Category Archives: Military History

Being Jack’s Grandfather

“There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.”

– Victor Hugo

I love learning. My greatest lessons haven’t been in a classroom, but from grandson Jack. Let me tell you about being Jack’s grandfather and what he’s taught me.


Two years ago I became a grandparent. My wife Muna is the love of my life, but my grandson Jack is the joy of my life. Jack is love, pure and simple.


Family life is deeply felt through births and the departures of loved ones. The adding and subtraction of loved ones makes a family close. A death is grief and loss. The death of a beloved family member is an amputation. A birth in a family is an addition and celebration. The birth of a grandchild makes you feel immortal. It is a second chance to love again.

Meeting Jack

Meeting Jack for the first time did something to me. I’ve heard people talk about religious experiences, but I’ve never had one until I met Jack. The first time I met Jack something in me changed. I was hit with an intense and unexpected joy. I looked at him, and I knew that I could never love anything in my life as much I loved Jack.

Jack made me succumb to love beyond reason. Being Jack’s grandfather is what I put on this earth to do. If I had known how wonderful it was to have a grandson, I would have done it first.

Being a Grandfather

I don’t have kids. My wife shares her two wonderful kids with me. Both of them are grown and in their early twenties. Muna had Rebecca young. Rebecca had Jack young. This explains why we are grandparents in our 40’s.

Being Jack’s grandfather is the most vivid and transforming experience of my life. Jack made me an extraordinary witness to life. Being a grandfather is a great feast of life. It allows you devour the things you love about being alive.

Jack is a reminder of the unending love of God. Being Jack’s grandfather has strengthened my faith. I feel God’s love every time I see him smile. He makes my heart sing when he laughs. Jack is a glimpse into the greatness of life. My time with him has been precious. My memories with him are the happiest of my life.

Knowing Jack

Jack has light brown hair and blue eyes. Jack is chunky and always smiling. Jack is a great toddler. He never cries unless he is really upset. Jack watches everything. He never gets bored. Everything seems to make Jack laugh.

Jack has given me an understanding of love I never knew before. Being a grandfather is a wider and greater love than I’ve ever known. Becoming a grandfather altered my identity and changed my place in the world.

Your forties are a strange place. You are not old, but you are not young. I do not feel old enough to be a grandparent. I have friends my age who are just having kids. My father was my age when I was born.

Jack taught me time couldn’t be measured by a clock. Time approaches in waves, unexpected and sudden. Being a grandparent moved me up a notch in the life cycle. The change in our lives as grandparents was big and unexpected. Jack was a great addition to our lives. He is a constant source of love and inspiration to us both.

My own experience as a grandchild is limited. My father’s dad died before I was born. His mother died when I was young. My mom’s parents were good people, but I hardly knew them. They lived far away.

I’ve never had kids. With Jack, I got to skip all the hard work and jump to the joy of being a grandparent. DNA has nothing to do with commitment or love. I will always love Jack. He is my grandson, case closed.

Lessons from Jack

Spending time with Jack is a joy. Jack is an indiscriminate, nonjudgmental lover of everything. His joy is contagious. Jack’s response to anything loud, soft or spongy is ecstatic. Jack laughs and giggles at everything.

Jack always lives in the moment. His entire world is the here and now. I have to be in the here and now to keep up with him. I tickle and play with him while keeping him from eating dog food (his favorite thing). I am not in-charge of Jack. His parents set the rules.

I treasure my time with him because it’s limited. We watch him once or twice a week. I always look forward to seeing him. Jack always makes my day better and lighter. Jack is always happy to see him, and I am always overjoyed when it’s our turn to babysit him.

There is a golden rule for being a grandparent: “Keep Thy Opinions to Thyself.” My dad once said, “Only give advice if asked or in a life-threatening situation.”

Jack’s parents are young, but they are great parents. What advice could I give? I’ve never had kids. Jack is the first time I’ve ever changed diapers, an experience I’ll always remember. There is a reason young people have babies. They have the energy for it.

Jack’s Gifts

Jack is his own person. As Jack’s grandpa, I have few expectations or agendas. I want him to have a happy, healthy life, that’s it. Jack is a free pass to act like an imbecile. Playing with Jack and making him laugh is my all-time favorite thing to do. Jack has given me a “pure and nearly perfect love.”

My Mission

I want to add something of enduring value to Jack. I want to help guide him through the mystery and wonder of life. I will always let him know he is loved and cherished. I will be there for him. I will try to answer all the questions he asks. I will try to harvest the lessons of my own life to give him wisdom, love, and understanding.

My own pledge to Jack is that I will always do my best to have a heart full of love for him, arms that will always hug him, ears that will truly listen and an understanding that is never-ending. Being Jack’s grandfather is the greatest joy of my life so far.

I gotta go, “Little Einsteins” is on…nothing beats Little Einsteins according to Jack, lol!

