Saturday, December 29, 2012

War on the Waters – How the Navy Saved the Nation

by Bill Doughty

When the USS Monitor was lost in a storm Dec. 31, 1862, exactly 150 years ago, the future of the nation hung in the balance.

In his insightful new book, “War on the Waters,” James M. McPherson shows how Union naval leaders, technology and strategies combined to overcome setbacks and losses to the Confederacy – and eventually win the war.

Civil War SECNAV Gideon Welles
“To say that the Union navy won the Civil War would state the case much too strongly.  But it is accurate to say that the war could not have been won without the contributions of the navy,” concludes McPherson.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author writes about the wisdom of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, the courage of Rear Adm. David Glasgow Farragut and the power of working jointly.  General Ulysses S. Grant worked hand-in-hand with Rear Adm. David D. Porter, the son and namesake of the War of 1812 hero.

Rear Adm. David D. Porter
We also meet Cmdr. John Rodgers (another son and namesake of a War of 1812 Captain) and Cmdr. George H. Preble (grandson of one of the Navy’s greatest leaders, Capt. Edward Preble).  The ties to the War of 1812 – in people, foreign alliances and brown-water naval tactics – are enlightening.

President Lincoln ordered the Army to provide its fleet of vessels to the Navy but promoted the idea of one-two punches by the Navy and Army from river ports to river forts. McPherson describes the fearless leadership of 19-year-old ship driver Colonel Charles Rivers Ellet.

Quoting letters, diary entries, first-person reports and dispatches, the author presents a broad history of naval warfare on both sides of the Civil War.  He describes “asymmetrical war on the waters” in blockades and blockade running, riverbank guerrilla warfare, subterfuge at sea, and night attacks, and he follows the development of ironclad ships, submersible vessels and mines (torpedoes).

Civil War gunship USS Commodore Perry.
The Civil War saw the watershed shift from wooden ships of previous centuries that would lead to the development of battleships by the end of the century.  Innovation would continue.  Less than 50 years after end of the Civil War the era of naval aviation would begin.

Well-worn strategies of blockading commerce and targeting blockade runners would be expanded into the next century.  A naval embargo against Imperial Japan in 1941 led to the beginning of the War in the Pacific.

Against the Confederacy in the 1860s, blockades were important in preventing the exporting of cotton and importing of salt.  The role of salt in the southern economy and the targeting of salt production in the south by the Union Navy are fascinating side notes showing the importance of a healthy economy to a strong military.

McPherson describes the overall sociological effect of naval strategies on people in the north and south, too.

“Modern historical scholarship has shown how the Union army became a powerful force in the liberation of slaves, and how the 180,000 liberated black Union soldiers (most of them liberated slaves) in turn helped the Union army win the war.  Less well known is the role of the Navy in freeing slaves and the vital contribution of black sailors to the navy’s campaigns.  In 1861-1862 the Navy penetrated earlier and more deeply than the army into tidewater regions of the South Atlantic coast and into the valleys of the lower Mississippi River and its tributaries...”

“War on the Waters: The Union & Confederate Navies, 1861-1865” starts as a dry treatise but picks up steam.  With nearly two dozen photos and illustrations and 19 easy-to-read maps, this book is filled with information, details and insights.  It deserves a place on every military historian’s book shelf.

McPherson proves his conclusion: The Navy played a key role in winning the Civil War and saving the United States – a mere 150 years ago.

Photos courtesy of National Archives and Naval History and Heritage Command.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Senator Inouye - Passing of an American Hero

by Bill Doughty

When Senator Daniel K. Inouye was a young man going to war in 1943 to fight in Europe his father told him, “...if you must die, die with honor.”  After a lifetime of honorable service, Medal of Honor recipient Inouye passed away Dec. 17, 2012.

A statement from his office conveyed the loss.  President Obama issued a statement, calling Inouye “a true American hero” who  “worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve.”

