Sunday, December 9, 2018

New York Says What to Read. Wait, What?

Review by Bill Doughty

The trouble with a book that recommends 1,000 books for your bucket-list is this: What prism is the editor/compiler looking through.

"A Thousand Books to Read Before You Die" (Workman Publishing, 2018, New York, NY) is a beautiful book offering an impressive spectrum of colorful titles and great authors.

You'll find great writers and thinkers like Isaac Asimov, Ulysses S. Grant, Maya Angelou, Stephen J. Gould, George Orwell, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Oliver Sacks, Homer, Dorothy Parker, D.H. Lawrence, J.K. Rowling, Jon Krakauer and Agatha Christie.

There are a relative handful of selected books that would appeal to Navy readers, including Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October," Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front," "The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant," Shelby Foote's "The Civil War," Robert Hughes's "The Fatal Shore," William Manchester's "Goodbye Darkness," John Keegan's "The Face of Battle," David McCullough's "Truman," David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest," Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea," Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," Joseph's Heller's "Catch-22" and Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game":
"...Just try to put it down. Tracing Ender's path to Battle School – a space center in which the best and the brightest children are trained for high-tech war – and, ultimately, to Command School, on the edge of the interstellar front lines. Orson Scott Card's novel is riveting... Ender's fierce initiation reveals his unparalleled gifts for warfare. As the stakes mount, the simulated battles he dominates are transformed from complex and dangerous games into sinister – and spectacular – realities."
Author James Mustich features his one thousand books, mentions many others and merely names a slew of extras. In other words, there are thousands of books discussed in this readable, interesting and hefty offering: a beautiful book about books.

So, what's the problem?

BM3 Ivan Naranjo reads aboard USS Anchorage (LPD 23), 2018. Photo by MC3 Ryan M. Breeden
As great as this book is, the personal lens of the editor understandably distorts reason, trumps objectivity, and begs questions as to how some of the authors and their works were selected. 

I mean, Anne Rice? Moss Hart's show business autobiography? Richard Ford's adventures in making artisan bread and pizza? "Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France"? "When French Women Cook"? "Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris"? "The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth"? 

Mustich, a New York bookseller with an apparent deep love of fashion, fine dining, Broadway, the Big Apple, Provence and France, all but admits his bias and certainly is upfront about his selections not being perfect. "Hot dogs to haute cuisine," as he says. But if comfort foods of literature are allowed, where are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mario Puzo, Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey?

Stephen King gets "Carrie" and "11/22/1963," but where are "The Stand," "The Shining" and "Cujo"?

William Shakespeare
As one would expect from a polished bookseller, this is like a bookstore readers can hold, complete with a detailed general index and 1,000 book checklist.

Overall, Mustich does a pretty good job of ensuring diversity, including different age groups and interests – both fiction and non-fiction; poetry and philosophy; youth and adult; U.S. and international; escapist and pay-attention-this-is-important.

The Bhagavad Gita, Bible and The Book of Job find themselves co-located, thanks to alphabetical listings, as are Plato, Pliny the Younger and Plutarch. Shakespeare is the overall winner in number of works listed, with 13 titles.

Nice surprises include personal favorites such as Gould's "The Panda's Thumb," Loren Eiseley's "The Immense Journey," Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove," Richard Dawkins's "The Selfish Gene," "Portable Dorothy Parker," Taylor Branch's "Parting the Waters," "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," Carl Sagan's "Dragons of Eden," Edward O. Wilson's "The Naturalist," and Charles Darwin's "The Voyage of the Beagle."

Thankfully there's a heavy helping of science, including Thomas's wonderful collection of essays, "The Lives of a Cell":
"Every genre has its native charms, and the allure of the essay is its easy way with rumination. In the best examples of the form, the essayist communicates not just learning, but thinking, inviting the reader to share the satisfactions of a mind at play on a field of observation or experience. When an essay's author is as masterful as Lewis Thomas, it can shine like a jewel, glittering with truths small and large."
But where are shining lights by Christopher Hitchens, Steven Covey, Desmond Morris ("The Naked Ape"), John Hersey ("Hiroshima"), Thomas Paine ("The Age of Reason"), Steven Pinker, William Zinsser, Mary Roach, Craig Symonds, Jared Diamond, Nathaniel Philbrick, Erik Larson, James D. Hornfischer, Hector Hugh Munro a.k.a. Saki, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Thomas Friedman, Noah Yuval Harari and Stephen Hawking?

It's a tragedy that Mary Roach and Hope Jahren ("Lab Girl") are missing.

So many great authors are left on forgotten shelves, so many books. It can be difficult to choose any individual one. That's where a book like this can help. Perhaps there will be more versions of "1,000 Books to Read" – even someday "1,000 Navy Books to Read."

Bazelon, Richardson and Plotz of Slate's Political Gabfest.
This book first came to my attention after hearing it recommended by David Plotz, anchor of Slate Magazine's Political Gabfest podcast with Emily Bazelon and John Richardson.

Plotz said this about editor Mustich: "He's a reader of such joy and bouyancy. ... He has a real knack for recognizing what in a book is wonderful ... He's a spirit you'll want to spend time with."

And Plotz said this about the book itself: "Over 948 magnificent pages, well-illustrated. The familiar and the highly unfamiliar ... It's so much fun."

Gabfest's John Dickerson said, "So, does that make it a thousand and one?"

The best endorsement may be through the prism of writer, historian, producer Ken Burns: "If you've ever doubted that books were the greatest invention of all time, and that they carry within them our collective memories and dreams as well as any semblance of intelligence we have as a species, pick up this book and start reading."

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pearl Harbor Mug Shots: 'This is No Drill'

Review by Bill Doughty

Dedicated "to the servicemen and civilians on Ford Island on 7 December 1941," this book purports to be the "comprehensive tactical history ... for the Japanese attacks on the island of Oahu."

"This Is No Drill: The History of NAS Pearl Harbor and the Japanese Attacks of 7 December 1941" (Naval Institute Press, 2018) by J. Michael Wnger, Robert J. Cressman and John F. Di Virgilio sets its sights on the island in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

Ford Island in 1941
The authors describe the building of Luke airfield and Army and Navy infrastructure on Ford Island after giving a short but fascinating history of the area: Hawaiians' use of the area; early name of Rabbit Island; first foreign owner (in 1810) Spaniard Francisco de Paula Marin; price of the island at public auction in 1865, $1,040; and then the U.S. government's purchase as the First World War loomed.
"With the coming of war in Europe in July 1914, concerned Americans 'cast a watchful eye to security in the Pacific' – a gaze that presaged the end of civilian ownership of Ford Island. A purchase price of $236,000 was arranged for 'the transfer of Ford Island to the U.S. government for military purposes'; $170,000 went to the 'I'i estate and $65,000 to the Oahu Sugar Company as lessee of the majority of the island. The government gave custody of the northwestern half to the U.S. Army, which began developing an airfield shortly thereafter."
Of course, the centerpiece of this tactical history is the attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan, and "This Is No Drill" shows how the attack happened, building suspense and giving a face to the individuals involved, both American and Japanese.

The "mug shots" are what sets this comprehensive history apart from other great books about Pearl Harbor, including Gordon Prange's "At Dawn We Slept,"  Craig Nelson's  "From Infamy to Greatness" and Samuel Eliot Morison's "The Rising Sun in the Pacific."

Fascinating historical photos of people, places and facilities come from the Naval HIstory and Heritage Command, National Archives and Records Administration, National Personnel Records Center, National Personal Records Center, Japan Defense Agency, among others.

This work is part of a Pearl Harbor Tactical Studies Series that also includes "No One Avoided Danger: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attack of 7 December 1941."
"The Pearl Harbor Tactical Studies series seeks to fill this wide gap in military history by exploring the deepest levels of practical, personal, and tactical details. The goal of these works is to promote a deeper understanding of the events of 7 December 1941 and to convey the chaos and magnitude of the disaster on Oahu as experienced by individuals. A careful survey of the available records and accounts from both sides has resulted in comprehensive accounts that document the epic American-Japanese struggle on and over Oahu and the intensely human tragedy of that day."
Anyone interested in the history of Pearl Harbor and the start of America's shock into World War II will find this book interesting and, as intended by the authors and series editors, comprehensive. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

George H.W. Bush's Courage, Richardson's Insights

Review by Bill Doughty
Navy's youngest aviator in World War II, Lt. j. George H. W. Bush.
He was forged from the sea after being fished from the sea. The youngest U.S. Navy aviator in World War II was shot down in the Pacific and rescued September 22, 1944. George Herbert Walker Bush passed away late yesterday at 94. He is remembered for his honesty, which arguably cost him reelection to the presidency in 1994.

He is also revered for his courage and bold decision-making after Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to attack Saudi Arabia, giving Saddam Hussein control nearly half of the entire world's known oil reserves at the time. Western Europe, Japan and the United States could not tolerate such revanchism.