Brave Soldier: The Bruno de Solenni Story- Introduction

“War is the province of danger, and therefore courage above all things is the first quality of a warrior.”

– General Karl Von Clausewitz

This is the introduction of my new book about my friend Bruno de Solenni. He died in Afghanistan in 2008.

Brave Soldier: The Bruno de Solenni Story

By Dominic Oto



Captain Bruno G. de Solenni

Killed in Action near Maiwand District, Kandahar Afghanistan

September 20, 2008


Hanif and Ramin, our two intrepid interrupters, with us since the beginning.

Killed in Action near Maiwand District, Kandahar Afghanistan

September 20, 2008

If there is any glory in war, let it rest with brave men like these.


On September 20, 2008, Captain Bruno de Solenni, a brave American soldier who was loved and admired, and with everything to live for was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

How did this happen?


I was a close friend of Bruno’s. We spent almost a year together in training at Fort Riley, Kansas and in Afghanistan. I was talking to him right up until the moment he died. In that time I got to know about his life: his adventures, his dreams for the future, the triumphs and defeats of the generous, intense, fun-loving man who was Bruno de Solenni.

We were in the same gun truck when we hit a 500-pound roadside bomb. I was driving, and Bruno was the gunner. Bruno and two other brave men died that day. I lived, and he died. I can’t tell you why he died and I lived. No one can.

We were unlikely friends. We were two very different men. Bruno was physical and brave. I am bookish and afraid. We came from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds, different religious beliefs, and different political opinions-and yet we put all those differences aside and became buddies. But I can tell you about his life, but I must also tell you of his death and the events which preceded it. I have thought long, and hard about that- whether to go into it all or to keep parts of it suppressed, the feelings of anger, regret and sorrow over Bruno’s death have been bottled-up for almost a decade. In the end, I was guided by what Bruno told me when I wondered about whether I should be frank and open as he was about our mission to train an infantry battalion of Afghan soldiers. Bruno pointed to a quote in his notebook from Ernest Hemingway, “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” I love that quote. I have been reading and re-reading Hemingway ever since.

Bruno was always open and blunt, and for him, there was only one way to account for things- to tell the whole truth about them, holding nothing back. I know he would want me to tell his story the same way. I attempt to tell the reader Bruno’s story truly, the way it happened. There are ecstasy and sorrow, fear and bravery, and with some luck, the reader will get to know about the brave soldier, his friends called, “the heart and soul of our team.”

This is the story of how Bruno and I came to know each other and help each other. We were both soldiers fighting in a foreign land far from home who became friends and developed an enduring friendship until tragedy struck.

This is what I tried to do in telling Bruno’s story, holding nothing back. This is as close as I could get to the “Why” Bruno died in Afghanistan on September 30, 2008.

The cover of Bruno’s book

Bruno de Solenni died at the age of thirty-two. He left behind a loving family and a great many loving friends. And with this book, I hope that when they think of him, it’s not how he died that they remember, but, rather, how this brave man lived. Bruno is deeply missed and never forgotten.


The Life and Legend of Bruno de Solenni– A Brave Soldier

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Matthew 5:9 KJB


I am almost finished writing a book about my friend Bruno. Trying to remember and capture Bruno is why I started writing.

Bruno was a fearless warrior, a loving brother, and uncle. Bruno led the life of an American hero. His renowned compassion and courage made him a legend to anyone that knew him.

I wanted to write a candid, essential portrait of this celebrated warrior – a man whose death only added to the legend of Bruno. But first I had to set the scene. I hope you like it.


I park my truck at the bottom of the small hill of the cemetery.  I slowly walk up the hill to the gnarled old tree that is beside the grave. I am stopped as soon as I see his tombstone.

I feel like I have hit an invisible brick wall. My breathing quickens, I feel like someone punched the air out of my lungs, my legs grow weak, and I fall to my knees in front of his grave. I began to shake, and my throat constricts. My eyes are riveted to his grave marker with his name:


Bruno’s Grave in Crescent City, CA, his hometown.

I see his grave, but my mind is reeling, and I dissolve into the day he died.


We were on a convoy from our base in Helmand to Kandahar. I am driving the truck, and Bruno is the gunner. The steering wheel jerks in my hands as if it suddenly alive. The truck cab turns night into day as if the Sun suddenly appeared with a colossal roar and a mighty rush of wind from an explosion. Outside the world streaked by. I can see the hood of the truck folding into and crashing into the window.

“This can’t be happening!” my mind protests, despite the fact that I see impossible things. The blinding brightness slowly fades into crushing metal and then fire and smoke. I am spinning like I am in a washing machine, black and red, black and red, and suddenly the steering wheel is ripped free from my hands, and I am screaming…


Bruno’s memorial service was not a funeral. His body was not here. It was a memorial service to say goodbye to a friend. The team gathered to honor their fallen comrade. We knelt in front of the helmet, boots, weapon, and picture of Bruno. We all openly wept.

