Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 142

gulags, where it is estimated that the government has incarcerated more than one hundred thousand individuals. He also writes of factories that are dormant, a bottling plant that produces no bottles, and hospitals that have few patients. However, there may be room for optimism. More and more North Koreans are becoming aware of the outside world via smuggled information technology such as smart phones that provide access to the Internet, particularly for those located near the Korean demilitarized zone in the south and near the Chinese border in the north. The author suggests that the West should do more to inform the people of North Korea. For example, the British Broadcasting Corporation could establish a North Korean Service, and Voice of America could increase its output. South Korea could reverse-engineer North Korean mobile phones, of which there are two million, to see what can be modified to provide the North Koreans with the ability to do more with their mobile phones—and then build the world’s largest cellular masts near the demilitarized zone. “Information is light, and the people of the dark state of North Korea need more of that than anything else.” The author suggests that the Kim dynasty will eventually fall. When it does, dealing with those implications promises to be a daunting task for the international community and particularly for South Korea. North Korea Undercover provides relevant insights into the country today. The book will be of interest to many, ranging from the casually curious to those who one day will help rebuild the country once its people are freed from the oppressive grip the Kim regime has imposed for three generations. Col. David D. Haught, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Belvoir, Virginia ACT OF WAR: Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo Jack Cheevers, NAL Caliber, New York, 2014, 448 pages T he 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korea and the detention of its crew for almost a year are incidents largely forgotten with the passage of time. In Act of War, author Jack Cheevers writes 136 a comprehensive history of a significant and controversial event. He makes a persuasive case that, considering the asymmetric threats we face today, we should be revisiting its lessons rather than letting it be forgotten. Act of War reads like novel. It is fast paced, rich in detail, and covers events in a style that keeps the reader constantly engaged. The author uses interviews, declassified reports, transcripts, and summaries of the negotiations to provide the reader with a thorough understanding of the events. It includes the ship’s mission, its seizure, the imprisonment and torture endured by the crew, the crew’s release, and the subsequent naval inquiry. Cheevers covers the events and decisions from multiple perspectives, including those of the crew, the ship’s captain, the U.S. Navy, South Korea, and President Johnson’s administration. Calling it “one of the worst intelligence debacles in American history,” Cheevers uses recently declassified National Security Agency damage assessments to provide a fresh appraisal of the amount of damage the ship’s capture caused to national security. The book is a study of decisions, assumptions, risk, and the consequences of being wrong. The author has a knack for clearly describing the difficult choices and the factors affecting the decisions; this is the true strength of the book. Cheevers does an excellent job of providing all the options open to the decision makers and discussing why they ultimately arrived at their decisions. The tension and the gravity of the decisions are especially clear as the events unfold. Readers ultimately will ask themselves what they would do if confronted with the same circumstances. The author is balanced in his approach. He presents the facts—both good and bad—and lets the reader determine whether the decision maker made the best decision. What readers likely will find most interesting is the clash of values, which is clearly outlined by the author. For example, while the ship captain’s decision “to save his men’s lives had been a humane one,” the Navy, whose “self-image was built on heroic tales of sea commanders who fought against long odds,” could not understand his decision. Winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature, this book is a cautionary tale with many lessons relevant to the asymmetric threats we face today. In addition to posing tough questions, it also tells a story of resilience, leadership, and cohesion. I recommend this book to all readers, but especially those interested in international affairs because of the lessons it provides. Robert J. Rielly, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW