Monday, January 16, 2017

Believe the Scorpion: 'Winter is Coming'

Review by Bill Doughty

What's the best thing we can do to defeat threats to our nation and world?

Brainy world chess champion Garry Kasparov offers advice, history, analysis and a prescription in his thoughtful "Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped" (PublicAffairs, Perseus Books Group, 2015).

Kasparov challenges us to keep human rights in the forefront – to not look away in the name of political expediency – when dealing with President Putin and his cronies. And deal we must, he says, or risk the appearance (or reality) of appeasement.
"Instead of standing on principles of good and evil, of right and wrong, and on the universal values of human rights and human life, we have engagement, resets, and moral equivalence. That is, appeasement by many other names. The world needs a new alliance based on a global Magna Carta, a declaration of fundamental rights that all members must recognize. Nations that value individual liberty now control the greater part of the world's resources as well as its military power. If they band together and refuse to coddle the rogue regimes and sponsors of terror, their integrity and their influence will be irresistible. The goal should not be to build new walls to isolate the millions of people living under authoritarian rule, but to provide them with hope and the prospect of a brighter future."
Havel (L) and Kasparov (R) meet at Democracy & Security conference, 2007.
Former Czech President Václav Havel is quoted, describing "politicians who kiss and embrace politicians, almost dizzy with the smell of oil and gas." According to Kasparov, Putin's wealth and power are provided by Western companies, especially "energy giants," investing in Russia "as Russian oligarchs spread their wealth."

This book comes with an endorsement from former Navy pilot and Vietnam War POW Senator John McCain (pictured below): "As one of the most influential critics of Vladimir Putin's reign of terror, Garry Kasparov has become a champion for the causes of freedom, democracy, and human rights in Russia."

Written after the invasion of Ukraine but before Russia's foray into Syria, this still-timely book shows how Putin – Time's Person of the Year in 2007 – came to power after Gorbachev and Yeltsin in the pivotal first year of the Millennium. 

Among the events in a tumultuous 2000, a faulty torpedo exploded aboard the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in the frigid Barents Sea, resulting in the death of 118 Russian sailors. That same year Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda targeted USS Cole (DDG 67), killing 17 American sailors.

Terrorism and military tension were once again on the rise in the 21st century, a combustible mix ready to explode in the fall of 2001.

President Putin.
Grandmaster Kasparov explains how history's chess pieces have moved – from Cuba's Bay of Pigs to Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay, from Chechnya to Ukraine – and dozens of other hotspots on the planet, as ideals of freedom and democracy clashed with fascism and totalitarianism, as elections took place or power was seized and consolidated.

North Korea is mentioned several times. In 2001, "the Russian president had already established personal relations with Kim Jong-il and was ready to play a broker role on the Korean Peninsula."

Former North Korea dictator Kim Jong-il and Putin in 2002.
Kasparov describes the nature of a fascist kleptocracy such as Stalin's and Hitler's. "Dictatorships must be feared to survive and so they cannot bear to be mocked." Fear and disinformation are fomented, and freedom of speech is intolerable. 

Are dictators born or raised that way? "As with most nature-nurture questions, it's both in varying degrees of balance."

This book is filled with word gems, like:

  • "If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, compromises on principles are the streetlights."
  • "When Putin loaned the presidency to his shadow, Dmitry Medvedev it should have been clear to all that democracy was dead."
  • "Even after Western firms were repeatedly betrayed, cheated, and threatened by their Russian partners and kicked out of partnerships or the country, they came back looking for more like beaten dogs to an abusive master."
  • "The mullahs, monarchs, and dictators are pushing back against the threat to their medieval ecosystems."
  • "True nature can override logic and self-preservation."

The last bullet above refers to fabulist Orson Welles's story of the scorpion and the frog: 

"The frog carries the scorpion across the river on its back, convinced by the scorpion's logic that it will not sting him because if it does , they will both die. In the middle of the river the scorpion stings the frog, who says, dying, 'Logic? There is no logic in this!' The scorpion replies, 'I know, I can't help it. It is my character.'"

Fortunately, "Few humans are truly scorpions – complete psychopaths."

Kasparov warns, "Don't trust a scorpion because logic and being in the right doesn't help you very much when you're dead."

Dissidents are true patriots, dedicated to higher ideals as espoused in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, according to Kasparov.

"If we rouse ourselves from our complacency and relearn how to stand up to the dictators and terrorists who threaten the modern world we have built, we can alter our course," he writes.

In other words: Read books.

