Jonah, the most common speculation seems to be that it was a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test — perhaps part of the Big Stick to President Obama’s Soft-Walk Asia trip. Indeed, from the internet cloud we have an air-space alert issued by the Navy pre-launch. But if it was an SLBM, I have absolutely no problem with the Pentagon shrugging its shoulders and saying “don’t look at us.”
Not to get too conspiratorial here, but remember when one of POTUS’s 747s flew over lower Manhattan? I had an inkling at the time that this was no moon, and more than a colossally ill-advised photo-op. And sure enough, ask enough friends in the military, homeland security, and intelligence communities, and you get the idea that there was a bit more to it than met the eye. (No further comment here).
That’s why I tend not to freak out about these sorts of things. Maybe I’m too trusting of the military-industrial complex, but when the Pentagon is issuing perfunctory “we dunnos” about a launch 30 miles from a Catalina wine mixer, I sort of assume that Top Men (Top. Men.) have got it handled and I don’t need to worry my pretty little head. Now, if the Pentagon had been freaking out. . .
UPDATE: I love NRO readers. I see a lot of comments/e-mail disputing that this was an SLBM for one reason or another, but the one that carries the most weight so far is the Trident D5 engineer who sent me an e-mail assuring me that they don’t test SLBM’s in this particular area. Absent contravening evidence, I’m inclined to take the man’s word for it.