of balance and separation of powers and the overriding authority of the Constitution.

For example, Jackson was in the minority in the Korematsu decision by the Court, arguing against the constitutionality of FDR's decision to imprison Americans of Japanese Ancestry in concentration "internment" camps, an order based on unfounded fear of a racial minority and one FDR would later admit was a mistake.

Robert H. Jackson had close personal ties to the Navy and the extended Roosevelt family. He knew "quite well ... the old gentleman" Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, who he first met in 1913. He conferred with Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles and newspaper editor and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.

Jackson at FDRs naval conference with Henry Stimson, Sumner Welles and Frank Knox.
Jackson's daughter, Mary, married a Navy physician. Jackson's son, Bill, earned a law degree and entered the Navy as an ensign. Bill later married Theodore Roosevelt's grandaughter. 

Both TR and FDR served in the position of assistant secretary of the Navy early in their government service. According to Jackson, FDR embraced innovation in the 30s and 40s:
"Roosevelt was not over-awed by military or naval rank and did not feel any sense of inferiority in the presence of a general or an admiral ... The Navy was his special interest, and at Cabinet meetings we sometimes referred to it as his branch of the service. He had the general conception of naval power that was set forth in the late nineteenth century by Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, but he was not blind to the significance of the growth of air power. He knew that that opened a new chapter and called for new techniques. He was interested in the most minute developments of new weapons and new strategies, even new tactics. My impression was that Roosevelt had no lack of respect for the training, judgment and advice of his generals and his admirals on the special subjects that were within their technical competence, but that as Commander-in-Chief he was more apt than most presidents to assert his personal authority over the military, naval and air authorities."
Jackson is a fascinating figure in history for his role in the New Deal, as solicitor general and attorney general, as Supreme Court justice and then for a time as chief prosecutor for the United States in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders.

Jackson, who began a successful career as a country lawyer, never finished law school.

A justice for the people, Jackson opposed indiscriminate wiretapping and invasions of citizens' privacy.

"It seemed to me that wire tapping was a source of real danger if it was not adequately supervised, and that the secret of the proper use of wire tapping was a highly responsible use in a limited number of cases, defined by law, and making wire tapping criminal outside of those purposes or limits," Jackson said.

A Wave-Top Read on Jackson

A wonderful book for young readers makes a good companion read to "That Man." It's Gail Jarrow's "Robert H. Jackson: New Deal Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, Nuremberg Prosecutor" (Calkins Creek, 2008).

Jarrow explores Jackson's early life in western Pennsylvania and New York as a devoted reader and, in high school, a skilled debater, often benefiting from the wisdom of mentors. In just just a couple of hundred pages we get a wave-top view of his life, culminating in his role at Nuremberg and final years on the Court. She writes:
"Nuremberg had shown Robert Jackson how easily a dictator like Hitler could seize power. The lesson stayed with him when he returned to the Supreme Court. He was determined to protect each person's rights and freedoms from an overpowering government. Yet Jackson didn't want the government to be so weak that it couldn't keep the country secure. Twice in his lifetime, he watched Germany take over Europe. Now Communist Soviet Union was moving to control the free countries in Eastern Europe."
Earlier in his tenure in a First Amendment case he led the majority 6-3 opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, siding with Jehovah's Witness schoolgirl plaintiffs against the West Virginia Board of Education. The students had been suspended for not putting their hands on their hearts and participating in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Jackson took a different stand in Terminiello v. City of Chicago. The case involved a priest issuing what today would be considered hate speech.

Gail Jarrow
"Catholic priest Arthur Terminiello gave a political speech in a Chicago auditorium in February 1946," Jarrow writes. "During his speech, Terminiello verbally attacked Jews and blacks and called former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt a Communist." More than a thousand angry people protested outside. Some pounded on the doors and threw rocks. The priest "urged his supporters to use violence against the 'slimy scum' protestors."

In the ensuing riot Terminiello was arrested and fined $100. He took his case through the judicial system to SCOTUS. The Court sided 5-4 against Chicago and for the priest, saying the First Amendment protected his freedom of speech.

"Jackson strongly opposed the majority's decision," Jarrow reports.

She quotes Jackson: "No mob has ever protected any liberty, even its own, but if not put down it always winds up in an orgy of lawlessness which respects no liberties ... The choice is not between order and liberty [of the citizen]. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is a danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact."

In the same year as the Terminiello decision was announced, by the way, the United States formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was created by the United States, Canada, and several Western European partner nations after WWII to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.

Jackson, who lived through two world wars and the Cold War, was on the Supreme Court during the Korean War. 

He heard a pivotal case called Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer. President Truman had ordered the government to take over the steel mills during the war in response to threats of a steelworkers' strike. By 6-3, the Court decided the Constitution did not give the president the authority to take private property without the consent of Congress.
Above: Rehnquist and Jackson; below: Roberts and Rehnquist.

"This ruling," Jarrow said, "brought the three branches of government into balance again and became the basis for many later Court decisions."

In one of his final cases, recovering from a heart attack, Jackson was part of one of the most important cases in U.S. history, Brown v. Board of Education.

The year before he'd heard the reasoned arguments of then-attorney Thurgood Marshall against school segregation. "Jackson made up his mind that the Court should reverse the 1896 Supreme Court ruling Plessy v. Ferguson," Jarrow writes. The decision, issued by Chief Justice Earl Warren, was unanimous.
Jackson did not achieve his dream of becoming chief justice, but his legacy was profound.
"Although Robert Jackson never became chief justice, he is connected to a line of chief justices. His law clerk in 1952-1953 was William Rehnquist, who served as chief from 1986 to 2005. When Rehnquist died in 2005, his former law clerk John Roberts took the position. Robert Jackson dedicated his life to the law, first as a lawyer, then as a judge. He believed that the basis of a government was its laws, not the whims of its leaders. Shortly before his death, he wrote: 'There are only two real choices of government open to a people. It may be governed by law or it may be governed by the will of one or of a group of men. Law, as the expression of the ultimate will and wisdom of the people, has so far proven the safest guardian of liberty yet devised.'"
Jarrow's biography includes a timeline, notes, bibliography, index and resources for more information. Among the resources are oral histories, presidential libraries (Wilson, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower) and the Robert H. Jackson Center of Jamestown, New York – – a site with comprehensive coverage of the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.