The team was more than just a team of combat advisors, and we were a fighting unit. Over the last eight months, we had become a tightly knit family, best friends, and brothers. We would and did lay down our lives for one another.

Bruno was the “heart and soul” of the team, and now he was gone. We gathered to give a solemn salute and final goodbye to our brother-in-arms as he was returned home. The memorial service was held just before the body was to be flown back to the U.S.

Bruno’s coffin was draped in the American flag. It was carried the final few feet onto an Air Force plane bound home to America. The Chaplain said, “Today we remember our friend, comrade and a fellow American. We the sacrifice he made for us, our country, and our freedom.” In the end, heartbroken service members hugged, cried and comforted each other.

Spotting the rest of my teammates among the mourners was easy. We were struck with grief. The physical, mental and emotional loss of Bruno had taken a heavy toll. We were hunched over, fidgeting and crying.  Our physical bodies were in the chapel, but our minds were still on the desert floor 60 kilometers away, where Bruno had died. It was a place none of us would ever truly ever leave.

The remains our fallen hero were flown from Kandahar in Afghanistan to New Castle Air National Guard Base in Delaware. In Delaware, Bruno’s family was waiting to escort him home.

CRESCENT CITY, CA- October 4, 2008

Bruno’s funeral was like an extraordinary class reunion of all the people that loved him. Here were all the figures that he talked about in Afghanistan gathered in this chapel to say goodbye to him.

As a timber faller, Bruno labored through the spring and summer in groves of giant redwoods, cedar, and fir. As a soldier, he died in Afghanistan. The tree trunks he sawed and milled became his coffin built by his friends and brothers who were his pallbearers. They dug his grave at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Cemetery in Crescent City and laid him to rest.

The Man, The Legend

Bruno was a man whose life could come out of a novel. He had an exceptional mind and an incredible talent to relate to other human beings, whoever they were and no matter they come from. He was a compassionate man who could engage anyone on so many levels. Bruno could sense human issues and feelings about a subject. On another level and at the same time he could deal with hard facts like statistics. Usually, those two qualities seem to cancel each other out in an individual, but they came together in Bruno.

In 2008, when we went to Afghanistan, the war changed. We went as soldiers but also as peacemakers acting as combat advisors to an Afghan Infantry Battalion (600 men). Combat advisors on the ground advising the Afghan National Army could tell we were losing the war. The generals in Kabul maintained that we were winning the war. The Advisors were caught between the two. It was an adversarial relationship. Bruno always helped me to understand the war and what we, the Americans, were doing there.

I think a lot of this comes from Bruno being fearless. He could work at the tactical level, take what he saw down there, and apply at the strategic level. Bruno gave the entire team the perspective of how we were helping the Afghans. His daily talks shaped my view of the war. Bruno helped me to come to grips with the war in a way that I would not have been able to without him.

Something to remember is that America was at the High Noon of its power in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We thought that whatever we were doing in Afghanistan was right and good simply because we were Americans. We succeed in this noble undertaking because we were Americans. Bruno embodied that idealism.

We wanted to win the war for the Afghans and for ourselves. Bruno felt the best way to do this was, to tell the truth. Bruno had a keen sense of honor as a soldier. Bruno was enraged by the way people back home saw the war.

Bruno was my friend and this how I remembered him.


Tears are streaming down my face. I am back at the grave marker trying to compose myself.

I say to his tombstone, “I did my best Bruno, to remember you, to honor you.”

The tears are coming stronger. An intense swirl of emotions is stirring inside of me. Feelings of regret, sorrow, anger, and gratitude overwhelm me.

“I’ve tried never to forget you. I don’t know why you died and I lived. I have done my best to be worthy of the gift you gave me and what you gave me. I will never forget you. Until I see you again, old friend.”

I knew I had to get on with my life, and it was Bruno would have wanted.

Now I can write Bruno’s book.

Why Trump Moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I direct to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the new embassy will be a magnificent tribute to peace.”

– President Donald Trump

Why did Trump move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem marks a major change in the American policy on the Middle East.

Recognizing Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel is a seismic shift of seven decades of U.S.-led neutrality between Israelis and Palestinians. Both Israel and the Palestinian State claim Jerusalem as their capital. The move signifies that the U.S. recognizes Israel as the legitimate, sovereign and rightful heir to the ancient city.

Jerusalem is one of the holiest and ancient cities in the world. It is home to holy sites of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Jerusalem sits in the middle of the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After the founding of Israel in 1948, the first Arab-Israeli War erupted. It resulted in the Egyptian occupation of Gaza and the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank.

For years, a brutal civil war erupted between Palestinian guerrillas and a series of reprisal attacks by Israeli commandos. The region was caught up in the Cold War. The Arab nations surrounding Israel were getting arms from the Soviets. America and France supported Israel.