Using Malala Yousafzai as an example of how education threatens fascists but empowers citizens, Kasparov, the chess champion prescribes a solution: "What these thugs cannot abide is the flowering of education, with the noteworthy exception of militant religious-teaching that often closes minds instead of opening them. They despise the possibility of an educated population, knowing it would mean the end of their kind for a generation."
"If there is anything I have learned from my extensive travels all over the world to promote chess in education it is that talent exists everywhere. The question is how to give it the opportunity to express itself and to thrive. This opportunity that education creates is what is lacking in so much of the undeveloped world and in parts of the developed world as well if we are honest – a shortfall that has wide-ranging and damaging effects. Education is the most effective way to address poverty and violence, even to tackle complex issues of terrorist groups and vicious warlords."
"Winter Is Coming" is, of course, a title taken from George R. R. Martin's "Game of Thrones," but Kasparov recommends another author "to understand the Putin regime in depth": Mario Puzo, author of "The Godfather" (a book novel published in 1969 that I read in high school English class, hiding a paperback version behind the assigned Carson McCullers book; sorry, Ms. Baker).

Kasparov advises: "The rise of Vladimir Putin and his St. Petersburg clan has been described as Machiavellian, but it is better described by the achievements of Don Vito Corleone: the web of betrayals, the secrecy, and the blurred lines between what is business, what is government, and what is criminal – it's all there in Puzo's books."

Other authors and works recommended or inspired after reading "Winter Is Coming" include David Halberstam's "War in a Time of Peace," George Orwell's "1984," Hanna Arendt's "Origins of Totalitarianism," and Masha Gessen's "The Man Without a Face."

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Who is President of the United States in 2017?

Review by Bill Doughty

According to Mark Greaney (and the late but immortal Tom Clancy) President Jack Ryan leads the free world in 2017 – as ISIS works through a rogue Saudi, Yemeni and Romanian to allow Islamist militants to target, attack and kill hundreds of Americans in cities across the United States.

The remedy: Arm every off duty service member with military-issued concealed handguns but resist the urge to invade another Middle East country. Also, beef up cyberdefense. Finally, while under attack, keep your cool even in the face of threats to the Constitution and the very existence of the nation.

According to Greaney, speaking through President Ryan in his novel "True Faith and Allegiance" (Putnam, 2016), "People have a reasonable tendency to do one of two things when they listen to someone in government warn them of a threat. They either tune in or freak out."

It's the voice of reason from the fictional commander-in-chief – channeling Peter Bergen. Here's the wisdom of Clancy's and Greany's speaking through their President Ryan:
"Let's keep this in perspective for the average U.S. citizen. It is a sad fact that there were more than fifty shootings in Chicago over the weekend, with seven dead. There exists, quite unfortunately, violence all around us. What is happening with these Islamic State terrorists in our borders is of utmost concern to us, but I would not want the average American citizen to do anything more than report any concerns you may have to your local law enforcement agency."
The president watches as his son Jack Ryan Jr. and his team of quasi-official operatives save the world. No spoiler alert needed.

Tom Clancy gets a brief aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk in 2002. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
In "True Faith" bad guys get information about military service members and federal civilians from stolen SF-86 e-QIP forms, the 127-page paperwork required to get and maintain a security clearance. They then set out to assassinate and otherwise terrorize in hopes of drawing more radical militants to their cause – and to draw the United States deeper into the Middle East.

The premise is drawn in part from real-life events in June 2016 when hackers stole personal private information about millions of people from the Office of Personnel Management.

Cybercrime + open source intelligence x cyberwarfare = terror.

USS Sampson (DDG 102) operates off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand in November 2016.
"Someone was fusing legal data with an illegal theft of data and then weaponizing the results," Greaney writes.

Working with more than forty characters, Greaney never loses the pace, balance or intrigue moving from narrative and dialog, including in White House press conferences, to then unleash the action. And, unlike some other thrillers, there's only a minimal amount of eye-rolling to some pretty unrealistic situations.

For example: The story opens at a Mexican restaurant in New Jersey with a harrowing and seemingly disconnected attack on Cmdr. Scott Hagen, captain of USS James Greer (DDG-102) by a crazed Russian avenging the death of his brother in a Baltic sea battle. (The real DDG-102, by the way, is USS Sampson, homeported in San Diego. Sampson recently assisted New Zealand after an earthquake.)

Iranians, North Koreans, Chinese, Eastern Europeans and various spies of all persuasions make appearances, as do the Peshmerga and their friends.

U.S. Army AH-64E Apache helicopters (Photo by Capt. Brian Harris).
Peppering the narrative are some terrific action scenes featuring U.S. Army Capt. Carrie Ann Underwood copiloting and operating the guns on an AH-64E Apache in northern Iraq. Hornets from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) also make an appearance.

Intended irony? Both the protagonists and evildoers in this thriller are fired up by a desire for "righteous payback."