A Navy Reads post, “Honor by Fire,” describes the commitment and sacrifice of Inouye and his compatriots and the saga of Americans of Japanese Ancestry in World War II in a review of "Honor by Fire" by Lyn Crost.

Ten days prior to his death Sen. Inouye, an eyewitness of the attack on Pearl Harbor, reflected on the “magnitude and cost of the war.”

Statement by Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Dec. 7, 2012:
“In 1941, the date December 7th was a day that evoked anger, fierce patriotism and dangerous racism. Soon after that day, I suddenly found myself, pursuant to a decision by the government and along with thousands of Japanese Americans declared 4C, enemy aliens. It was a difficult time. I was 17.”
“I joined many of my classmates and sent petitions to the government, pleading for the opportunity to fight. We wanted to affirm our loyalty and pride of citizenship. The request was granted in the final days of 1942.”
“The government decided to form a combat team made up of young Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA), the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In Hawaii, they asked for 1,500 volunteers. About 10,000 signed up, more than 85 percent of the eligible Japanese American males in Hawaii.”
“The day I rushed down to the draft board to volunteer, I was a freshmen in college. I was a pre-medicine major. There were 36 AJA’s in my class, 34 volunteered, and all were wounded or killed. As a result, after the war, there were very few AJA doctors in Hawaii.”
Inouye, front left, and AJA buddies.
“During one of our first fights, my best friend, Jin Hatsu Chinen, was killed in an artillery barrage. We were to open a clinic in Honolulu together after the war. He was teaching me to play the guitar. His death, reminded me, reminded all of us, of the magnitude and cost of the war we were fighting.”
“The 442nd went on to become the most decorated unit of its size in the history of the United States Army, but we suffered horrific losses and those of us lucky to survive the fight swore we would live life for our brothers who did not come home. I shall always be grateful to President Roosevelt for giving us the opportunity to demonstrate our love of country.”
“On this day, let us remember all those who have had the courage to put on the uniform and sacrifice for our great nation. Our way of life has always, and will always be, protected and preserved by volunteers willing to give their lives for what we believe in. I thank each of you for your service to the nation, I thank you for your many sacrifices, and I thank you for being an American patriot.”

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Navy Reads: Conversation with the Creator II

by Bill Doughty

In a world of Hulu, Halo, Android, Facebook and Reddit, who has time to read a book ... and why bother?  

The new-and-improved Navy reading program, now known as Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program (CNO-PRP), shows why a commitment to literacy, education and critical thinking is still relevant, recognizing that a “book” today can be experienced not only on paper but also via Nook, Kindle or iPhone app.

The new reading program breathes online; lists are no longer tied to rank, some titles are presented on the program’s website “for further consideration,” and Sailors can even check out books electronically for loan through Navy Knowledge Online.

U.S. Naval War College (NWC) professor John Jackson, creator of Navy’s reading program, believes in promoting and encouraging reading as fun.  The program’s goal is to create a “culture of reading” on ships and at shore commands.  We first interviewed Jackson in July 2009.  In this October 2012 conversation he speaks about how the program has evolved for the digital generation.

Professor Jackson, the biggest change to the list is the alignment to Adm. Greenert’s tenets -- “warfighting first, operate forward and be ready.”  How did the CNO’s Sailing Directions guide the selection of books for the list?

Professor Jackson and CNO Adm. Greenert
When CNO published his Sailing Directions, he was providing his vision for the thrust that all Navy activities and actions should take. They provided a shorthand list of priorities. Since the CNO-PRP is designed to help develop the professionalism of all Sailors, it was relatively easy to identify books which aligned with the three tenets.

What was the CNO’s direct role?

The CNO personally reviewed and approved the titles recommended by the CNO-PRP Advisory Group (which includes U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, Naval War College, Naval History and Heritage Command, and the Senior Enlisted Academy). He discussed the program at the all Navy Flag Officer and Senior Executive Service Conference in October 2011 and asked these Navy leaders to provide input on what they would like to see in the program. Seven of the 18 books on the “Essential” list were recommended by Navy Flags.