In "Reflections of a Radical Moderate" (1996, Pantheon Books) Elliot Richardson recounts Bush's character in the first Gulf War, committing ground troops in numbers in the Gulf in numbers that would not allow rotation home with stateside combat units. "This decision precluded keeping the troops in place and awaiting further developments. A ground attack would have to be launched no later than the early spring of 1991 and completed no later than the middle of May because from then until October the desert heat would preclude sustained combat," Richardson writes.
"The die was thus cast on November 8, 1990, when the president announced the augmented deployment. Nine weeks later he sought and obtained by narrow margins congressional support for the use of military force and on February 24, 1991, he ordered the ground attack to go forward. The American people again united behind what they believed to be a just cause. In the end, however, other countries were the principal beneficiaries of our initiative. Although we had at most a 25 percent stake in the outcome, 75 percent of the ground troops in the Gulf, 74 percent of the planes, and nearly all of the naval firepower were American. And although we succeeded in persuading other countries to assume the current costs of Operation Desert Storm, passing the hat could not diminish our share of the blood risk. Nor was it ever suggested that we should ask anyone else to help us amortize the far larger investment we had already made in training, arming and equipping our Persian Gulf forces."When it was all over I wrote the president a letter. In it I saluted the courage, vision and steadfastness with which he had guided the nation's response to Iraq's aggression. I also observed that I had been unable to think of any previous example of a presidential course of action whose foreseeable outcomes were triumph or disaster, with nothing in between."
Richardson offered sage advice, though: "...The Gulf War posted a clear warning that it should not be taken as a precedent for military intervention in conflicts that do not involve equivalent economic and strategic interests."

Keep in mind that Richardson's book was written about 22 years after Watergate and 22 years ago today – well before 9/11 – when "Bush 41," was the only George Bush on the nation's radar.

Yet, Richardson's "Reflections" is fresh as today and as timely as tomorrow. He weighs in on topics like health care, climate change, criminal justice system, education, rich-poor gap, over-fishing, celebrity, cynicism and integrity in government.
Nixon looks on as Richardson is sworn in as Secretary of Defense.
He warns, "I do not think I exaggerate the current dangers to democracy in America. They arise from our failure to achieve the balance of realism honesty and moral responsibility that our situation demands ... Let down by lack of leadership and stampeded by populism, we are increasingly torn by divisiveness."
"Serious problems crying out for government action continue to multiply even as the government's capacity to deal with them progressively deteriorates," he writes. "Americans want a safer, more stable, more orderly, and more humane world not simply because such a world is better for us but because it is better for others too."
This ethical man who served in the administrations of four presidents and who had a number of cabinet positions, including Secretary of Defense and Attorney General, speaks highly of civil and public service, including in the military, as a public trust. He introduces us to Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr.
"Having in several capacities had the good fortune to become acquainted with many of the men who have risen to the top in the uniformed services, I'm deeply impressed by their consistently high quality. For that we owe a tremendous though unacknowledged debt to the continuing perspicacity of the armed services' selection and promotion systems. These views were reinforced when, during the events in June of 1994 commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, I had the chance to talk with quite a few of our most senior officers. On the flight back from Normandy I sat across from General John W. Vessey, Jr. Now retired, he enlisted in the army at the age of seventeen, received a battlefield commission at Anzio in 1944, commanded the Fourth Division in Vietnam and U.S. armed forces in South Korea, became vice-chief of staff of the army, and ended up as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since then he has given large chunks of six additional years to bringing about a final accounting for those mission in action in Vietnam. In all those capacities Jack Vessey was too astute to bamboozle, too strong to push, too courageous to intimidate, too patient to outlast, and too unassuming to flatter."
Although he laments President George H.W. Bush's lack of follow-through on "the vision thing," Richardson nevertheless praises him for his courage and foresight to work cooperatively within the framework of the United Nations and global community:
"With the relaxation of tensions brought about by the end of the Cold War this had at last become possible. With the united support of the permanent members of the Security Council and under the leadership of the United States, twenty-eight nations played active parts in a counteroffensive against Iraq that destroyed the world's fourth-largest army. In hailing this mutual effort, President Bush pointed to 'the long-held promise of a new world order – where brutality will go unrewarded and aggression will meet collective resistance.'"
Richardson notes the obvious, that "We the People" of the United States are our nation's government, its public. As part of a democratic republic we are in control of our destiny."But to adapt and endure, we need as individuals both to have hope and to believe in ourselves. And we must retain a measure of loving concern for one another."

Richardson died three years after his Reflections was published, at the end of the last millennium, Dec. 31, 1999.