For years, Jerusalem was divided between Israeli and Palestinian control with an occupying Jordanian force. In the 1967 Six-Day War Israel captured East Jerusalem. In a matter of days, the Israelis pushed the Jordanians out of Jerusalem. Even though the Israelis signed an armistice, they continued to occupy the lands they had taken while the peace process was underway. The Israelis saw the capture of East Jerusalem as a “reunification” of their ancient capital.

The international community has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the entirety of Jerusalem. No countries have embassies in Jerusalem, but a few countries, including the U.S., have consulates there. All past Presidents have thought moving a U.S. embassy there would be too dangerous.

Many American conservative evangelical Christians believe a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem shows American support for Israel. Evangelical Christians make-up the biggest pro-Israel bloc in the U.S. American Christian support of Israel comes from the belief that Israel is the Holy Land promised to God’s chosen people, and God blesses those who bless the Jews.

President Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a recognition of the sovereignty of Israel. Recognition of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel places the U.S. on the side of the democratic and Jewish state. This bold move will have repercussions for both U.S. security and diplomacy in the region.

North Korea- No Good Options

As the situation with North Korea grows more urgent and intense, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29 that, in theory, could reach Washington D.C. or New York City. This rocket test is a significant milestone for a country that has pledged to annihilate America. There are no indications that Pyongyang is stopping anytime soon.

So what can the U.S. and its allies do?

There are really no good options on the table. Mostly you are choosing from bad to much worse. For over twenty years, the North Korean nuclear problem has bedeviled four U.S. Presidents from both parties.

Now with North Korea ratcheting up the pressure, Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to South Korea in April 2017 said, “the era of strategic patience is over.” There are three main options, but each has a severe downside.

  1. Military Attack on North Korea

The U.S. has used strategic bombing in the past like Kosovo and in Libya. The North Koreans are experts at hiding their artillery and missile launching stations.

An unprecedented, strong show of force in the Western Pacific will do two things:

  1. Putting more troops will continue to put Kim Jong Un on notice. Nothing says you are “committed” to peace like tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the region.
  2. More troops and a stronger military presence continues to put pressure on the Chinese diplomatically and economically to make sure the North Koreans know we are serious.

China continues to play both sides of the fence. They are an unreliable ally when it comes to North Korea.  This pressure would force the Chinese to take action with their “client state.” When it comes to war, the Chinese would not be unaffected with a second Korean War.  A significant American troop commitment in South Korea would make China reign in North Korea.

What about a cyber-threat from North Korea?

Cyber is now the fourth dimension of war after air, sea, and land. Cyber-threats give the North Koreans unlimited range. Using high speed and small signature means, that can cripple America. Imagine a cyber-attack that targets the vulnerable infrastructure of the United States like in the movie “Live Free or Die Hard.” A cyber military strike that takes down the entire U.S. computer and technological structure. This computer hack would disable the economy of the United States (and the world). The North Koreans could inflict casualties similar to a nuclear bomb.

Can we hack North Korea?

If the U.S. attacked North Korea with cyber-attacks, almost nothing would happen. If you look at a satellite image of North Korea and South Korea, there are some big differences. North Korea is almost entirely dark outside of Pyongyang, its capital. South Korea looks like Fifth Avenue on Christmas Eve. North Korea has very limited power structures. Outside of Pyongyang, there would be almost no threat. The ramifications would be small. The North Korea power grid is very limited. North Korean society doesn’t depend on a central infrastructure. North Korea is a very backward country. Most North Koreans don’t have running water or central heating in their homes or businesses. North Korea is mostly rural without power.

North Korea is a primitive, almost third-world country. Most of its technology dates from 20 years ago or later. Most of the weapons that the North Koreans are using don’t need computers or at least very advanced ones to fire their weapons. North Korea’s aircraft and missile guidance systems have the latest technology.

What about a pre-emptive air strike on North Korea?

Russia and China are quasi-allies of North Korea. The Chinese will hold back. The Russians won’t react as long as we don’t threaten them.

If we attack any North Korean targets, it will trigger a war with North Korea immediately attacking South Korea. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is within conventional artillery range of North Korean batteries are just over the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Whatever action the U.S. decides to do it has to be done with a great deal of planning. This planning will minimize South Korean casualties.

There are always military options. In this scenario, there are no good options.  Any military action will get an immediate response from North Korea. This also includes limited air strikes on North Korean military facilities.

The North Koreans will answer our attack with a counterattack across the DMZ. The Korean War (officially we are in a “ceasefire’) will fire back up again. Either limited air strikes or an all-out war, the first thing the North Koreans will do is to attack south.

Strategic Map
  1. Economic Sanctions and Pressure

China is the ally with the most sway over North Korea. The majority of food and energy coming into North Korea comes from China. Beijing sees aggressive sanctions as a step towards the eventual collapse of North Korea.

China does want the government in Pyongyang to collapse because it would yield to a massive wave of refugees. Plus, if the two Koreas were reunified, China would end up with a major U.S. ally on its southern border.