With the new structure, will there no longer be collections based on rank or position (for example, no junior enlisted collection or division leaders collection)?

The CNO-PRP Management office at NWC received some significant level of feedback that said that the rank-based book categories were considered too restrictive, and may have left the impression that some books were too difficult for some Sailors to read. While the rank based categories were always merely advisory in nature, and all books were always available to all Sailors, we decided to eliminate the rank designations, and allow Sailors to make their own decisions on which books they will read.

A Sailor visits her library in 2012.
Does the list consider the skills and competencies in the previous list (for example, leadership, critical thinking and management and strategic planning)?

The skills identified in the previous program are still the key competencies we believe need to be mastered by 21st century Sailors. The CNO-PRP Advisory Group specifically looked at books which addressed these skills, but in order to simplify the program matrix, we have stepped back from listing them in each case.

Was it difficult to limit the number of books on the essential list and recommended list, considering the many great books published on naval history, strategy, etc.?

You are absolutely correct! There are literally thousands of great books out there, and it would be easy to identify 100 titles that are particularly valuable. Restricting the CNO-PRP to 42 titles allows the program to be more manageable. It should be remembered that the Navy is the only service that actually buys and distributes the books in its Professional Reading Program. We don’t want just a list, we want an accessible program.

Sailors read online in their ship's library in 2004.
It must be personally rewarding to see the program you created and managed from the beginning continue to flourish. In our first interview you shared a few anecdotes about how CNO-PRP has been (literally) taken aboard by Sailors. Do you have any other examples to share about the impact the reading program has had?

I am honored to still be in charge of this terrific program. I have seen it prosper under three CNOs, and ADM Greenert’s level of involvement has been remarkable. It is truly HIS program, and it has his full backing in every way. I am always pleased when we get emails from the Fleet asking for more books, telling us how the Program is used aboard ship for General Military Training, and telling us about shipboard essay contests based on CNO-PRP books. I also find it interesting that the Navy Exchange has sold nearly 100,000 books directly to Sailors who want to build their own personal libraries. I have been associated with the Navy for over 43 years, as a student, a commissioned officer, and now as a DON civilian employee, and I can tell you that I have gotten greater satisfaction from managing the CNO-PRP than I have from any other job I’ve had in the Navy. I think the program really makes a difference in the intellectual development of our Sailors, and hopefully contributes to the professionalism of our Navy. You can’t do better than that!

Should the CNO-PRP still be considered a springboard? Is Naval Institute Press a good option for getting other titles?

The 42 books in the CNO-PRP are merely a starting point. They should be a springboard to greater study and reading. The Naval Institute Press has a huge number of good books available. I would also recommend that readers seek out the Naval War College Press, which publishes a quarterly journal, The Naval War College Review, and a number of books and monographs on maritime subjects.

How are you progressing in the era of e-books, other audio versions and social media integration of the reading program?

One of the primary directions we received from CNO was to embrace e-books as a growing format for reading books, magazines and articles of interest. The Navy General Library Program on Navy Knowledge Online (NKO) provides hundreds of books and magazines that can the download (on a loan basis) by authorized users. It must be recognized that not all books are available in electronic format, and some formats are not compatible with some reading devices. We are still in the early days in the electronic publishing industry, but the CNO-PRP will work hard to use electronic books as much as possible. We still value hard-copy however, and that is why we have just purchased 22,000 books for distribution around the Fleet.

In our first interview you responded passionately about the value of reading in giving Sailors the knowledge needed to sharpen their fighting spirit and giving us all a better perspective on history.  You said, “good books entertain, illustrate, and educate.” How does reading make us better citizens of our nation and world?