Fortunately, President Jack Ryan (played in the past by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine and reportedly to be played by John Krasinski fighting ISIS/ISIL in an Amazon TV series) is a voice of relative reason in a dynamic and dangerous world waiting for the better angels of our nature.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (June 15, 2016) Aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) conducts flight operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class J. M. Tolbert/Released)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Diary of Pearl Harbor Survivor – Navy Chief Al Rodrigues

Review by Bill Doughty

Pacific Historic Parks provides this short book at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, overlooking USS Arizona and "Battleship Row" next to Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

The cover reads: "A Native Son of Hawaii's memories of the War in the Pacific while on duty during the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and while serving on the battleship USS Washington in the Pacific Theater."

This is his wartime diary aboard USS Washington (BB-56) as well as his insights and reflections as a volunteer at the Visitor Center, where his message to visitors is: "Freedom is not free."

This enjoyable little book, published in 2014, starts with Rodrigues's recollections as a young boy growing up in Hawaii.

Al was born on the island of Kauai on February 7, 1920. His full name: Alfred Benjamin Kameeiamoku Rodrigues. Al's mother was Hawaiian. She died when Al was only 8, "and I felt like I wanted to die also. I loved her so much." Al's father was of Portuguese descent. He experienced some prejudice growing up in mixed-race family on Kauai.

Kapaa Kauai in 1924, looking away from Lihue and toward "Sleeping Giant" mountain range.
"Kauai is geologically the oldest island of the group of islands and, without any personal prejudice, the most beautiful of all." Al attended Kauai High School in Lihue, where he competed in various sports, when he wasn't surfing or caddying at the Waialua Golf Course (25 cents per bag for nine holes, with usually a ten-cent tip).
"I played football, volleyball, basketball and baseball and was also on the swimming team so kept busy. The only wrong thing I did was take up smoking, so there went my caddy money. I finally quit smoking when I retired from the Navy."
Rodrigues joined the Navy with an ambition to be an engineering, but under the guidance of Navy Chief George Maile, a fellow Sailor from Hawaii, he chose instead to become a storekeeper. "It made a difference on the rest of my career in the Navy."

Gunners aboard USS Ward (DD-139).
He remembers holding air raid drills in November of 1941. "It was an omen that something was to happen," he said.
"On December 7, 1941, I had the four-to-eight watch; and the officer of the deck, who was a quartermaster second class, told me that they had received a message at 3:30 a.m. that our destroyer the USS Ward (DD-139) had dropped depth charges on an unidentified submarine and sunk it."
Al had just put his breakfast tray down when he could hear explosions "in the shipyard area." He and his buddies assumed it was dredging work until he heard the General Alarm. They all ran to the armory where they were issued .30 caliber rifles or .45 pistols. Not much help against the incoming enemy planes, red rising suns on the bottom of their wings.
"They were flying low enough that you could see the pilots' faces. We heard yells to shoot the pilot as they had open cockpits. Hell, it was hard enough to shoot the airplane, much less the pilot. With a rifle of 1941 vintage, you could only shoot one bullet at a time then cock the rifle before shooting the next shot, and by then the plane was out of reach."
Naval Supply Center at Pearl Harbor in the 1940s.
Storekeepers like Al provided supplies and made room "for sailors who lost everything." He worked closely with the Naval Supply Center, now known as Fleet Industrial Supply Center.

This book is filled with tweet-size stories about characters like Sake-Mac, the Chief Commissary man; an unnamed bunkmate accused of murder in New York; and C.B. Wilson, who helped Al sneak out at night for a luau. 

USS Washington (BB-56) in the Shipyard after a collision with USS Indiana (BB-58) in 1944.
Most of "Diary" is in fact a diary, a journal, and a way to keep track of events at a time when news was blocked, letters were censored and information was subject to propaganda and what we'd now call fake news.

Al gives us a feel for day-to-day life during wartime aboard USS Washington and how the enemy was viewed by Sailors and the nation at the time. The cover of his diary was inscribed with some of the locations he visited, including Palau, Gilberts, Nauru, Marianas and Marshall Islands, where his ship's bow was crushed in a collision with USS Indiana (BB-58).

We see how close Al was to his sister, Nani.

Al remembers fondly some time he finagled in New York City, which welcomed service members who had served in the war. After the war he returned to Hawaii.
"The City and County of Honolulu had an ad asking for men to join the police force and I applied. The first thing they did was make me get on a scale and I weighed 149 pounds. The sergeant told me to go home, eat some bananas and come back tomorrow as the minimum weight was 150 pounds. Did that; I ate a few and the next day I was accepted for the next recruit training as I met the correct weight."
Al Rodrigues's diary.
But Al changed his mind and rejoined the Navy, where he served as a Navy Chief at the Yards and Docks Supply Depot.

He married "the cutest local Japanese girl," Ruth, and raised a family – three sons, Kammy, Jay and Ronald. Ronald was born in Yokosuka, Japan when Al was stationed at Naval Supply Depot there.  "In 1960, sometime while stationed at the Naval Ammunition Depot in Lualualei, Oahu, Ruth and I split. We had differences and she eventually married a guy named Pete, who was a Navy friend of mine. It sure is funny how some things just work out for the best – for all concerned."