Multilateral negotiations helped to curb North Korea obsession of nukes in the past. In 1994, North Korea signed the Agreement Framework that suspended North Korea’s nuclear program for almost a decade.

  1. Direct Diplomacy

Does diplomacy matter? Are Presidential trips, diplomatic visits, and international summit meetings nothing more than pomp and circumstance and feel good measures that signify nothing?

President Richard Nixon’s trip to mainland China, which began on February 21, 1972, tells us something different. This historic visit started the slow process of re-establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and Communist China.

In a world where Americans get their iPods and iPads from China, and the Chinese government regularly buys U.S. Treasury notes, allowing Washington to run up a trillion-dollar deficit, a single presidential trip was called “a week to change the world.” That’s precisely what happened with President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972.

History is usually the story of epic battles and courageous last stands against overwhelming odds, but diplomacy is just as crucial as sweeping battles. Diplomacy allows the U.S. to deal with diverse countries and complex cultures as in China, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Foreign and international relations during the Cold War kept the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. out of World War III.

Wars that are avoided, like in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and treaties that are signed by bitter enemies like the United States and North Vietnam ended the American involvement in Vietnam. New agreements that are forged in friendship with warring nations is the mandate of the United Nations.

What’s the Problem with North Korea?

Diplomacy only works if both sides are willing to have a conversation and an agenda. The North Koreans only want to have a conversation about the world, accepting their status as a nuclear power.

Kim at the control.
Credit: AP News

In 1972, President Richard Nixon made a dramatic step in normalizing relations with China. It was the first step in a slow process of re-establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and Communist China in almost thirty years.  Over the next forty years, that relationship would ebb and flow, but the two countries would remain reluctant allies.

Trump’s trip to China in November 2017, was a brilliant move to drive a wedge between the world’s two last remaining communist powers. Closer diplomatic relations with China can be used as leverage by the U.S. in dealing with North Korea, particularly on the issue of nuclear weapons.

Also, a massive U.S. military buildup in the region allows the United States to make use of the Chinese as a counterweight to North Korea. Despite claims of communist solidarity, China and North Korea are, at best, strongly distrustful allies.

President Trump plans is to use China to contain North Korea’s nuclear aggression. China desires another ally in the world with an increasingly tense relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. The U.S. welcomed the possibility of making North Korea more malleable to U.S. policy requests (such as North Korea signing a peace treaty to disarm its nuclear program in exchange for U.N. aid and food).

President Trump scheduled the travel to meet with the region’s leaders to reassure them and the world of the U.S. stance on a nuclear North Korea. The message of the trip was clear- Either they needed to do something to contain the threat of North Korea or the U.S. will.

What does North Korea want?

North Korea wants recognition of its status as a nuclear power. More than anything China, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. want Kim Jong Un to come to his senses.

Kim is obsessed with his regime’s survival. In 2003, Muammar Gaddafi disarmed Libya’s nuclear program. No doubt Kim watched the deposed leader of Libya be captured and killed eight years later. The lesson learned was give up your nukes, and you give up your power. North Korea sees disarmament as an “invasion tactic” of the west.

In the end, a deterrence and containment policy like we had with the Soviet Union during the Cold War maybe out our only option. The job of the international community is to break the logic of Kim and nudge Pyongyang towards rethinking its nuclear goals.

North Korea Building

The North Korea Conundrum

Why does Trump need to continue to pressure on a nuclear North Korea?

If there is one lesson for U.S. foreign policy in the last 15 years is that military intervention can seem simple, but it is in fact very complex. A military invasion has the option for intended consequences that not even the best planner can anticipate.

So I am glad that the Trump Administration is studying all the options on North Korea. President Trump and his team of experienced advisors are taking the time to arrive at a smart policy rather than shooting first and having to ask important questions later.

The national-security issues surrounding North Korea goes deeper than just nuclear weapons. The problem with Pyongyang is a much larger issue. North Korea is experiencing a genuine awakening with having a nuclear capability. Kim Jung Un, the profanity-prone, paranoid tyrant, is leading his citizens to the precipice of an unrecoverable disaster. Kim’s story is as fascinating as he is terrifying. A nuclear North Korea with Kim at the helm is a recipe for destruction.

For the U.S., this current situation presents a compelling opportunity. For nearly seven decades, North Korea has regarded Washington as the ultimate enemy because it was the principal supporter of South Korea, the region’s leading democracy. North Korea wants nukes to even the playing field with America, a country that represents everything North Korea hates. The U.N. (with significant U.S. help) defeated them in a war nearly 70 years ago. Kim’s obsession with destroying America and unifying the Korean Peninsula has produced a very real national-security problem: the rise of a nuclear North Korea that directly threatens the U.S.

North Korea’s first argument against the U.S. is that supports the “tyranny” of the government of South Korea. Kim’s view is ironic seeing how Kim oppresses his own people and more than a quarter of North Korean have died from starvation and famine while he pursues a nuclear missile at the expense of his citizens.

Now in the latest crisis, the U.S. has a chance to break the dysfunctional dynamic that produces so much hatred and violence, but at what cost? A war with North Korea will cost over a trillion dollars and leave millions, …yes millions, dead while devastating the region. The war would cause the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and make Syria’s refugee issues seem very, very small. The outcome of the war would be terrible. The result would be mass slaughter of North and South Koreans.

The Trump Administration has properly aligned itself with hopes and aspirations of the world by asking China to intervene. President Trump has called on allies from all over the region to engage in severe reform and sanctions against North Korea. It would be great if Kim would step down, but that will never happen. For Kim to survive a war with America would be a humiliation for Washington at the moment in history when the world is watching. Kim right now faces sanctions and isolation with his continued nuclear tests. All of this makes Kim anxious to stay in power. This crisis has been an opportunity for the U.S. to align with partners in the region- South Korea, Japan, and China- to contain a nuclear North Korea.

So the U.S. must follow through in its efforts to get contain Kim, pulling all the diplomatic levers and seek maximum multilateral and international support to stop Kim from getting nukes. If the North Koreans ask for assistance and aid to feed its starving people in exchange to stop testing missiles, then Washington should move in that direction.

The U.S. military is already directly in the conflict by beefing up its presence in the region. This buildup really makes little difference. Kim’s main advantage is not in the air but on the ground. He has tanks, armored vehicles, a fanatical 2 million-man army devoted to him, and massive firepower all pointed at Seoul. The basic question is how to shift the balance away from Kim and towards resolution without bloodshed.

What kind of war would the U.S. wage against North Korea?

There is no doubt that the U.S. military is ready and able to defeat North Korea. The American military is at its very best in maneuver warfare. Just look at Desert Storm and the first three weeks in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The American approach to warfare is not on overpowering an enemy but on outflanking him, targeting his weaknesses and destroying him. Nobody does this better than the U.S. military. The post-Vietnam army was built, deliberately, for short, conventional, decisive conflict just like the one we face in North Korea. Moreover, we know the terrain, the people and the culture better than other foreign places in the world because we have been on the Korean Peninsula for nearly seventy years.

What should the U.S. do about North Korea?

  1. Military planners are urging President Trump to go slow with North Korea. Make sure that all avenues of diplomacy have failed before launching a military option. A nuclear North Korea with weapons of mass destruction is a scary thought.
  2. Don’t go to war without NATO or the United Nations.

Our greatest threat is from the unpredictability of North Korea. We don’t know what Pyongyang will do next. We don’t really have a good system for combating a rogue nuclear threat.

There is no doubt that we would wallop North Korea in a conventional war, just as we did in the Korean War (1950-1953). The war with North Korea never really ended. The war ended in a ceasefire and armistice. North Korea has been a major seller of rocket technology to Iran and Syria. So, it is a sponsor of terrorism.

North Korea Conundrum

America is very good at using military power to project its foreign policy goals. The problem with using military force is that you sometimes make mistakes and you create enemies, and you get bogged into another quagmire. The best example is the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. We are still dealing with ISIS almost 15 years later.

The problem with North Korea is that there is no magic bullet. The best way to prevent a nuclear North Korea is to prevent Kim from turning his missile tests into an area of strength. That needs to be done on the diplomatic end. So, we need to keep doing that until all other options have been exhausted.

Keeping strategic priorities focused on containing a North Korean nuclear threat first. Then, if necessary, you go after Kim Jung Un or his weapons of mass destruction capability. It’s high time that we force Kim Jung Un to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions. But, in doing that, as always, the use of force should be a last resort.


Why did the Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor?

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Seventy-six years ago today, the Japanese carried out a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Why did the Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor?

The Rise of Imperial Japan

Compared with the great Axis powers like Germany and Italy in the 1930s, Japan was a newcomer to world politics. Japan was the only Asian nation with ambitions to become a world power. Overcrowding cramped the principal islands, which make up Japan. Japan called itself an empire, but its imperial possessions consisted of the island of Formosa, now called Taiwan, Korea and the southern part of the island of Sakhalin.

It had few natural resources of its own, but the Japanese warlords believed that Japan had a destiny, to rule not only Asia but also the entire world. Fulfilling that destiny was not only a lifeline for desperately needed resources- rice, minerals, fibers, and oil- but a sacred duty.

Their emperor was divine, they believed, he was the 124th descendant of their sun goddess. The emperor was regarded with such awe that his given name was never mentioned. The highest honor a Japanese soldier could achieve was to die for the emperor in battle.

As in all totalitarian countries, young children in Japan were filled with these beliefs. In unfolding their plan for world conquest, the Japanese knew they must first conquer China. Japan needed a base to attack China. It invaded Manchuria, a Mongolian state in the far north of the Chinese mainland.

To this end, Japan declared war on China in 1937. This declaration resulted in the Nanking Massacre and other atrocities against the Chinese.