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: "Learn from the mistakes of others... You can't live long enough to make them all yourself!" I think this is the essence of why you want to read and learn from the successes (and mistakes) of others. Books are a treasure trove of knowledge, gathered across the eons, all waiting to be discovered by the curious Sailors of today. The CNO-PRP is committed to making great books available, wherever Sailors work and live.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Read to Be Ready

CNO Adm. Jon Greenert reintroduced the Navy Professional Reading Program this week, with updated titles, access and focus tied to his sailing directions and navigation plan -- always being ready for warfighting and operating forward. “Admiral Greenert has directed the most significant changes to the Navy’s professional reading program since it was established in 2006,” said U.S. Naval War College professor John Jackson, the program manager.



Built around "warfighting first," "operate forward" and "be ready," titles are presented in essential, recommended and suggested lists for the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program. Greenert said, "Reading, discussing and understanding the ideas found in the CNO-PRP will not only improve our critical thinking skills, but will also help us become better sailors, citizens, and most importantly leaders."

The titles on the essential list include several reviewed on Navy Reads:


Books will be available at major commands and in e-reading versions via Navy Knowledge Online, Greenert said.  Look for more reviews in support of Navy's "read to be ready" professional reading program in the months ahead.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Warfighting: The Fight Against Cyber War


Review by Bill Doughty

Former Counterterrorism Czar Richard A. Clarke.
When Richard A. Clarke says “sometimes the boy who cries wolf can see the wolf coming from a lot farther away than anyone else,” he might be describing himself.  

Once a passionate voice for counterterrorism in the Clinton and Bush II administrations continually warning against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda -- before 9/11 -- he should now be looked upon as a Paul Revere for the 21st century.  This time the wolf is cyber warfare, defined by Clarke as “actions by a nation state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption.”

Assisted by Robert K. Knake, Mr. Clarke lays out the case that the U.S. is at greater jeopardy because of its advanced technologies, reliance on a computerized grid, and -- the very thing that makes the United States strong -- our freedom and openness.

“Cyber War: the Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It” is new on the CNO’s updated Navy Professional Reading Program list.  It offers a surprising number of references to the U.S. Navy and its role in the development of cyber warfare and defense.  Clarke sees a parallel between cyber warriors and the codebreakers of World War II and what a false sense of invulnerability brings.

“Some historians believe that the U.S. Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy precisely because of code-breaking skills.  Certainly the decisive U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway was due to the advanced knowledge of Japanese plans gained from code-breaking.”

Just as they played a key warfighting role in the War in the Pacific, the Navy’s aircraft carriers would be critical in a cyber war. In a hypothetical exercise, Clarke shows that if cyber war were to be declared by an enemy of the United States, carrier strike groups -- always ready to operate forward -- would respond anywhere in the world.

Today Russia, China and North Korea are actively developing cyber warfare strategies, including using civilian hackers, “hacktivists.”
The Navy trains to provide cyber security.

Clarke reminds us how quickly we can come to the brink of world war. In the late 60s, during the height of the Vietnam War, President Nixon considered bombing North Korea in response to the capture of USS Pueblo in January 1968 and the shooting down of an Air Force EC-121, in which all 31 Americans on board were killed.

In “Cyber War” Clarke mentions USS Gato, USS Baton Rouge and USS Yorktown as he gives historical examples of why the nation’s defensive strategy needs to adapt to include cyber security.

He outlines five vulnerabilities of the Internet, gives a 20-question quiz about cyber security, and offers a 3-point “defensive triad” to show how to develop “credible defense” -- a strong backbone of tier 1 ISPs, a secure power grid, and stronger defense “of defense itself.”  He describes DoD’s NIPRNET, SIPRNET and JWICS and discusses methods for adding protection to those systems.

Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, Commander, U.S. 10th Fleet/U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, 
arrives aboard USS Porter (DDG 78), June 26, 2012.  (Photo by Alex Forster)
Clarke shows how the cyber threat will inevitably be part of combat unless steps are taken to mitigate the risk.  Now, he says, the United States is greatly at risk from invisible attacks from an unseen enemy that can knock out the nation’s infrastructure silently and quickly, crippling defense and command-and-control means for preventing escalation of an all-out kinetic war.  He warns against initiating cyber warfare without understanding the potential consequences.

“If you are going to throw cyber rocks, you had better be sure that the house you live in has less glass than the other guy’s or that yours has bulletproof windows.”

Clarke ties in great military strategy thinkers Sun-Tzu, Clausewitz and Herman Kahn on the importance of defining and redefining strategies -- accepting change, innovation and new technologies as realities.  An underlying message seems to be: one cannot live in the past, and if there’s a desire to continue living in the present then be ready for future threats.

His discussion about Kahn’s deterrence theory shows the power of the pen. Kahn’s “On Thermonuclear War” and “Thinking About the Unthinkable” were widely read by global leaders in the 60s.  About Kahn, Clarke writes, “His clear matter-of-fact writing about the likely scope of destruction undoubtedly helped to deter nuclear war.”

Other writers discussed are Thomas Friedman, H.G. Wells and Barbara Tuchman.  Clarke uses movies to make his point, too: “Crimson Tide,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “War Games,” “The Italian Job,” and “Team America: World Police.”

“Cyber War” is an easy-to-read, informative and contemporary warning and prescription from the voice of the “boy who cried wolf” -- and the man who really sees a wolf coming.


Retired Rear Adm. Donald Showers, a codebreaker from World War II, explains the beginnings of Naval Intelligence during a visit to U.S. Pacific Feet headquarters June 1, 2012. Showers was a member of the team that broke the codes to win the Battle of Midway in 1942.  (Photo by MC2 David Kolmel)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Warfighting: 1775-1812-2012


Review by Bill Doughty

On Friday, October 13, 1775, meeting in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America.”  Thus begins a description of the birth of the United States Navy 237 years ago on the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

Over the next 37 years the fate of the Navy hung in the balance as Republicans, Federalists and independents either fought against or for a standing Navy.  Donald R. Hickey describes the politics, tactics and strategies in his 1989 detailed work, “The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict.”

It took a second war with Great Britain for the Navy to prove its worth.

Having to compete with privateers and fight for resources, the Navy languished in the decade prior to 1812 -- not yet a ready force, barely able to forward and not fully tested as a warfighting force with a clear vision.

In the early 1800s anti-Navy forces “had taken a heavy toll on the navy, but seventeen ships still survived in 1812,” writes Hickey.  “Seven were frigates.”  The were Constitution, President, United States, Constellation, Chesapeake, Congress and Essex.  “The frigates were the heart of the navy.”

“The nation also had the advantage of a rich maritime tradition.  Officers and men alike were excellent seamen and skilled marksmen with cannon and small arms.  Most of the officers had seen action in the Quasi-War (1798-1801) or the War with Tripoli (1801-1805).  Many of the men had fought in those wars, too, or had served on British warships.  The morale of the service was high, and the men were trained incessantly to perfect their skills.  In addition, the navy did not face the same logistical problems as the army.  The fleet was small, and once supplied a ship could remain at sea for months.”

The book provides a deeper look into the causes and effects of the war and takes in Canadian, American Indian and European perspectives.  It is dense and more heavy-handed than Daughan’s “1812: The Navy’s War,” a title on the CNO’s Professional Reading List.

Hickey, however, does provide interesting details of life for Sailors in 1812, when they were as likely to serve on lakes and rivers as on ocean-going vessels.

“The usual term of service for navy personnel was a year, and normally there was no bounty.  The pay ranged from $6 a month for boys and landsmen to $20 for sailmakers. Ordinary seamen earned $10, able-bodied seamen $12, and gunners $18.  Most could earn more on a merchantman and a lot more on a lucky privateer.  To compete, the navy began offering incentives on some stations as early as 1812, a practice that became almost universal by the end of the war.”

Hickey shows how the War of 1812 validated the Navy, stimulated peacetime defense spending and promoted nationalism as well as sectionalism, setting the stage for stronger states’ rights arguments in the south and the abolitionist movement in the north.

“The war had a dramatic impact on the American economy, too,” Hickey contends.  “For most Americans, the economic opportunities were greater before and after the war than during it.”

President James Madison
The War of 1812 marked a turning point for the nation and Navy.  New, more progressive army officers moved up the ranks.  “A number of navy officers also burned their names into the history books during the conflict,” Hickey writes.  “Among these were Perry, Macdonough, Hull, Bainbridge, Decatur and Stewart.”

National leaders now saw the need for warfighting readiness, including through a strong Navy.  

“President Madison echoed an old Federalist plea by calling for preparedness,” Hickey writes:

“Experience has taught us that a certain degree of preparation for war is not only indispensable to avert disasters in the onset, but affords also the best security for the continuance of peace.” -- President Madison.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Warfighting: Belief in Service


Review by Bill Doughty

Lt. Michael Murphy, Navy SEAL.
Michael P. Murphy, the Navy SEAL who fought and died in Operation Red Wings, is the namesake of the Navy’s newest guided-missile destroyer, USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), commissioned today in New York, not far from the 9/11 Memorial (#murph).  Lt. Michael Murphy was the first service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor since Vietnam.  His life and legacy personify service to others. 

At today’s commissioning ceremony Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spoke about Murphy’s courage, selflessness and dedication to protecting his teammates and country.

The ordeal of Operation Red Wings (also referred to as Redwing) was chronicled in SEAL of Honor: Operation Red Wings and the Life of Michael P. Murphy, USN” by Gary Williams and in “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell.  Williams’s book is an essential book -- one of six in the Warfighting First section of the CNO’s Professional Reading Program.

Luttrell’s latest, “Service: A Navy SEAL at War” is a 2012 book about Navy SEALs that respects operational security and privacy.  It continues Luttrell’s own saga and his ongoing commitment to honoring the service of SEALs and their families.

This time, Luttrell teams up with gifted author James D. Hornfischer (“Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal,” “Ship of Ghosts,” and “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors.  (“Neptune’s Inferno” is on the CNO’s essential list of Operate Forward titles).

The collaboration with Hornfischer results in a powerful, coherent reflection on the war in Iraq, focusing on “the teams’” battle for Ramadi in Anbar, Iraq and operations in Afghanistan.

Hornfischer told Navy Reads earlier this year, “The book follows the legendary SEAL back to war after Operation Redwing -- this time to Ramadi, Iraq, as SEAL Team 5 takes on Al Qaeda and other insurgents in the most violent city in the Middle East. Marcus gives tribute to all the warfighters who helped his teammates get the upper hand in 2006...”

Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell at a book signing for "Service."
“Service,” filled with strong characters like Cowboy, Boss, Spanky, JT and Fizbo, presents personal stories of commitment and courage, including from family members -- strong women who are “warriors in their own right.”

“Service” reflects on Homer’s “Iliad” and, as in “Lone Survivor,” includes frequent references to the Bible and faith.

Luttrell writes:

“Service is selflessness -- the opposite of the lifestyle that we see so much of in America today.  The things that entertain us don’t often lift us up, or show us as the people we can rise up to become.  he people who appear in this book -- and others who did things I can’t talk about -- are my role models.  They quietly live out the idea expressed in the Bible (John 15:13): ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’  But you don’t have to be a Christian, or even particularly religious, to serve... You look after others and put their welfare ahead of your own.”

