The rise of the Islamic State and its objective of re-establishing an Islamic caliphate committed to destroying Western civilization highlights a threat the U.S. has ignored for decades. The ability to launch nuclear armed ballistic missiles is not beyond its prospective capabilities and exists already from North Korea and possibly soon from Iran. The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a single nuclear warhead detonated 100 miles or so over the U.S. could destroy our unhardened electric power grid—leading to the death of several hundred million Americans within the following year. It’s time to counter this threat!
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“There is now an increasing likelihood that rogue nations such as North Korea (and before long, most likely, Iran) will soon match Russia and China in that they will have the primary ingredients for an EMP attack: simple ballistic missiles such as SCUDs that could be launched from a freighter near our shores; space launch vehicles able to launch low- earth-orbit satellites; and simple low-yield nuclear weapons that can generate gamma rays and fireballs. In 2004, the Russians told us that their “brain drain” had been helping the North Koreans develop EMP weapons . . .” ~Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey
As we join in the festivities of our Independence Day celebrations, we need to renew the pledges made by those who proposed the Declaration of Independence some 238 years ago today—again to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” to assure the birthright given to us by the Founders is passed to future Americans. Not least is to prepare for and counter the existential EMP threat posed by the current forces of tyranny.
As I watch the expanding tangled web in the Middle East drift toward including a soon to be nuclear-armed Shia Iran to help counter the al Qaeda off-shoot Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), I can’t help but note that America is drifting into an untenable situation that could end our way of life. These sworn enemies of each other agree on at least one thing—they hate Americans and would kill us all if they could. Soon they may be able to—and still we dawdle, refusing to harden the electric grid upon which our way of life depends. Who should be held accountable?
The quote “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” refers to how complicated life becomes when people lie. It originally referred to a love triangle in the 1808 play “Marmion,” written by Sir Walter Scott. It applies in spades to previous and current policies of the Obama administration, especially those ineptly dealing with existential threats posed by the explosive conditions in the Middle East and East Asia. So, will we pay attention or find ourselves entangled and captured by the web?
We have opportunities for diplomatic initiatives to benefit the United States and our allies while defending against fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) attacks from North Korea and Iran. Such initiatives should be easily attached to agreements for defense cooperation, as evidenced by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the Philippines and discussions in Abu Dhabi—both of which set the stage for rapid follow through to end our total FOBS vulnerability and cooperate on regional defenses for our allies as well.
On his trip to the Pacific Rim, President Obama should set the stage for almost immediately ending America’s current vulnerability to the existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat posed by North Korea’s Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) capability. Beyond unilateral measures—the U.S. could deploy a TPY-2 radar in the Philippines to help defend them from North Korea and to empower our Aegis ships in the Pacific and our ground-based interceptors in California to shoot down a FOBS attack before it reaches U.S. Territory.
Iran, like North Korea, has demonstrated an ability to launch nuclear weapons into low earth orbit over the South Polar regions. Last year, they launched a monkey into space in such a trajectory, reportedly in a 4400 pound capsule that could easily carry a conventionally designed nuclear weapon into orbit. If they launched a much lighter “EMP” nuclear weapon possibly in the North Korean inventory, they could achieve substantially higher orbits. (Detonation of either weapon over the U.S. could lead to the death of several hundred million Americans within a year.) These facts, coupled with geographic realities, make defending against an Iranian FOBS more difficult than is the case for North Korea. And the Iranian Mullahs may be more inclined to attack “the Great Satan” than is North Korea’s Dear Leader. We can and should quickly end our vulnerability to both emerging if not existing threats.
To deal more effectively with today’s threats, we should return to President Ronald Reagan’s vision made explicit in his March 23, 1983 speech that launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The “powers that be” should revive technology programs aimed at developing space-based defenses, the most cost-effective way to defend against a full gamut of ballistic missile threats, including those that pose an existential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat.
The Russian Bear on the prowl in Ukraine presents sobering global implications of a growing threat that could escalate even to place American equities at risk at home. We need both effective diplomatic and military responses—including an increased emphasis and funding for effective ballistic missile defenses for our friends and allies near the Bear and for Americans at home.
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