When I was in the Air Force I once read an interesting document.
As it turned out it was the only interesting official document I ever read.
As I have recounted elsewhere I was a briefing officer while I was in the Air Force and I prepared my briefings from Time Magazine.
But there was that one document.
The document told a story of a Sunday morning at the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor. It was a Sunday morning typical of Sunday mornings to be found anywhere on US military bases anywhere in the world. Everyone was in a state of near civilian Sunday morning relaxation. Church services were being conducted in various denominational gatherings on base, and some base personnel were, presumably, attending services off base at churches of their choice. For those who eschewed church, or had already attended, there were brunches at the various personnel clubs: officer, NCO or enlisted.
Since it was Hawaii there were all sorts of outdoor activities commencing.
The military has a tradition that every day a junior officer is put into a position called Officer of the Day (OD). That function is designed to put someone in charge of worrying about the myriad mundane details and occurrences that go into daily life on a military base. This off-loads a degree of clerical, administrative and just plain humdrum activity from the base commander and his subordinates. The OD acts on behalf of the base commander in relation to everything that typically occurs every day on a military base that doesn’t require the attention of a relatively, or actually, high ranking officer.
On the day being discussed the OD was an Air Force Officer from the nearby Air Force base. The document didn’t mention why an Air Force Officer was performing OD duties on a Navy base. I assumed that it was some kind of affinity program, or cross service development program, or some other idea hatched by the folks in USAF personnel and BUPERS USN.
After a completely uneventful several hours of duty wherever it was that an OD was required to reside during the conduct of his duties, he had decided to go to breakfast at the Officers’ Club. On the way he happened to meet a friend of his, a Navy officer, who was going the opposite direction. They stopped to talk for a few minutes. His friend asked him how the tedious and boring job of OD was going, and he said it was going well. Then he remembered something that had been occurring intermittently for most of the morning. There had been radio transmissions, apparently from northeast Asian waters, in the vicinity of the water off North Korea. There hadn’t been any coherent or understandable message in the transmission, but there had been a recurring nonsense word. He mentioned the word and his Navy friend turned white.
He said, “We need to get back to base operations as quickly as possible”.
“Why?” his friend asked.
“I don’t have time to tell you. Just come with me,” said the Navy guy.
It turned out that the nonsense word was a Navy code word that the Air Force guy hadn’t been briefed on, and which indicated some sort of dire incident as being underway.
The Pueblo crisis was on.
The Pueblo crisis involved a small US Navy craft named USS Pueblo, which was an intelligence gathering ship. The intermittent messages heard by the OD were from the Pueblo. They were notifying Pearl that they were under attack and in imminent danger of being captured.
The encounter of the OD and his friend occurred in time for them to notify people who were in charge of doing something that they needed to do something.
Doing something it could have been comprised of things such as sending airplanes to bomb and strafe the shit out of the North Korean attackers.
Sadly, there were problems.
Those problems kept any rescue and attack response from happening.
The problems were two.
And they were inter-linked.
Problem One was that air power assets were substantially below requirements in Northeast Asia due to the needs of the ever-escalating Vietnam War.
Problem Two was that the assets that were available in the theatre were armed with nuclear weapons.
Sending nuclear armed aircraft aloft for any reason other than second strike response to an attack on the US or one of its NATO allies or Japan was a way to cause a catastrophic diplomatic nightmare for the US.
With just the wrong turn of the cards, such an action could even have started a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.
Attacking a North Korean ship with planes armed with that sort of weapon – obviously using for the attack only the auxiliary conventional cannons – but with nuclear arms on board – was not an option.
And there wasn’t time to re-arm the available inventory with conventional weapons only.
So we did nothing.
And the Pueblo and its crew were captured.
If this sounds similar to the reasons given for lack of military response to the terrorist attack on Benghazi that is because it is similar.
Those kinds of things happen in minor ways all the time.
We can’t always attack with precision, no plan and no forewarning on any new form of upheaval that the world randomly dishes out.
Those are facts.
We can’t always John Wayne the world into submission.
Sometimes we can but often we can’t.
Occasionally those that we can’t turn into nightmares – the Pueblo and Benghazi are good examples.
But the similarity of two occasions when a curious confluence of adverse factors has precluded military action stops there.
In 1968 there wasn’t a CABAL dedicated to ruining the President of the United States.
In 2013 there is just such a CABAL.
In 2009 they announced their intention and they have been actively pursuing it on all fronts ever since.
They aren’t even operating in secret.
So watch as an ugly truth – we can’t always move fast enough to stop bad things from happening – get’s turned into the major activity of the republican party for the next four years: concocting the dots.