Hornfischer and Luttrell’s “Service: A Navy SEAL at War” is a powerful read, especially today, Oct. 6, as the Navy remembers and honors Lt. Michael P. Murphy in New York.  The book not only recounts warfighting but also reflects on why Sailors and their families serve.
USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Photo by U.S. Coast Guard PO2 Erik Swanson

The book’s dust cover sums up this concept:  “A thrilling war story, Service is also a profoundly moving tribute to the warrior brotherhood, to the belief that nobody goes it alone and no one will be left behind.”

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Warfighting and ‘Origins of War’

Review by Bill Doughty

“Pacifism, isolationism and other forms of wishful thinking” allow for the conditions of war, according to Donald Kagan in his insightful “On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace,” a key title on the Navy Professional Reading Program’s original and newly revamped recommended list.

Peace comes from a position of strength and confidence, not from fear.

“Policies guided and dominated by fear” are the foundations for conditions of war, Kagan shows.  “Power is neutral,” he writes, but when there is a struggle for power, quoting Greek historian Thucydides, “people go to war out of ‘honor, fear and interest.’”

Kagan applies his and Thucydides’s insights from an almost entirely western perspective as he examines the Peloponnesian War, World War I, Hannibal’s War (The Second Punic War), World War II, and -- seemingly out of place, at first -- the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Sparta’s fear and resentment of Athens as a great maritime power led to war at a time when conflict was considered a normal part of life, 2,000 years before the enlightenment.

Kagan carefully unravels history’s knots, showing how nations become entangled in one war after another.

The War of 1812 led to what Europeans at the time thought was impossible -- World War I.

“The old European order, resting on a balance among the five great powers of Austria, France, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia, had been established at Vienna in 1815 as a way of preventing the domination of a single state over all of Europe, such as had almost been achieved by Napoleon Bonaparte... The main threat to the new order was the powerful force of nationalism...”

Kagan shows how fear, resentment and irrational belief systems can feed what he calls “nationalism and superpatriotism” and “social imperialism.”

“Like the Hannibalic War, the Second World War emerged from flaws in the previous peace and the failure of the victors to alter or vigilantly and vigorously to defend the settlement they imposed.  The story of its origins, therefore, begins with with way in which the first World War Came to an end.”

The flames of WWI left glowing embers of resentment in Germany during a severe economic depression.  That resentment flared again under Hitler and the Nazis, who capitalized on fear, resentment and a loss of honor.  Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after WWI led to the creation of Palestine and Iraq under British control and Syria and Lebanon under French control.

Kukryniksy, The Big Three will tie the enemy in knots (1942)
Demands for reparation, combined with false hopes for peace by other western nations, including attempts at appeasement, led to an imbalance of power and ultimately to World War II.

WWII then brought about more balkanization and creation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel, as discussed in a recent review of Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem.”

Resentment and fear grew again, and WWII brought about the Cold War, Kagan contends.  The United States and Russia ended the Second World War as allies who achieved victory over the Axis powers, but we quickly became rivals for power with the Soviet Union. National honor was at stake and once again fear ruled the day.

President John F. Kennedy
War was averted, but only nearly so, thanks to what Kagan calls Kennedy’s restraint.  “Just how close that catastrophe really was we shall never know,” Kagan writes about the nearly-triggered launch/retaliation that ended with “tense bargaining” instead.

Today, the Soviet Union no longer exists.  American diplomacy is stronger, backed by a combat-ready, forward-poised and capable military.  

Our former enemies in the War of 1812, Canada and Britain, are among our best friends.  Germany and Japan, fascist imperialists in WWII, stand as models of hope and democracy and peace. World powers more economically interdependent and connected than they've ever been, giving peace a chance.

Is that more wishful thinking, or the realities of globalization tied to Maritime Strategy and the preservation of peace?

Kagan reminds us of Thomas Paine’s prediction that reason, democracy and capitalism could light the way to a peaceful world.  In “The Rights of Man,” Paine wrote, “If commerce were permitted to act to the universal extent it is capable, it would extirpate the system of war.”

Kagan also quotes Sun-Tzu: “No less vital is the art of avoiding war.”