Former Commanders-in-Chief Presidents Bush41, Obama, Bush43, Clinton and Carter.
At the George H.W. Bush Library website, we are reminded that President Bush, who joined the Navy on his 18th birthday, logged 126 carrier landings and was awarded the Navy Cross. "Mr. Bush credited his Navy service with 'making a man out of a scared little kid,' introducing him to shipmates from all walks of life and informing his decision-making as commander-in-chief.'"

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Superman of Ethical Integrity

By Bill Doughty

Elliot Lee Richardson
Elliott Richardson looked a lot like Clark Kent. In real-life he was a hero of honor, courage and commitment who – when faced with a crucial choice that could compromise his integrity – made a choice in defense of the Constitution.

Richardson, an Army veteran who fought in D-Day and who received the Bronze Star, was Attorney General of the United States in 1973. In that fiery summer, at the height of the Watergate crisis, he learned that Vice President Spiro Agnew was suspected of corruption: taking bribes not just as Governor of Maryland but also in his current position, with envelopes of cash delivered to him in the White House.

When he learned of the crime Richardson could have obstructed and stopped the investigation, but he immediately supported investigators and proceeded to get the facts, despite Agnew's angry threats against the attorneys involved and media who reported the story. The story is featured in a fascinating new podcast: Bag Man.

Richardson is one of those amazing veterans and quiet American patriots we should remember, especially for Navy readers who will be interested in what he did later in the 1970s.

Vivek Viswanathan remembers Richardson in an insightful  biographical study published by Harvard College – "Crafting the Law of the Sea: Elliot Richardson and the Search for Order on the Oceans."

Viswanathan's 2009 thesis pulls from a wealth of resources in showing Richardson's role in trying to create a Constitution for the oceans, recognizing the importance of the global commons and cooperation of nations.
"The sense that nations should act on the oceans in accordance with internationally accepted rules of understanding was not new. More than three hundred years had passed since the Dutch philosopher Hugo Grotius proposed the principle of the freedom of the seas. The prelude to American involvement in international negotiation on the seas was the Truman Proclamation. Issued in 1945, the Proclamation extended the oceanic resource claims of the United States. President Harry Truman declared that the United States government 'regards the natural resources of the subsoil and seabed of the continental shelf beneath the high seas but contiguous to the coasts of the United States as appertaining to the United States, subject to its jurisdiction and control.' Truman did affirm the importance of international cooperation on navigational rights related to the oceans. A White House press release emphasized that the Proclamation 'in no way abridges the right of free and unimpeded navigation of waters of the character of high seas above the shelf, nor does it extend the present limits of the Territorial waters of the United States.' It claimed only the resources, not the territory, of the continental shelf."
Richardson is part of the history of ethical and fair use of the seas at time when deep seabed mining was becoming a reality.
"The military justification for such a treaty led the Department of Defense to support negotiating efforts at the Law of the Sea conference throughout the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. The Law of the Sea 'must, above all, ensure a stable legal regime for the oceans and protect our vital national security interests in preserving the mobility and flexibility of our naval and air forces,' Admiral T. B. Hayward, the Chief of Naval Operations, wrote to Richardson. Agreements on the extent of territory and the exclusive economic zone for each nation would, in turn, work to prevent an unproductive economic arms race among nations vying to increase their access to resources."
Viswanathan gives us a look into international machinations but especially into the workings of several U.S. administrations and the sometimes surprising hurdles to common sense approaches to laws of the sea even under Navy veteran President Jimmy Carter and later by Hollywood veteran President Ronald Reagan.

Richardson seemed to become disillusioned after his experience with Reagan, who resisted a cooperative treaty:
"For the rest of his life, Richardson was critical of ideologues who, in his view, exhibited 'astonishing imperviousness to rational persuasion. You can demonstrate to an ideologue that one of his arguments is just plain wrong, even factually wrong, but he will invariably repeat the same argument the next day in exactly the same words.'"
Late in his life, Richardson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

Viswanathan writes, "He relished the opportunity to serve in government, at the Law of the Sea conference as well in the other posts that he held, because of his deeply-held conviction that thoughtful, well-executed government policy could make a difference."

Richardson was no superman, but he was obviously a public servant with a deep sense of integrity, appreciation of humility and love of service.

"A public servant’s day-to-day role can affect the well-being, the survival even, of millions of people," Richardson concluded in "Reflections of a Radical Moderate" (Pantheon, 1996).