Pearl Harbor Survivors Sterling Cale and Al Rodrigues meet young visitors in 2009.
Al met his second wife, Louise, who already had four children, Jimmy, Mary, Stella and Fred. "Now with four of hers, three of mine (from my first marriage) plus two of ours (son Kalani and daughter Aulani born at Tripler Army Medical Center) it adds up to nine in the family. And we are still one happy family. It is mine, hers and ours. Nice, huh!"

Today, Al Rodrigues volunteers at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center where he meets people "from many foreign countries and every state in the Union."
"In closing, I want to remind people that we should honor the memories of my generation so that we can pass to future generations the stories of what those brave, heroic men and women of World war II did to preserve our freedom. Freedom is not free."
Thank you to Agnes Tauyan, Director of Public Affairs for Navy Region Hawaii, for recommending this book for a Navy Reads review.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Post-75th – The Legacy of Pearl Harbor

Review by Bill Doughty

Parts II and III: Strike! to Victory...

Pearl Harbor survivor Donald Stratton renders a salute as USS Halsey (DDG 97) performs a Pass-in-Review during the 75th Anniversary National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
USS Arizona Seaman 1st Class Don Stratton represented all Pearl Harbor survivors in returning the salute of guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey at the Navy's and National Park Service's Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony – the 75th anniversary commemoration held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam last week.

Young Sailor Don Stratton
In "Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" author Craig Nelson quotes Stratton, who remembers his injuries: "'Both my legs were burn pretty bad,' Stratton said, 'My legs, arms, face, my hair. Lost a couple of tattoos ... don't recommend that way to get rid of 'em...'"

Nelson provides short vignettes of dozens of warfighters impacted by Imperial Japan's attack on Oahu. He introduces readers to John Finn, Peter Tomich, Lee Soucy, Max Middlesworth, Sterling Cale and Dorie Miller, among others.

He reports, "A great many of America's servicemen at this moment were teenagers or young men, untried by life and untested by combat – of the forty thousand enlisted men on Oahu in 1941, the average age was nineteen." And, "All were bonded by that special tick of the heart that make a life of duty."

Young men who were coming of age were branded by what they saw and experienced. But their preferred lasting memories were the days before the attack, according to Nelson. Those memories include "battles of the bands," such as those involving the USS Arizona Band. Every member of the band was killed on Dec. 7, 1941.

Imperial General Quarters; the Emperor seen as a "living god."
"Many Pearl Harbor survivors would, for decades, hold vivid and precise memories not so much of December 7 as of December 6, since that was the last moment they were with so many, many friends who would be taken from them." But all would have images of the attack and the war branded in their minds for a lifetime.

Nelson does not hold back in his vivid description of the violence and gore of the war in the Pacific.

His timely and well-researched book offers drama of the lead-up to the war, of the actual attack, and in the aftermath, including conspiracy theories. His lead-up to the attack is covered in our previous post showing the various roads that led to war, both political – as the military controlled the civilian government and populace, actively promoting patriotism in the guise of and faith-based nationalism and xenophobia. 

Matsuoka Yosuke, Japan's foreign minister in 1940-41, pictured on the cover of Time magazine, at left, orchestrated the tripartite pact with Germany and Italy. Matsuoka advocated for war against Russia and then the United States in the name of the emperor.

Imperial Japan's attack originated from a racist and religious extremist belief in racial superiority, exemplified in a verse by poet and war advocate Takamura Kotaro that include these lines:

Nippon, the Land of the Gods
Ruled by a living God

The "reluctant admiral," Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku, famously warned of awakening a sleeping giant – the United States – and instilling a "terrible resolve." Nelson describes that resolve, starting with heroic recovery, salvage and restoration in Pearl Harbor:
"The miracle of muscle and engineering that restored the American fleet at Pearl Harbor would continue on a grand scale in the United States, where a secret group of heroes now began turning the tide of war. The most brilliant of generals, the most inspiring of admirals, and the greatest of battlefield troops would pale in significance to the thousands of American Rosie and Ronnie the Riveters who outproduced both the Axis and the other Allied powers combined, contributing nearly three hundred thousand tanks to Roosevelt's arsenal of democracy in 1943. Like all wars, the winners of World War II were the guys with the most ships, guns, and planes; in 1944, Joseph Stalin even proposed a toast to the productivity of the American assembly live."
Why did Japan's warmongers prevail over the diplomats in bringing about the infamous attack? The militarists took control of the government and the press, and the people in power made irrational assumptions and decisions, which the largely uninformed populace followed blindly.
" the end, Japanese emotion won out over rational action. Starting with the fundamental theory – that killing thousands of Americans in a surprise attack would trigger the United States to falter and surrender – and ending with the decision to wage war – during which dozens in Tokyo, from graduate students to finance, foreign, naval, and prime minister, told the army that fighting the United States was nonsensical – Japan's course to pearl Harbor was irrational in the extreme. Sense, in the end, did not carry the day."
Stars & Stripes page one featuring Adm. "Bull" Halsey. 
Nelson shows how "The Pearl Harbor attack set in motion a series of events that rippled across the Pacific," to include an early turning point for the United States Navy – the Battle of Midway.

