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.
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.
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.