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Meanwhile, China

Review by Bill Doughty

"China's foreign policy addresses both bilateral relations and participation in multilateral organizations. Beijing's view that 'domestic law trumps, even creates, international law' is a problem for resolving the sovereignty issues that affect both of these facets of Chinese foreign policy." So writes Dr. Bernard "Bud" Cole in a new book that dives deep into the motives, capabilities and challenges of the Peoples Liberation Army (Navy).

Marxist communism has been replaced with nationalism, Cole contends, as the world's superheated economy burns more coal and looks to extract more nonrenewable petroleum resources on land and beneath the sea.

Cole's "China's Quest for Great Power: Ships, Oil, and Foreign Policy" (Naval Institute Press, 2018) is a measured, balanced and eye-opening study backed by 75 pages of notes and bibliography.

We see China's interests, goals and reasons for wanting "a seat at the table," as well as the PLA(N)'s maritime strategy, goals, challenges and inventory.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Sept 25, 2018) An MH-60R Seahawk, assigned to the "Easyriders" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37 lands on the flight deck of the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer Michael Murphy (DDG 112) forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Justin R. Pacheco)
Ens. Adrienne Wang aboard USS Michael Murphy.
What can the United States and the rest of the international community do to counter China's quest for power and flouting of international law?

Our headlines focus on Russian meddling in elections, a Saudi hit squad dismembering a journalist, U.S. white nationalist attacking citizens, and South/Central American refugees seeking asylum; meanwhile we also need to care about China, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The U.S. economy – as well as China's – is interdependent and tied to the global economy and sea lines of communication (SLOC). This book helps us understand the macro economic pulse of economic security, stability and prosperity that freedom of the seas provides.
"The United States is involved in all of China's maritime disputes, for several reasons. First is the vital U.S. concern with maintaining freedom of the seas, particularly freedom of access for U.S. and other seaborne trading. Second are the U.S. defense treaties with South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, all of which border on areas in dispute with China. Third is the strategic assumption that global U.S. access, presence, and influence are being challenged by China's modernizing navy, expanding economic influence, and assertive foreign policy."
Author Capt. Bernard "Bud" D. Cole, USN (Ret.)
According to Cole, the future improvement of economic conditions in China "depends on the government's ability to maintain the security of the energy sector." How will China evolve as it confronts its own embittered nationalism, massive pollution, overfishing, unhappy neighbors and internal challenges: corruption, banking and currency issues, stove-piped opaque government, an aging population and "dramatic gender imbalance."

"Corruption, a weak intellectual property rights regime, and lack of innovation all characterize China's economy," Cole writes. "The question of how China's officials are going to seal their nation from 'western values' is both intriguing and disturbing." 

Using data and statistics, Cole shows how China's appetite has affected and continues to affect the environment, including the world's oceans. "In the words of one scientist, the combination of sovereignty and ecological 'problems mean the whole ecological system in the areas is at the brink of collapse.'"

The "areas" include not only the expansive land areas controlled by the Middle Kingdom, but also the South China Sea, the Yellow Sea and East China Sea – reaching far beyond the PRC's homeland territories.
"Why does China care so much about the sovereignty of these remote, mostly uninhabitable land features, many of which never show above the ocean's surface? The first reason is national pride, with memories of the 'century of humiliation.' Second is the issue of natural resources in the features' surrounding waters, including fisheries, petroleum, and other minerals. Third is the strategic location of the disputed land features, especially those in the South China Sea, an area of crucial SLOCs. Finally, Beijing desires to prevent events from occurring in the three seas of which it does not approve."
SECDEF James Mattis meets with China's Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe Oct. 18, 2018.
Cole presents the current ecosystem of politics, economy and energy that gives us a clear-eyed understanding of the issues not only from China's and our perspective, but also from China's neighbors, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Philippines and others.

"China's economy is international and maritime; China believes that a strong, globally capable navy is required to secure that international economy and the foreign-origin resources required to support continued economic growth," Cole concludes. 

As Americans are distracted by daily headlines at home, we are wise also to continue tracking "China's remarkable development," quest for great power, challenges to continued growth and "a Beijing goal of diminishing Washington's dominance at sea."

Monday, October 8, 2018

Navy SEALs, Pixar, Spurs and Storied Cultures

Review by Bill Doughty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Marvel at this Navy Superhero: Don Winslow

Review by Bill Doughty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

McRaven's Relative Superiority / Six Principles

Review by Bill Doughty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 2, 2018

'F-Word' Questions

Review by Bill Doughty

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

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

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

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

Another F-word: Fear

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

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

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

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

Fight for Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

Ten F-word Warnings + Five More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Final Word

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

From TED Talks: 

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