Jackson saw the value of working closely with Allies. He recognized the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism. And he believed in the awe-inspiring power of Constitutional Democracy. He embraced freedom, rejected fear, spoke truth to power and put his faith in critical thinking.

Robert H. Jackson, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in 1953: second from the left, in the back row. Also pictured are, from left, in the bottom row: Felix Frankfurter; Hugo Black; Earl Warren (Chief Justice); Stanley Reed; William O. Douglas. Back row: Tom Clark; Jackson; Harold Burton; Sherman Minton.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Toughness of Churchill & Orwell

Review by Bill Doughty

Thomas Ricks's choice of subject is at first glance a head scratcher. What could right-wing imperialist Winston Churchill and left-wing flamethrower George Orwell have in common?

Churchill in WWI, middle row, center.
George Orwell
The answer: toughness of character, love of freedom and a commitment to truth and action. Both fought in combat for their belief in democracy and liberty – Churchill as an army officer in the First World War, Orwell twenty years later as a rebel against fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Churchill also served as First Lord of the Admiralty in the lead up to WWI.

In "Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom" (Penguin Press, 2017) Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ricks shows how military experience shaped the two men as thinkers and writers.

In Orwell's case his position was cemented as a lifelong skeptic. "From Spain on, his mission was to write the facts as he saw them, no matter where that took him, and to be skeptical of everything he read, especially when it came from or comforted those wielding power."

For Churchill, connections to the military informed his approach as Prime Minister. "From his time in World War I, and even more from his two turns at overseeing the British navy, Churchill had developed a delicate feel for the wiles of military bureaucracy."

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 1941 was a moment of truth for the United States not only in the Pacific but also, Churchill immediately realized, across the Atlantic to Europe.

"Churchill's post-Pearl Harbor address to Congress was a work of political genius," Ricks writes. "Its structure was artistic, with four sections that could be titled: I, We, They, Us Against Them." Churchill was a good writer but a great orator.

"Orwell's reaction to Pearl Harbor was markedly more skeptical about the Americans. While Londoners were becoming more pro-Russian, he observed, 'There is no corresponding increase in pro-American sentiment – the contrary.'" Still, Orwell seemed to be enamored with the idea of America if not the reality. Writer Christoper Hitchens, Ricks says, described Orwell as having a "curious blind spot" about America.
"Among Orwell's favorite authors were three Americans – Twain, Walt Whitman, and Jack London. Orwell does not seem to have been much influenced by the scathing portrayal of the nineteenth-century United States by another of his favorite writers, Charles Dickens. 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' a novel based upon Dickens's tour of the United States in 1842, depicted America as a nation of 'dollars, demagogues, and bar-rooms,' violent and deeply hypocritical, prating about honor, freedom, and liberty while enslaving millions."
Mark Twain (Library of Congress)
Ricks's book, with great photos of the protagonists and insights into their work, is a fascinating examination of two vines intertwined in the arc of history in the early 1900s.

Both men were drawn progressively more toward the ideas and ideals of the United States – including as expressed by the venerated Mark Twain.
"Early in his career, in the mid-1930s, Orwell had contemplated writing a biography of Mark Twain, but could not find a publisher interested in the project. Churchill also contemplated a book on an American theme in his youth – a history of the American Civil War. As a young man on his first lecture tour in America, he was introduced on the stage by Mark Twain."
During WWII, as Churchill led the British nation, Orwell served in the Home Guard. Orwell, influenced by the war and especially the postwar period, wrote his great novels "Animal Farm," published in 1945, and "1984," published 69 years ago this month in 1949.

After the war Churchill, like Orwell, retreated to the countryside to write. He had been voted out as prime minister and took what Ricks calls his "revenge," his Homeric war memoirs, starting with "Volume 1: The Gathering Storm."

Ricks examines each of Churchill's volumes and concludes, "No one can ever consider the history of World War II without referring to Churchill's account."

Orwell, however, may have the longer lasting impact on the world, at least from a literary standpoint. "A new post-Cold War generation has found his words to have resonance," Ricks writes. "All told, in terms of contemporary influence, Orwell arguably has surpassed Churchill."

Orwell, whose hero of 1984 is named Winston, gave us words and phrases including "doublethink," "big brother" and "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

Ricks shows how "kindred spirits" Churchill and Orwell had the toughness to fight to preserve the liberty of the individual – "the key question of the century" – first by seeking facts, then by acting on their beliefs and finally by writing down their thoughts for posterity.

Both were men of action who, "facing an existential threat then responded with caring and clear-sightedness."

In his conclusion Ricks asserts that their path leads to a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama and to the pen of Martin Luther King Jr. "King was arguing that in a world based on facts, in which the individual has the right to perceive and decide those facts on his or her own, the state must earn the allegiance of its citizens. When it fails to live up to its rhetoric, it begins to forfeit that loyalty. This is a thought at once profoundly revolutionary and very American."

Ricks's explanation of how Orwell and Churchill are relevant to MLK and the Civil Rights movement is an eyeopener and a call to action for truth, justice and reality in the face of lies, corruption and obfuscation.

"That struggle to see things as they are is perhaps the fundamental driver of Western civilization," Ricks concludes. Facts matter.