For the American Military "Remember Pearl Harbor" was a rallying cry. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's description of "infamy" captured the depth of shock of an adversary's deception – attacking under the cover of diplomacy:

"If the holocaust defined evil for the Americans of WWII, Dec. 7 was the embodiment of malignant treachery," Nelson writes.

"Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" concludes with a hopeful context – that the world would learn the lessons of history.
"With a rage ignited by Tokyo, a confidence born with Doolittle, and the great idealism of ensuring such a thing would never happen again, Pearl Harbor's greatest legacy is our nation's continuing struggle to make sure that there will never be a World War III. Whatever you think of the United States of America, its foreign policy, its military, and its actions overseas, the world at overall peace since 1943 has been an American goal and an American triumph. What could be a greater legacy to those who served and died in World War II, beginning at Pearl Harbor?"
Pearl Harbor survivor Don Stratton gives his perspective as to why world leaders should commit to lasting peace: "'I seen everything that went on there, and I tell you what. There was more courage and more heroics and more valor and more sacrifice that day than a human being ought to see in ten lifetimes."

Minutes before Hawaii-homeported USS Halsey saluted USS Arizona, Don Stratton and survivors at the main ceremony last Wednesday in Pearl Harbor, the ship and its crew saluted USS Utah on the other side of Ford Island. USS Utah survivor Gil Meyer returned the salute for all of his shipmates past and present.
161207-N-QE566-008 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 07, 2016) (right) Retired Chief Petty Officer Gilbert Meyer, a USS Utah and Pearl Harbor survivor, and Capt. Jeffrey Rathbun, U.S. Pacific Fleet Command Deputy Director, Logistics, Engineering and Security Cooperation, return honors to USS Halsey (DDG 97) as the ship sailed past the USS Utah Memorial in Pearl Harbor as part of a pass in review and salute to USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor survivors Dec. 7.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corwin M. Colbert)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Orange Enemy, Operation Z, Roads to War: 'Pearl Harbor'

Review by Bill Doughty

Part I: The Roads to War...

Considering the signals, warnings and consequences 75 years ago, how in the world did the attack on Oahu of Dec. 7, 1941 happen? In light of all the evidence, Imperial Japan's attack – "Operation Z" – should have been predicted, prevented or at least defended against.

Craig Nelson presents that thesis in "Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" (2016: Scribner) and shows the dangers of complacency (despite planning under War Plan Orange), hubris and racism, leading to "faulty stereotypes" and miscalculation.
"Five decades after December 7 and eight years before 9/11, Central Intelligence Agency analyst A. R. Northridge summarized these attitudes in a September 22, 1993, Pearl Harbor report: 'It seems clear to me that we failed to foresee the Japanese assault largely because we were influenced by a faulty stereotype of what was an adversary nation. Today, progress in the arts of weaponry and technical intelligence collection make unlikely another Pearl Harbor kind of surprise attack, but the faulty stereotypes that can lead to grave miscalculation of an adversary's capability and intent remain with us, almost as a human condition ... what sort of people did Americans, at the time of Pearl Harbor, believe the Japanese to be, and what did they believe about Japanese intentions toward themselves? ... 'The Japanese people, given the conflicts of interest between us, will quite likely – or maybe only possibly – do us a mischief if they can; but they lack the capacity to harm us seriously, and they know that this is so. On the other hand, they are so cultivated and mannerly that it really is, after all, inconceivable that they would even try to harm us.'"
Nelson adds, "The Japanese, meanwhile, shared this cultural and racial blindness." While much of racially segregated and white-dominated America saw non-whites as inferior, the Japanese believed themselves to be a morally superior race – god's people under a living god, Emperor Hirohito, pictured at right in wartime uniform.

According to Nelson, "The Japanese also believed the United States was a nation governed of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich."

Warnings of impending war were clear in the lead-up to December 7, 1941, as War Plan Orange focused on the possibility of a U.S.-Japan war.

Chief of Naval Operations Harold "Betty" Stark assigned Rear Adm. Walter Ansel to do a study nearly a year before the attack, and Ansel warned Hawaii's Adm. Husband E. Kimmel and Rear Adm. Claude Bloch of the strong possibility of a "surprise attack upon the Fleet or the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor." A bizarre ad appeared in the New Yorker on Nov. 22 seeming to warn of the attack and including dice showing the numbers 12 and 7, "numbers on no known dice." Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox saw Imperial Japan's diplomats "deliberately stalling" and reported his concerns to Roosevelt on Nov. 29.