In just four days, it occupied southern Manchuria. Shortly afterward, the whole state. The world was outraged. Japan was called to account for actions in front of the League of Nations. The League of Nations was supposed to keep the peace. Japan was a member of the League of Nations. Delegates of peace-loving nations condemned Japan’s aggression. Japan knew that almost no army could stop them. Japan simply quit the League of Nations.

Tensions Rise

Next, in 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina (Vietnam) to seize all imports into China, including war supplies China had bought from the U.S.

At this same time, Japan had signed a pact with Germany and Italy. This pact formed the Axis powers. This pact guaranteed assistance if any of its members were attacked by a country not already at war. This pact was intended to keep the U.S. out of World War II.

After Japan invaded Indochina, the U.S. started embargoing certain goods to Japan. To make matters worse, the U.S. was increasing its military presence in the Philippines. This escalated tensions due to Japan’s proximity to the Philippines.

Soon the U.S. placed a strict oil embargo on Japan. This ban was joined by the U.K. and the Netherlands, who stopped providing much-needed tin and rubber to Japan from their Asian colonies. This restriction was a devastating and humiliating blow to Tokyo. The Japanese estimated they only had two years of oil remaining. Japan needed oil and other resources to continue their conquest of the Pacific. Just America stood in the way of the Japanese conquest of the Pacific.

American officials responded to this Japanese aggression with a battery of economic sanctions and trade embargoes. The Americans reasoned that without access to money and goods, and especially essential supplies like oil, Japan would have to cut back on its expansion campaign in the Pacific.

Instead, the sanctions made the Japanese more determined to stand their ground. At this point, the Japanese conquered territory for over a decade without opposition.  Months of negotiations between Tokyo and Washington, D.C., neither side would budge. It seemed that war was all but inevitable.

Japan knew that they would lose a war with the U.S. given America’s manpower, material, and resources.  Japan believed that a pre-emptive strike on the U.S. Pacific Fleet was their best choice.

Why attack Pearl Harbor?

The Japanese carried out a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The attack was motivated by the imperialist aspirations of the Japanese in the Pacific region.

America possessed the strongest naval fleet and was the only real threat to Japanese expansion. The U.S. was opposed to Japanese expansion in the Pacific. Japan’s demands were not being achieved through diplomacy.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was the home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Japanese thought if Pearl Harbor were destroyed, the Americans would feel demoralized and not want to fight.

The Japanese were convinced that a devastating attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet would dishearten the Americans. Eventually, that demoralization would lead to cracks in the fabric of American society and take America out of an active role in World War II.

The Attack

Two aerial attack waves of 353 Japanese fighter planes were launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers. The Japanese strategic aim was to protect their advance into the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. Japan needed their natural resources of rubber and oil. The Japanese believed that by neutralizing the U.S. Pacific Fleet, America would be out of the war.

The attacks were successful, but the effects were temporary. Five of eight battleships were sunk. The rest were severely damaged. The worst damage was to the U.S.S. Arizona. Other ships and most of the Hawaii based combat planes were destroyed. More than 2,300 Americans died in the attack.

Battleships burning at Pearl Harbor

On the positive side, critical fuel storage, shipyard, maintenance, and headquarters facilities were not hit. Six of the battleships were repaired. Later, these ships were used to defeat Japan in World War II.

The following day, America declared war on Japan. America had entered World War II.





Helpful Survey for OIF/OEF Combat Vets

Last year I did a helpful survey. The survey was for combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. What follows is from my friend Pauline Lubens, a Doctoral Candidate at the University of California, Irvine.

Hopefully, this survey this will help Pauline get some results to help OIF and OEF combat vets who have lost buddies to combat or suicide.

Pauline has interviewed 28 veterans in 11 difference states, but she still needs more participants in order for the number of participants to reach a number that that meets research standards. She asked me to send a message to OIF/OEF combat veterans I know.

Here is the information:

Combat Veterans:

You are invited to participate in an anonymous survey of combat veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.  The online survey, which takes 15-20 minutes to complete, is being conducted by researchers from the University of California, Irvine who are studying the experiences of OIF and OEF combat vets who have lost military comrades to combat or suicide.

The participation of a large number of vets will help raise awareness of veterans’ issues that have not yet been adequately addressed. After completing the survey, you will be given the opportunity to enter a drawing for one of two $250 Amazon gift cards.

Please use the following link to complete the survey:

Thank you,



Pauline Lubens, MPH

War and Public Health Lecturer

Doctoral Candidate

Pedagogical Fellow

Program in Public Health

Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences

University of California, Irvine CA 92697

“The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

Albert Schweitzer

New North Korean Missile Capability

Well, Rocket Man Kim is at it again. After a two-month-long hiatus, North Korea tested another missile on Wednesday. This new long-range missile North Korea boasted could hit “the whole mainland of the U.S.” We know that North Korea has made substantial progress in its nuclear program, but the rogue regime is known for exaggeration.

