Today is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an intelligence failure so spectacular that it has spawned what the righteous fondly refer to as “conspiracy theories,” e.g., that Roosevelt actually knew about the attack in advance. Certainly the U.S. did have enough warning to have launched fighter planes and manned antiaircraft guns (see “The Three Missed Tactical Warnings That Could Have Made a Difference at Pearl Harbor”), but radar alerts were ignored.
One parallel between Pearl Harbor and recent events is that the Japanese did not expect the U.S. to wage total war in response to the attack. There was supposed to be a negotiation, after which the Japanese government would remain in power and in a stronger position than before. One theory is that the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) set up October 7 as a way to take Israeli soldiers hostage and then exchange them for Palestinians who had been convicted of stabbings, car bombings, shootings, etc. and sentenced to prison. However, ordinary civilian Gazans followed Hamas into Israel and, lacking the discipline of Hamas soldiers, proceeded to rape, maim, and kill as well as take civilians as hostages. As a result of the unplanned orgy of violence, Israel chose the unexpected (by Hamas) path of partial war (nothing like the brutality of what the U.S. did to the Japanese) with the goal of removing Hamas from its position as the legitimately elected government of Gaza.
Let’s go back to the intelligence failure aspect, however. The Central Intelligence Agency has over 21,000 employees (that Wikipedia knows about). The fighting after the October 7 attack motivated the U.S. to move an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean. Thus, even if the October 7 attack couldn’t have been stopped, it would have been valuable for the U.S. to know about it in advance. We pay about $100 billion per year for intelligence, central and otherwise. Why didn’t we have some agents and/or informants in Gaza who could have told CIA Langley (“George Bush Center for Intelligence”!) about the attack in advance?
From The Puzzler (2022, A.J. Jacobs):
In 1988, the CIA commissioned a Maryland-based artist named Jim Sanborn to create a sculpture for its expanding headquarters. The agency wanted to install some art that would be relevant to its mission of cracking secrets. Sanborn’s sculpture, Kryptos (Greek for “hidden”), was unveiled in 1990, located in a courtyard abutting the CIA cafeteria. Kryptos is a wavy wall of copper about twenty feet long and twelve feet high. Into the copper, Sanborn has carved about eighteen hundred seemingly random letters and four question marks. It’s a code, a secret message. No one knows the solution except Sanborn and possibly the former director of the CIA (Sanborn has hinted he didn’t tell the director everything). Thirty years later, the code has not been fully cracked—even by the CIA itself.
I ask Sanborn what it was like to create Kryptos. It wasn’t easy, he says. He had to get lessons in cryptology from a retiring CIA agent. And as for the sculpting itself, “I went through fifteen different assistants, nine hundred jigsaw blades, and twelve Bosch jigsaws over two and a half years,” Sanborn says.
From the CIA’s page:
Loosely related… “U.S. Navy Rescues Ship From Pirate Attack in Gulf of Aden” (New York Times):
The U.S. Navy intervened to stop the hijacking of a commercial cargo ship by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia on Sunday, after which two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen toward the Navy destroyer that responded to the incident, the U.S. military said.
The ballistic missiles were fired from the part of Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the region. If the missiles were meant to hit the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer, they fell well short of the mark: They landed in the Gulf of Aden 10 nautical miles from the American ship.
Two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi rebel-controlled Yemen toward a US warship in the Gulf of Aden, after the US Navy responded to a distress call from a commercial tanker that had been seized by armed individuals, the US military said Sunday. … The incident comes after Iran-backed Houthi forces launched numerous attacks against US interests in the region… Last week, the USS Thomas Hudner shot down multiple one-way attack drones launched from Yemen while it was patrolling in the Red Sea. On November 15, the Hudner also shot down a drone believed to have been heading toward the ship.
The “Houthi rebels” are the de facto government of Yemen right now, ruling over 80 percent of the population and controlling the capital city. We pay about $250 billion per year to keep the Navy and Marines going. Why aren’t the Houthis afraid that there will be some consequence to firing missiles at U.S. Navy ships? (For that matter, I guess, why didn’t the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) immediately release all American hostages that it grabbed on October 7, 2023 for fear of being attacked by the U.S. Navy?)