Kagan concludes, “The secret of the success of our species has been its ability to learn from experience and to adapt its behavior accordingly.”

American troops leap forward to storm a North African beach during final amphibious maneuvers in 1944.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Neil Armstrong’s Journey


Review by Bill Doughty

“One Giant Leap: Neil Armstrong’s Stellar American Journey” is a full-sweep look at the life of the first American to walk on the moon.
Neil Armstrong, whose life was memorialized this week, is presented as a naval aviator/astronaut, scientist/teacher and humble lifetime civil servant.  He was a fighter ace in Korea, helping to win the Cold War in the 1950s and 60s, demonstrating the free world’s ultimate victory in 1969 when he stepped on the Moon as part of Apollo 11. 
Written by Leon Wagener, “One Giant Leap” shows Armstrong’s life from his birth in a farmhouse in Ohio in the midst of the Depression; through his journey of adventure via Purdue and Pensacola as a student, pilot and astronaut; then to life as a professor who championed innovation, melding space science with medicine; and finally to his life back to a farm in Ohio.
Wagener describes a man of ideas and wide interests who loved Japanese culture and enjoyed visiting and camping at Mt. Fuji.  He loved to fly, and after leaving the Navy became a test pilot for NASA.  Shunning the limelight of fame and the intrusion of politics, he chose to live quietly and promote science and critical thinking.
Neil Armstrong tried to inspire people to see the earth with from another perspective and to consider the need for protecting global ecology.  Wagener writes about Armstrong’s address to the World Wildlife Fund’s second international congress in 1970, just one year after he walked on the moon, in which he campaigned for environmental conservation.
Earthrise in lunar orbit, July 20, 1969.
Armstrong told the group, “The earth today is an oasis of life in space.  It is the only island we know is a suitable home for man.  I have a deep sense of the finite significance of our fragility. We are a fragile planet, physically so interdependent...We must find ways to protect it.  The importance of protecting and saving that home has never been felt more strongly.  Protection seems most required, however, not from foreign aggressors or natural calamity, but from its own population.”
Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, developer of the Heimlich Manuever and medical inventions, partnered with Armstrong for innovations in engineering and medicine.  “What Neil had brought to us represented precisely the new concepts I was after: miniaturization, low energy consumption, and simplicity,” Heimlich recalled with the author.
Here’s an excerpt from the book’s dust cover:
“In this, the first-ever biography of Neil Armstrong, Leon Wagner explores the man whose walk is still compared to humankind’s progenitor’s crawl out of the primordial ooze -- and whose retreat to a farm in his native Ohio soon after the last ticker tape confetti fell has caused him to be looked upon as a reclusive hermit ever since.
“This is the true story of a national hero whose lifelong quest to walk on the moon truly mirrors our best selves.  He’s an American who daily braved incredible danger over a long career and finally broke free of Earth’s bonds, achieving what seemed impossible and proving forever that man can reach for the stars and succeed.
“Relying on hundreds of interviews with family and friends of the astronaut, plus generous access to NASA files, Leon Wagener explores the life of one of America’s true heroes...”
Wagener’s book on Armstrong, which, by the way, is rich with photos, including one of Armstrong and VF-51 of USS Essex (CV 9), was one of the few I could find written for adults. For obvious reasons, there are many more books about Armstrong and space exploration written for young people.  Continuing with our Navy Reads “back to school” theme this month, parents may wish to look for Neil Armstrong biographies and books about astronauts as they choose to inspire their children with dreams of the moon and stars and a life anchored in science, technology, engineering and math.


NORTH ARABIAN GULF (March 10, 2010) Capt. Roy J. Kelley, commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, and Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) present Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, with his Navy Astronaut wings in a ceremony aboard the ship as fellow astronaut Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13, looks on. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach)

The Navy paid tribute to American hero Neil Armstrong with a burial at sea Sept. 14 aboard USS Philippine Sea (CG 58).