What do we know? What should we believe?

Can a North Korean missile hit the U.S. East Coast?

At this point, probably. North Korea’s missile test on Wednesday shows that North Korea has made considerable strides in extending the range of its intercontinental ballistic missiles. Now it looks North Korea may be able to reach targets on the East Coast of the U.S.A. easily.

Based on the test missile’s trajectory and time of flight, experts say that Wednesday’s launch could travel 8,100 miles. That is a significant development because Washington and New York City are 6,800 miles from Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.

During past tests, North Korean missiles have gone high into the atmosphere. This measures the possible range of a rocket into space. Up to this point, all the test missiles have landed harmlessly in the sea. The North Koreans have avoided hitting any real targets thousands of miles away.

Wednesday’s test reached an altitude of 2,800 miles and covered a distance of about 600 miles, the highest yet. North Korea can now fire a missile on a flatter and lower trajectory around the earth’s surface and reach a much further target during a missile attack. The test on Wednesday has convinced scientists that North Korean missiles are now within range of Washington D.C.

Can North Korea place a nuclear warhead on their long-range missiles?

Best news yet is the obstacle of re-entry for their missiles. A nuclear warhead has to withstand heat, intense pressure, and vibrations as the “re-entry” vehicle coming back through the earth’s atmosphere. Most experts believe, right now,  that North Korea does not have this capability. So far, North Korean missile tests have failed at this. A North Korean nuclear payload probably could not withstand the rigors of a long flight to the United States.

Can the U.S. defend against a North Korean missile attack?

America can defend itself against a single North Korean missile attack launched at mainland U.S.A. The challenge would be trying to defend against multiple missiles at the same time.

Right now, the U.S. military has 36 ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska to defend the U.S. mainland. The Pentagon has plans to add eight more interceptors. The interceptors have proven very effective in tests. Added to this impressive defense grid, the U.S. has missile defense systems in Asia. This defense grid has ship-based radar, interceptors, and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems. This defense system is deployed in South Korea and the U.S. territory of Guam. After Wednesday’s test, the Pentagon is looking for new ways to beef up its missile defense.

Kim at the control.
Credit: AP News

Will Kim Jong Un abandon his nuclear program?

Experts are wary. The North Korean dictator believes that he needs a nuclear-strike capability to be taken seriously. He states having nukes deters any U.S. efforts to topple his regime. In short, nukes keep him power and keeps the U.S. in check.

The North Koreans believe that they stand alone in the world. After the fall of Communism and the collapse of its main support the U.S.S.R. in 1991, North Korea has struggled as a nation. Despite the fact millions of North Korean citizens have died as a result of starvation and widespread famine, Kim and his father have squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on getting nukes.

A North Korean nuclear program is a point of great national pride to a brainwashed almost third-world nation. A nuclear-strike ability allows the tiny Hermit Kingdom to enter the exclusive club of a nuclear superpower. South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the U.S. all treat North Korea with respect, fear and as an equal, all things Kim wants. Why would a man who lusts for power and legitimacy ever give that up?

Dom’s New Book- “A War With North Korea”

Here is the introduction of my new book. The book is free to Amazon Prime members. Please tell me what you think.

Introduction to “A War With North Korea”

If the U.S. goes to war with North Korea, there are many questions that the American people have. What follows is a potential unfolding of events, a few scenarios out of many. I did my best to paint a picture of the current tense situation on the Korean Peninsula. I hope there never is a war with North Korea. It would be a great pity.

An all-out hot war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic. Conservative estimates of casualties of past conflicts have guessed that millions of people, mostly North and South Korean civilians, would die in such a costly war.

War may be the only thing that will force North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to understand clearly that his pursuit of nuclear missiles is useless. This awful fact is something Kim and his military leaders refuse to comprehend. Unfortunately, war and the end of Kim’s regime may be the only option left. Nothing else has seemed to work since 1994 when North Korea started its nuclear program.

President Trump’s decision to go to war with North Korea may be the least awful of all the options available to him a Commander-in-Chief.  Hopefully, in retrospect, twenty plus years later, far removed from the pressures President Trump faces today in December 2017, his critics will see he had few other options that would be better and less costly in casualties than a war with North Korea.

The judgment is clear and decided. A nuclear North Korea cannot happen and cannot exist. A short and decisive war with North Korea will stop the threat of a North Korean invasion into South Korea, and will potentially save countless of lives, both American and North Korean. Finally, an American President will end a nuclear North Korea’s brutalization and blackmail of the people of Asia. Going to war may be the right and only decision. This short e-book attempts to answer all the questions that may arise out that decision.

A War with North Korea Book Cover

Finally, this e-book is not to be taken as an official war manual. It was written to inform and engage. The information should be treated that way. This book is intended for information purposes only.

God bless America and God bless the brave people of South Korea.