The story of North Korea's seizure of the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) is one that risks being forgotten. North Korean patrol boats surrounded, fired on, and boarded the intelligence-collection ship and forced the Pueblo into Wonsan, North Korea, on 23 January 1968. The captors brutally treated the surviving 82 crewmen and publicly threatened to try them for espionage. Preparing for the worst, the United States surged hundreds of aircraft to the Far East and moved three carrier battle groups into the Sea of Japan. Seeking to keep the crew alive, avoid another war in Asia, and retain South Korean troops in Vietnam, Washington pursued a convoluted and painful diplomatic solution. Leaving Panmunjom on 23 December 1968, the crew returned home to rest, debriefings, and, for some, the probability of general courts-martial.
Dr. Lerner provides two major services by retelling this emotional story. First, his comprehensive account is worth reading because it instructs on so many levels. Second, there is much new information. During the 1990s, the U.S. government declassified hundreds of relevant documents. These offer detailed insights into the Pueblo's mission, crisis decision making at the national and theater levels, associated intelligence assessments, and the complex diplomatic record that resolved the crisis.
The Pueblo Incidentpaints a picture of a ship physically unprepared to conduct an intelligence-collection mission whose risk the chain of command grossly underestimated. The author argues at length that those who approved the mission and those who had to respond to the seizure fundamentally misunderstood the nature of North Korean nationalism. Treating the opaque North Koreans as part of a monolithic communist bloc, U.S. decision makers assumed the North would not seize a ship in international waters because the Soviets had intelligence collectors in international waters and would want to avoid retaliatory seizures. Likewise, Washington leaned heavily on Moscow to persuade Pyongyang to free the crew. Dr.Lerner, however, argues that Kim II Sung authorized the seizure primarily for internal reasons—a need to bolster his legitimacy after North Korea's attempts at self-sufficiency had begun to falter. Had U.S. analysts been more sensitive to these internal dynamics, they would have been far less sanguine about virtually "rubber stamping" the proposed Pueblo mission. A more realistic assessment might have prevented the seizure.
Dr. Lerner carefully addresses the controversy over Commander Lloyd Bucher's decision to surrender his ship. The author balances the subsequent arguments of those senior officers who criticized Commander Bucher against the body of evidence showing that the Pueblo fell victim to a systemic breakdown. In the end, all key aspects of the operation were flawed.
The author offers a sympathetic treatment of the crew's experiences. Members of the crew have written about savage beatings, threatened executions, and other atrocities. As assembled here, these stories take on a horrific quality. Particularly moving is the description of "Hell week"—ten days of sustained beatings in retaliation for the crew's show of defiance by allowing themselves to be photographed giving the "finger" to the press. The author also provides examples suggesting that throughout the long, painful captivity, the Navy's support for the crew's families unfortunately was not all it should have been.
Any student of Cold War naval history, diplomacy, or intelligence matters will benefit from reading this book. Dr. Lerner uses an exceptional number of primary sources but is not a slave to them. He weighs these important documents critically and weaves them into a balanced account on an incident that will remain controversial.
Commander Mobley was in the intelligence branch at U.S. Forces Korea from 1996 to 1998, and is writing a book for the Naval Institute Press on the Pueblo and the related EC- 121 shoot-down incident.
Command Legacy: A Tactical Primer for Junior Leaders of Infantry Units
LCol. Raymond A. Millen, USA. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2002. 385 pp. Diagrams. Notes. Appendix. Bib. Index. $24.95 ($22.45).
Reviewed by Captain Craig Abele, U.S. Marine Corps
A great leader once told me that 99% of execution in combat will be a direct result of your preparation. This preparation includes both rehearsing and planning. The importance of rehearsing is obvious; a unit can verify a plan or change a plan based on the outcome of rehearsals. Planning is even more vital, because it lays the foundation for accomplishing a mission through the use of techniques, tactics, and procedures. Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Millen, in writing Command Legacy, has done a good job of passing lessons learned through the filter of his experiences as a leader in an effort to help future leaders with this planning process.
The Army and the Marine Corps have published manuals to help junior leaders do the same thing. These include the Army's Field Manual 7-10 (Infantry Rifle Company) and Field Manual 7-8 (Infantry Rifle Platoon & Squads). The Marine Corps' own version is MCWP 3-11.1 (Marine Rifle Company/Platoon). All of these manuals have a plethora of information and are quite useful. In fact, all of these offer more information with respect to tactics, techniques, and procedures than does Command Legacy. What these doctrinal publications lack is the understanding that comes from personal experiences, the focus of Colonel Millen's work. He also covers the advantages and risks that a leader must consider when using specific techniques, allowing junior leaders to decide on the proper techniques for any given tactical scenario.
