Lessons Learned: The Seizure of the USS Pueblo

January 24, 2012

Lessons Learned: The Seizure of the USS Pueblo
Explainer Video
from The Water's Edge

On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo was attacked by the North Korean navy in international waters. One U.S. sailor died in the attack, and the remaining eighty-two crew members were seized along with the ship. Despite overwhelming U.S. military superiority over North Korea, it was unable to secure the rapid release of the crew or vessel. The sailors were held for more than eleven months; the Pueblo remains in North Korean possession.

More From Our Experts

James M. Lindsay, CFR’s senior vice president and director of studies, says the Pueblo incident illustrates an important lesson for the pursuit of foreign policy today: Great powers do not always prevail when facing smaller, less powerful states. So the ability of the United States to influence, for example, the course of Iran’s nuclear program or the future of Syria’s regime depends not only on military power but also on will, skill, and the ability to accurately assess costs and benefits, Lindsay says.

More on:

North Korea

Political History and Theory

This video is part of Lessons Learned, a series dedicated to exploring historical events and examining their meaning in the context of foreign relations today.

More on:

North Korea

Political History and Theory

Up
Close

Explore More on CFR

Russia

If the President wants to use an arms build-up to advance arms control, he should take his cues from the Reagan record.

Yemen

The Gulf nation’s ground troops have cultivated alliances in Yemen with local armed groups, but its ability to shape the civil war’s outcome is limited.

U.S. Foreign Policy

U.S. competition with China continues to intensify, but rather than adopting a strategy of containment, the United States should respond by reinforcing its relationships with allies and leveraging China's desire for stability to discourage disruptive behavior.