Talk to people who remember the 1930s and early 1940s and they will tell you that everyone in the country knew war was probable. Times were tense. Under a narcissistic authoritarian ruler, war was already a reality in Europe, and under a military-controlled government, Japan was waging conquests in Asia.
Japan joins the Tripartite Axis with Germany and Italy.

On the world's stage, Hitler brought Japan into the Axis powers. Japan's military, especially its army, took control of Japan's government and media. Japan's imperialism against China and Southeast Asia continued to escalate, but U.S.-led trade embargoes against Japan by President Roosevelt were biting into the military's expansion in November 1941.

"Japan's oil reserves were vanishing. America's Pacific forces, especially in the Philippines, were rising," Nelson writes.
Adm. Kimmel and Gen. Short, tragic figures caught in infamy.

In the bitter days leading up to Dec. 7, as negotiations broke down, Stark issued a new alert system for all of Oahu.

Why didn't Adm. Kimmel or the Army's  Gen. Walter Short take more steps to minimize targets, conduct greater surveillance and protect major assets and otherwise mitigate a surprise attack? Is hindsight 20-20 vision? Could more have been done to prevent the debacle of the surprise attack? Clearly we underestimated our adversary.
"Japan, then, had the appearance of a civilian government, but it was a de facto military dictatorship. Yet, unlike the smooth governance offered by other fascists, all of this resulted in anarchy. In the fourteen years of the Great Wast Asia War – from 1931's Manchurian Incident, to 1945's unconditional surrender – Japan was led by fifteen different prime ministers. This wasn't just a fascistic and chaotic government; it was one so marred by threats of domestic violence that even the revered emperor regularly feared his assassination. One simple explanation for Pearl Harbor, then, is the great difficulty American leaders had in crafting an effective defense strategy against an enemy that had lost its mind."
Imperial Japan's "God's army" invades Manchuria in the 1930s. 
"Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" provides a sweep of history that shows how cultural misunderstandings led to war. This book offers a lot more. We meet some of the survivors on both sides and hear their stories in Part II, "Strike." Then, Nelson takes us into the aftermath of the war and presents a surprising conclusion in Part III, "Victory."

As we approach the 75th commemoration of the attack on Oahu, Navy Reads is reviewing this timely and provocative book in parts, concluding with Nelson's view of the "greatest legacy" of Pearl Harbor.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Confronting 'Thrill-Kill Cult' of ISIS

Review by Bill Doughty

An examination of the roots, branches and seeds of ISIS/ISIL/Da'esh can be found in two new approaches to the study of Islamist-jihadist theology: Fawaz A. Gerges's "ISIS: A History" (2016, Princeton University Press) and Malcolm Nance's "Defeating Isis: Who They Are, How They Fight, What They Believe" (2016, Skyhorse Publishing) including a foreword by Richard Engel, NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent.

Both books reveal how Salafi-Jihadists arose from Sunni and Shia strife, and each author offers advice on how ISIS can be defeated, a "complex task that requires political and social strategies that deny the group the oxygen that sustains it," according to Gerges.

Gerges shows "the world according to ISIS" and how jihadism evolved from Zarqawi to Baghdadi. The evolution accelerated as wars in Iraq and Syria created a crisis in Sunni identity; that led to a breakdown in respect for countries' borders.
"Following a rapid rise and concomitant territorial conquests, the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), ISIL, (Islamic State of Iraq and wa-Sham or Levant), or by its Arabic abbreviation, Da'esh, has for now, by default, taken operational command and leadership of the global jihadist movement, eclipsing Al-Qaeda Central (AQC), which attacked the U.S. homeland on September 11, 2001. At the time of writing, ISIS controls a wide swath of territory in Iraq and Syria, as large as the United Kingdom, with a population estimated at roughly between six million and nine million people. Additionally, ISIS controls a sectarian army numbering more than thirty thousand combatants, in part through an amalgamation of local armed insurgents in Iraq and Syria and foreign recruits."
Fawaz A. Georges
Gerges says we must confront the ideology "frozen in time and space" from centuries ago that binds the groups of radicalized Sunni Muslims.
"It is easy to dismiss the Salafi-Jihadists ... as monsters, savages, and killers. It is also tempting to belittle their religious fanaticism and messianism as un-Islamic. This type of moral and ethical condemnation overlooks a painful truth: that an important Sunni constituency believes in the group's utopian and romantic vision of building an Islamic state, even though many might not condone its gruesome violence. Other Sunnis have lent a helping hand to ISIS because they see it as an effective bulwark against the Shia- and Alawite-dominated governments in Baghdad and Damascus respectively, as well as their Iranian patrons. Through its rapid emergence in the aftermath of the civil strife that has gripped the Middle East since 2011, ISIS has managed to effectively tap into a crisis of Sunni Arab identity in Iraq, Syria and beyond."
Both authors agree on how ISIS got its start – in the "social rupture" and "repercussions" caused in Iraq in 2003. According to Gerges: "The U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, combined with the subsequent social turmoil and prolonged and costly armed resistance, led to the dismantling of state institutions and the establishment of a political system based on muhasasa, or the distribution of spoils of power along communal, ethnic, and tribal lines."