The author has broken down individual techniques to explain succinctly when certain tasks need to be done, and by whom. This is most intriguing, because it can be an invaluable tool to a junior leader. Colonel Millen writes that many doctrinal manuals assume (and I agree) that the reader already understands the details of an operation. The truth is that many junior leaders do not get the detailed guidance they need. They stand to gain the most from receiving this guidance, something Command Legacy provides.
To pass on this detailed guidance, the book contains a number of lists that spell out concepts in exacting detail. I found myself asking, "Why so many checklists and why are they so long?" After much thought, I determined that Colonel Millen tried to offer every detail to specific operations so that nothing within those operations would be left in question. Having been part of a working group tasked with rewriting a doctrinal publication, I understand his reasoning quite well.
Although this book is a much easier read than a field manual, I found the organization sometimes confusing. For example, some thoughts seem to be misplaced, inserted as afterthoughts, or even repeated in a number of sections. Perhaps reorganizing the book into two major sections would have added clarity, such as "Planning for the Junior Leader" and "Lessons Learned with Respect to Techniques and Procedures." It also would have been beneficial to cover some topics in greater detail, such as night attacks, and an update of the weapon capabilities section is critical.
Whenever a combat leader writes down his leadership lessons to educate others, I applaud his action. These lessons are written in the blood of the individuals who went before us. Colonel Millen's book attempts to help all junior leaders and serves as a good tool to use in planning for the eventual fight that all Marines and soldiers will face soon enough.
Captain Abele is an instructor at the Marine Officer Course at Quantico, Virginia.
John Mearsheimer. New York: W. W. Norton, 200 1. 555 pp. Maps. Notes. Index. $27.95 ($25. 15).
Reviewed by Rear Admiral James Stavridis, U.S. Navy
In this superb study of international politics and global security issues, John Mearsheimer charts a course through the troubled waters of the past two centuries and predicts a dangerous voyage ahead. Simply put, his view of the world is that states will seek security and survival relentlessly by amassing power over other states—essentially guaranteeing a system full of conflict and armed combat.
At the conclusion of the Cold War, many academics and pundits took the opposite view. The prevailing mantra of the early 1990s was that the collapse of the Soviet Union would permit the emergence of an era of peace, prosperity, and (above all) democracy. These were the heady days of Francis Fukuyama's famous "end of history" essays and books, in which we were told to rejoice because finally we all could just get along. Practitioners of realpolitik—from George Kennen to Henry Kissinger—were regarded as hopelessly outdated.
It sounded too good to be true, and it was. As the final decade of the 20th century unfolded, it became increasingly clear that the cold-eyed realist approach to the world would continue to have currency. The great power tensions among Russia, China, and the United States, the ongoing wars around the world, and the aggressive proliferation of weapons of mass destruction all augur ill for a peacefulworld system. And let's face it, that was before the events of 11 September. Intelligently grasping the meaning of the past ten years and brilliantly explicating the history of the preceding two centuries, Mearsheimer's opus provides a new theory—"offensive realism"—in which he explains the behavior of states and great powers, underpinned by an exceptional grasp of history.
The foundations of offensive realism are the essential anarchy of the unregulated international system, the structural imperatives that drive states to compete for power, and a belief that every state will seek to maximize relative power—with hegemony as the ultimate goal. Mearsheimer sees states struggling with survival in a world in which there is no meaningful agency to guide or protect them. In such a universe, states quickly realize that power is the key to survival and the prize is to be the hegemon in the system. This might be a hard sell for some, but the author lays out a very persuasive case.
From a naval perspective, the most interesting portion of the book deals with Mearsheimer's views on China. "Many Americans may think that realism is outmoded thinking," he writes, "but this is not how China's leaders view the world." This view, Mearsheimer says, is an adversarial one. He calls for the United States to undertake measures to slow the rise of China to avoid a scenario in which that nation becomes a hegemon in northeast Asia. "What makes a future Chinese threat so worrisome," he concludes, "is that it might be far more powerful and dangerous than any of the potential hegemons that the U.S. confronted in the 20th century." If this analysis is correct, the first flash point probably will be Taiwan, and the potential confrontation will be on a maritime battleground. This alone makes this book mandatory reading for Navy planners and strategists.
While the book is wonderfully descriptive, it comes up somewhat short on prescription. Other than a constant exhortation to think as a realist and a few ideas about slowing the rise of China, it offers few concrete ideas for policy implementation. In addition, the book would have been strengthened by a discussion of the place of terrorism in the international system.
These are, in the end, minor quibbles with a legitimate masterpiece of international security studies. In the long, grand debate of realism versus idealism in U.S. national security affairs, John Mearsheimer has written a new classic. It is a volume any informed defense policymaker, uniformed or civilian, will want close at hand.
Admiral Stavridis is director of the Navy operations group, Deep Blue, on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon.