The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 72 years ago was a classic “Black Swan” event in that it was unexpected but should have been, as concluded after the fact. A fair question is whether we are courting another “surprise” attack that should be identified now and countered while there is still time to prevent or defend against it?
A Black Swan event is an unexpected event, after which experts and even laymen usually conclude: “it was bound to happen . . . similar incidences even have happened before.”
Swans were believed to be white until Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh’s 1697 discovery of black swans in Australia, which profoundly changed zoology. It then seemed obvious that black swans had to exist because other animals also had varying colors. In retrospect, the surrounding context (i.e., empirical observations about other animals) implied that Black Swans were unsurprising. Consider a couple of consequential examples—one past and one prospective.
Pearl Harbor: A Timely Historical Example.
Last week, as the Sun rose on December 7th in Hawaii, we observed the 72nd anniversary of a Black Swan event: Pearl Harbor. Those who lived through that event and World War II—especially those of the “greatest generation” now approaching or in their 90s—can testify from their personal experience about the costs of ignoring the clear warning signs of that attack that should have been anticipated.
That surprise attack should not have been a surprise . . . and not just because the “tactical” warning of the attack in progress was ignored. Years earlier, Billy Mitchell’s private and particularly public attempts to get the U.S. powers that be to understand the future importance of air power led to his 1925 court-marshal. In his pre-trial testimony before the “Morrow Board” and the trial itself, he warned of the coming war with Japan and of the Pearl Harbor attack—over 15 years in advance. He predicted the rise of Japanese strength and foretold its Sunday-morning attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. He also argued, accurately until 1944, that aircraft carriers could not operate against land-based aviation. He saw war as global and imminent, and that airpower was the only way to master the situation.
But the powers that be, up to the President, refused to listen and ended Mitchell’s career, though he retained his hero status among air power advocates who would see his warnings come true after his death in 1936—many who were leaders during World War II, and considered him to be the Father of the U.S. Air Force, in which I was pleased to serve. Mitchell received many honors following his death, including a commission by President Roosevelt as a Major General. He is also the only individual after whom is named a type of American military aircraft, the North American B-25 Mitchell—ironically the aircraft used in America’s April 19, 1942 famous retaliatory bombing raid on Tokyo, led by Jimmy Doolitle, a protégé of Mitchell’s.
So certain were the military brass of their “remote” safety in Hawaii that they parked all the defensive fighter aircraft together, composing an easy target for the Japanese to attack from the air—more easily guarded against sabotage, you see. And most of the Pacific Fleet was docked in the harbor, as the Japanese anticipated.
So we collectively ignored “strategic” warning of an attack on Pearl Harbor as well as “tactical” warning so brilliantly analyzed by Roberta Wohlstetter in 1962.
At least in this Black Swan event (Pearl Harbor), we had time not only to recover and with Providential help (e.g., at Midway) defeat the Japanese in the Pacific and the Nazis in Europe.
We may not be so fortunate in the even more catastrophic Black Swan Event we are courting by ignoring both strategic and perhaps tactical warning of the existential threat from a natural or manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event.
A Prospective EMP Black Swan Event?
In our previous email messages, we have extensively reported on the threat of both manmade and natural EMP events that pose an existential threat to America. Let me focus on the manmade threat—and specifically on the now-looming High-altitude EMP (HEMP) threat posed by a ballistic missile attack from Iran—which is not being countered by either our diplomatic or active defense policies. Consider just a few points from our previous reports, in brief summary:
- We have long had “Strategic Warning.”
- The U.S. demonstrated HEMP effects on “ancient” vacuum tube electronics nearly 1000 miles from our 1962 Starfish Prime nuclear test in the South Pacific—today’s solid state electronics are much, much more vulnerable to HEMP.
- At considerable expense during the Cold War, the U.S. hardened its key military electronic systems to HEMP to assure the President could retaliate after a Soviet HEMP attack on the U.S. This capability was at the heart of our deterrent policy
- Post-Cold War discussions with Russia validated this investment—their high altitude tests were actually more extensive than ours and they included HEMP in their attack plans.
- We continue to harden our strategic military systems but have done little or nothing to harden our civil critical infrastructure—especially the electric power grid, upon which the viability of most other critical infrastructure depends.
- The Congressionally mandated nonpartisan EMP Commission reports warned of the devastating consequences of such an attack in 2004 and in 2008 provided previously classified information to back up these conclusions in a comprehensive report.
- The EMP Commission identified the electric power grid vulnerabilities as being critically important, deserving remediation immediately—its Chairman testified that unless these vulnerabilities were rectified, starvation, disease and social collapse from a HEMP attack could lead to the death of most Americans within the following year.
- Russia has shared its nuclear and ballistic missile technology with China, North Korea, Iran and, at least via the cacophony of proliferation if not directly, with others. This includes information that helps North Korea develop nuclear weapons to maximize EMP effects. For example, close collaboration between North Korea and Iran has benefited both—of course with help from Russia and China.
- Iran has collaborated with North Korea and attended North Korean tests, which some believe were intended to demonstrate advanced designs that could easily be adapted for ballistic missile or satellite delivery to create HEMP effects.
- Iran has pursued an extensive ballistic missile development program—including testing in the late 1990s that knowledgeable observers associate with an interest in a HEMP attack from a seagoing vessel.
- A ten-day maneuver exercise in the summer of 2011 launched some 14 ballistic missiles of various ranges, after which Iran’s then Defense Minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, boasted: “The war games…show Iran’s great capability in designing, producing and using various kinds of missiles based on domestic knowledge. This showed that the sanctions imposed had no effect on Iran’s missile program.”
- These activities bridge into more recent potential “Tactical Warning” events that may signal an imminent attack.
- The last bullet above suggests a certain irrelevance of current debate over sanctions in the broader context of the ongoing ill-advised negotiation with Iran on its nuclear weapons development programs.
- Last year, North Korea and Iran launched satellites to their south, traveling over the South Polar regions, which could easily have been directed over the U.S. in their initial orbit at an altitude to optimize HEMP effects over the entire continental U.S.
- Recently, Iranian Naval Admiral Afshin Rezayee said Iran’s Navy plans to deploy warships in the Atlantic.
- Previously, Iranian officials have observed their ships can threaten U.S. coastal cities—particularly from the Gulf of Mexico.
- Meanwhile President Obama signals his willingness for Iran to continue with a “Modest nuclear enrichment program” . . . whatever that means, it must drive the Israelis up the wall.
In view of these facts, it is clear that once Iran mates nuclear weapons to its ballistic missiles, it can immediately threaten a devastating HEMP attack—from a single burst of an appropriately designed device at a couple hundred miles over the central U.S.
Iran might want to double up on attack strategies, of course: For example, one from a satellite and one from a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico—both in the context of overall diplomatic and other distractions.
Recall that the Japanese Ambassador was waiting in Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s office when the Pearl Harbor attack began, seeking diplomatic relief on U.S. imposed trade restrictions. Click here for a summary of key exchanges in that failed diplomatic negotiation.
Some Key Bottom Lines:
From our previous email messages, it seems clear that the Washington “powers that be” continue to dither, out of ignorance or incompetence. Members of the Executive and Legislative branches are collectively failing in their sworn duty “to provide for the common defense.”
The operationally key issues are purely political. The threat is well known—and validated by numerous competent technical reviews. The cost of hardening is minimal by any reasonable measure—the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which understands the problem but doesn’t have the authority and resources to rectify the situation, has estimated the annual cost to be less than that of a postage stamp per subscriber.
In spite of the obvious impact of such an attack, the electric power companies appear to be winning in their efforts to frustrate initiatives to harden the electric power grid against HEMP (or other manmade or natural EMP) effects.
Note that the natural EMP event will happen—it is only a question of when the orbital mechanics are right.
And the clock clicks on—toward a disaster that will make Pearl Harbor look like a picnic . . .
Some believe that Iran would not attack the United States for fear of retaliation—these views ignore the stated willingness of the ruling Mullahs to commit suicide to achieve their stated objective of eliminating the Great Satan (America) and Little Satan (Israel) and to hasten the return of the Mahdi according to their end times prophesy.
Remember another Black Swan event—9/11, which killed even more than died at Pearl Harbor . . . that too will look like a picnic by comparison.
What to do?
While Washington continues to dither, more states should follow Maine’s bold lead in actually taking concrete initiatives to protect its portion of the electric power grid, thereby ensuring that at least the people of Maine can survive catastrophic collapse of the national power grid induced by a severe solar storm, manmade EMP event, cyberattack, or other cause. Such EMP protection will also mitigate all lesser hazards, such as blackouts induced by hurricanes and storms.
We should encourage other state legislators to follow the pattern of Maine State Representative Andrea Boland (D-Sanford), who successfully advocated in only a six month period historically important landmark legislation, LD 131. It passed the Maine House unanimously and with only two dissenting votes in the Senate. And we will try to help her in the continuing battle to get the Maine powers that be to follow through in executing her initiative, in spite of contrary lobbying efforts supported by the electric power industry.
We will be doing all we can to encourage the Maine legislators to follow through. In particular, I joined a number of the nation’s leading experts and public policy practitioners concerned about man-caused or naturally occurring existential EMP threats in signing the linked letter to Maine’s Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology. We expressed our appreciation for their leadership in trying to help the State of Maine become resilient against this threat and, through its example, encourage the nation as a whole to do the same.
This letter was signed before circulation of an unhelpful draft Maine PUC draft report in response to the Committee’s EMP legislation. Participants in our coalition are commenting on that draft report to seek a final version that reflects more closely the tremendous amount of material in the PUC docket supporting the Committee’s initiative and demanding urgent action—not perpetuating the exceedingly dangerous status quo, which apparently is the intention of lobbyists for the electric power industry.
And what can you do?
Pray for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Join us at High Frontier in seeking to alert the public and our local and state authorities to the existential threats posed by both man-made and natural EMP events—and what can be done about these threats.
Get involved—let you electric power companies know of your concern.
We need your help in spreading this information to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do. Will you do your part?
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter!
E-Mail Message 131211
Be sure to follow us on our Social Sites!
If you found this letter via our Social Sites, and you would like to subscribe, click below!