In "Defeating Isis," Nance writes:
"The invasion of Iraq was not just an exhausting failure, unsuccessful in stamping out insurgency and terrorism; it actually created he entire legion of terror and tyranny that we know as the Islamic State. Had the invasion not toppled the existing social, political, and tribal structure of Mesopotamia, there would be no ISIS to fight. Al-Qaeda might well have died slowly in the mountains of Pakistan. Today, however, the global jihadist movement under the aegis of a newly minted ISIS has reinforced their ranks and even provided the old-guard al-Qaeda with enough recruits to conduct terrorist acts across such a widely diverse number of regions that the world is adjusting to the circumstances in what is becoming the 'new normal.'"
The origins and subsequent atrocities of jihadism – including suicide bombings, such as the attack on USS Cole (DDG 51) in 2000 and attacks of 9/11/2001 and since, as well as gruesome beheadings and burnings of prisoners alive – are extremely uncomfortable to read and think about.

I was reminded of the excellent Frontline specials on ISIS, including "The Rise of ISIS" and the latest, "Contronting ISIS" with correspondent Martin Smith"Warning: tonight's program contains graphic imagery of war and extreme violence."

Watch Frontline and you'll want to dive deeper into how and why the war is leading back to Mosul, for example.
An AV-8B Harrier with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) Aug. 8, 2016 for a precision air strike against ISIL targets in Sirte, Libya. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zhiwei Tan)
Gerges's insightful narrative is well-written and heartfelt. He examines the effects of not only a power vacuum but also a thought vacuum due to millenarian, end-of-the-world tribal thinking. "Formal separation of mosque and state is essential in order to end the instrumentalization of religion for political purposes by both religious and secular politicians."

Freedom-worshipping philosopher Voltaire
At just over 500 pages, Nance's book is encyclopedic in presenting the who, what, when, where and why of Da'esh. How to defeat the terrorists? Nance's recommendation is: Target the ideology as well as the entrenched warriors, and do so surgically with continued creative use of Special Warfare and airpower.

Da'esh's nasty lack of civility, love of authoritarian male domination, tyranny over dissent, and hate-based superstitious ideology succeed when people fail to apply critical thinking skills. Nance concludes:
"The French philosopher Voltaire once remarked, 'Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.' ISIS is the epitome of this commentary. The absurdity of their cult ideology has caused the deaths of tens of thousands and subjugated millions under their rule. If the war to defeat ISIS could be fought with just the strength and moral fiber of Lt. Kasabeh [Jordanian pilot burned to death in a cage] and Ruqi Hassan [assassinated for writing the truth about life in 'the fantasy of the caliphate.'] then the outcome would be the swift and utter destruction of this cult. Yet for all of the social power ready to be harnessed, a grand war promises not even the slightest chance of success until the ISIS cult's murderous mayhem is reframed, redefined, and revealed as the apocalyptic thrill-kill death cult that it is. Redefining and fighting this ideology with a single, damning word, "cult," is more accurate, readily consumable, and believable than hoping that ISIS will somehow contain itself or self-destruct."
Gerges concludes that ISIS is only the latest brand of Islamist extremist philosophy, what Peter Bergen calls "binladenism." Gerges writes: "Ideas are the first line of defense against the Salafi-jihadist nihilistic ideology and the final nail in its coffin. Without this revolution in ideas, the narrative and brand of Salafi-jihadism, of which iSIS is the most recent iteration, will continue to prevail in the Arab-Islamic world."

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Sept. 24, 2016) Boatswain's Mate Seaman Noah Cheeks, from Follansbee, W.Va., dons a cranial during flight operations aboard USS Ross (DDG 71) Sept. 24, 2016. Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is providing multi-warfare defense support to Charles de Gaulle carrier-based operations in the Eastern Mediterranean against identified ISIL positions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold/Released)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Atlas Obscura Shrugged

Review by Bill Doughty

When it comes to strange and wonderful places or things in our Universe, it's not about the who or what or where or when or even why; according to authors of "Atlas Obscura," it's the "how"––specifically, how we choose to see our world and everything around us.

The opportunities to discover, see and catalogue new wonders are "infinite," according to Dylan Thuras, "if you're willing to sort of slow down, look around, listen and start asking questions."

Thuras, Joshua Foer and Ella Morton bring us this book packed with question-asking strangeness, subtitled a Freakonomics-esque "An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders" (2016, Workman Publishing).

Mary Roach enjoys a different perspective including "Atlas"
It goes on sale today.

Once a person chooses to see the world differently, they can discover places in their own neighborhood––or aboard their ship––or in places admittedly farther afield that are strangely fascinating.

That's the approach the authors take as they journey into the world in what Mary Roach, author of "Gulp" and "Grunt," describes as “a joyful antidote to the creeping suspicion that travel these days is little more than a homogenized corporate shopping opportunity. Here are hundreds of surprising, perplexing, mind-blowing, inspiring reasons to travel a day longer and farther off the path."

Some places and things in this book to see in a new light: "Cargo Cults of Tanna" in Vanuatu archipelago, "Slab City" and the "East Jesus" community on a former U.S. Marine Corps training base near Niland, California, "Yamamoto's Bomber" wreckage still in the jungle north of Buin, Papua New Guinea,  "Ghost Fleet of Truck Lagoon" in Chuuk, and the not-to-be-missed (?) "Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum" in Pyongyang (mural at right).

Website Wonders

The wonders of the "Atlas Obscura" spring from the popular website of the same name.

Foer and Thuras are cofounders of the Atlas Obscura phenomenon, who see there work as "never complete" and who are always ready to credit legions of fans who provide tips, photos and edits as "co-authors."

In the introduction to the new book they proclaim, "Though Atlas Obscura may have the trappings of a travel guide, it is in truth something else. The site, and this book, are a kind of wunderkammer of places, a cabinet of curiosities that is meant to inspire wanderlust as much as wanderlust."

Here are just a few of the wonders to be found on their website, on the internationally themed #navalhistory section:

John Paul Jones tomb: 

"Today, Jones rests in a extravagant sarcophagus below the chapel of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The incredible coffin is covered in sculpted barnacles and is held up by legs in the shape of stylized dolphins. The whole thing is sculpted out of a black and white marble that makes it look as though it has been weathered by untold ages beneath the waves."

NOAA's Discovery of USS Conestoga:

"In September 2014, a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was on an expedition in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, looking for shipwrecks, when they found the wreck ... a seagoing tugboat. It had a metal hull, and though the upper deck had collapsed, the boilers, the anchor and the engine were all still there. They determined that it had been powered by coal, which dated it to the late 19th century or early 20th ... When the Conestoga disappeared, it was the last U.S. Navy ship to be lost, without explanation, during peacetime. Planes and ships were sent out to find it, in the largest air and sea search in Navy history until the hunt for Amelia Earhardt. But for almost 100 years, it remained lost."

USS Constitution

"Commissioned by the first US president, George Washington, the USS Constitution is probably most famous for defeating numerous British warships in the War of 1812. It was during this war, in the battle against the HMS Guerriere, the ship earned the nickname “Old Ironsides,” when her crew noticed shots from the British ship simply bounced off. The USS Constitution is America's Ship of State ... Today the ship is berthed neatly at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard, at the end of the Freedom Trail in Boston, where she stands the oldest commissioned and fully functioning warship in the United States. The wooden-hulled, 3-mast heavy frigate of the US Navy was launched in 1797 ... Today, the ship keeps a crew of 60 officers and sailors to aid in its mission to promote the understanding of the US Navy's role in war and peace, as part of the Naval History & Heritage Command. The crew are all active-duty Navy sailors––an honorable special duty assignment ... Until current restoration work is complete, the ship is in Dry Dock. The USS Constitution is still open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis during their operating hours."

Mare Island Cemetery

"Hidden away on Mare Island in Vallejo is the Bay Area's oldest Naval cemetery, the final resting place of sailors and soldiers and loved ones--and one convicted killer ... Burials began at this hillside cemetery in 1856 and continued until 1921. Although it's not noted for big-name interments, there are some memorable stories among the headstones. Among the approximately 900 buried here are the daughter of Francis Scott Key, murderess Lucy Lawson, and six Russian sailors who were laid to rest near the middle during the Civil War era."

Treasure Island Naval History Mural

"Within the lobby of Treasure Island’s former administration building of the 1939 World’s Fair is a mural that stretches 251 feet long and 26 feet high. Designed by New York artist Lowell Nesbitt and executed by a team of a dozen Bay Area painters, the enormous artwork depicts naval history in the Pacific since 1813, featuring a total of eleven Navy and Marine Corps events. The mural was completed in 1976 to align with the opening of the Navy-Marine Corps Museum, which included artifacts from Treasure Island’s World's Fair, Pan Am Clipper flights and American military operations in the Pacific ... Today, the building is occupied by the Treasure Island Development Authority. The museum artifacts have come and gone, but the impressive mural continues to glow on the lobby’s East wall."

Granted, there is not much from the Navy-Marine Corps team in Atlas Obscura, especially in the new book. But, before you shrug: For anyone interested in "how" to look at world differently, this book––and of course the Atlas Obscura website––is a treasure trove of weirdness and enlightenment.

Mary Roach calls this "...Bestest travel guide ever.”