December 12, 2017—Tactical or Strategic Warning?

December 12, 2017—Tactical or Strategic Warning?

“It is much easier after the event to sort the relevant from the irrelevant signals.  After the event, of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signaling, since the disaster has occurred. But before the event it is obscure and pregnant with conflicting meanings…  It is only human to want some unique and univocal signal, to want a guarantee from intelligence…  We have to accept the fact of uncertainty and learn to live with it.  No magic, in code or otherwise, will provide certainty.  Our plans must work without it.”  ~Roberta Wohlstetter, Policy Analyst and Historian in Pearl Harbor:  Warning and Decision, 1962

Last Thursday, on the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I began my talk to the South Carolina Infragard chapter by reminding them that the “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor happened in spite of both ample tactical and strategic warning. I knew Roberta Wohlstetter years ago, after she described the “tactical warning” we received, according to its classic definition of imminent danger, ignored even as late as early that Sunday morning.

Billy Mitchell gave us “strategic warning” two decades earlier, and was court marshalled for his impolite persistence in the face of the Navy’s mistaken belief in the fleet invulnerability. I told the Infragard folks in that context that I hoped I was still providing “strategic warning” so that “the powers that be” had time to respond to the existential threat from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.  And then I gave my presentation on the nature of the threat to the electric power grid and what should be done to counter it. Click here for my briefing.

I emphasized that because the Washington establishment was disaggregated and dysfunctional, I had decided several years ago to initiate a “bottoms-up” strategy in South Carolina as a pathfinder project for others to take matters in their own hands.  Thus, High Frontier has been working with Duke Energy and the Utility and Cooperative Companies in York County on a Lake Wylie Pilot Study to assure electricity will be provided to the local citizens, with a top priority of assuring essential water/wastewater infrastructure is protected.

In particular, we are working with authorities in Rock Hill, perhaps South Carolina’s fourth largest city and a suburb to Charlotte, the home of Duke Energy’s Corporate Headquarters that operates nuclear, hydroelectric and coal power plants on Lake Wylie — and supplies electricity throughout the Southeast all the way to Indiana. Click here for previous pertinent discussions including the Lake Wylie Pilot Study. 

My Infragard discussion was well received and included in a Greenville, SC Channel 7 report that evening.  Check here for that written report and a brief linked TV report on the South Carolina Infragard conference.

Today, I wish again to reflect on the relevance of the Pearl Harbor experience to the strategic warning we have received of the EMP threat, including my discussion of the pertinence of this precedent four year years ago and several times since. Click here, for previous discussions of the Pearl Harbor “Black Swan” event — e.g., a generally unanticipated event even though, in retrospect, General Mitchell predicted it almost precisely,  at least 15 years before Japan’s attack. 

Four years ago, I wrote that the “powers that be” were similarly discounting the EMP threat and courting disaster, with much more horrific consequences.  Little has changed since then, and one has to wonder if we are still in a “strategic” or have evolved into a “tactical” warning condition, as North Korea has announced achieving an EMP attack capability as a “strategic goal.”  And Iran is essentially at the same stage.

The following discussion draws from the first of these High Frontier messages on December 11, 2013, entitled “Coming Soon, an EMP ‘Black Swan’ Event?”

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.” It derives this label from the fact that all swans were believed to be white until Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh’s 1697 discovered 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 pertinent examples — one past and one prospective.

Pearl Harbor: A Historical Example.

Last week, Hawaii observed the 76th anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor as the Sun rose on December 7, 1941. Those who lived through that event and World War II — the dwindling “greatest generation” now mostly 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.

It should not have been a surprise . . . and not just because the “tactical” warning (as discussed by Roberta Wohlstetter) of the attack in progress was ignored until it was too late.  Billy Mitchell’s private and particularly public attempts to get 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 a coming war with Japan and of the Pearl Harbor attack — 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.

December 12, 2017—Tactical or Strategic Warning?

So we collectively ignored “strategic” warning of an attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as the “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 now 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?

Our High Frontier messages have extensively reported on the threat of both manmade and natural EMP events that pose an existential threat to all Americans.

Our disaggregated, dysfunctional federal government has so far responded lethargically at best — and only with respect to the natural EMP event that will one day occur, a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that causes a worldwide life threatening Geomagnetic Disturbance (GMD).  This initiative is a positive step, but even if such a GMD is competently protected against, those protections most likely will leave the electric grid vulnerable to more stressful manmade EMP events. 

Thus, consider the manmade threat that has received essentially no focused interest from the federal “powers that be” — specifically on the now-looming High-altitude EMP (HEMP) threat posed by a widely acknowledged ballistic missile attack from North Korea and a less recognized threat from Iran.

As widely reported and noted above, North Korea is pursuing the capability to execute a HEMP attack as a “strategic goal.” Such an attack does not require reentry into the atmosphere — widely advertised as a necessary but as yet undemonstrated capability for North Korea to execute an effective attack on the United States.

But in 2012 and 2016, North Korea launched satellites that could carry a nuclear weapon to be detonated over the United States — moreover those satellites approach the United States from over the South Polar region, whereas our homeland ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems were deployed to defend against ballistic missiles arriving from over the North Polar regions.  And still our “powers that be” still dither.

Failing to deal with North Korea is just another example of how our leaders have ignored the “strategic warning” that many experts, including the Congressional EMP Commission, have given for over a decade to our “powers that be”— and to anyone else who will listen.

Threats from North Korea are now center stage as the Trump administration focuses on “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un and his threats. But at least the press still has been ignoring the EMP threat. Hopefully, the Trump administration will do better — but so far there is no such sign.

Then there’s the EMP threat from Iran, which has not received the attention it deserves.

Click here for a December 10, 2017 Eurasia Review article reporting that the Intelligence Community has concluded that Iran has purchased three nuclear weapons from North Korea. If true, it is no surprise since Iran reportedly has long cooperated with North Korea in its nuclear and ballistic missile testing programs, as this article also relates and as others (including your truly) have written for years. And only three nuclear weapons? Really?

The terrible 2015 Iran Deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — negotiated with Iran by the Obama administration and other members of the P-5 + 1 (Germany, France, Russia, China and the United Kingdom) — released to Iran upwards of $150 billion in sanctions relief, providing ample funds to purchase whatever it wants from North Korea. I have also discussed this situation many times over the past several years, which is not helped by the sanctions currently being placed on North Korea, e.g., click here.   

And Iran has also launched satellites over the South Polar region, which could carry such nuclear weapons and detonate them over the United States.

Our previous reports have given ample warning of this HEMP threat; e.g., consider a brief summary of some items slightly updated from my December 11, 2013 report dealing primarily with the Iranian threat:

  • 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 — over land rather than the South Pacific — 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. And as I reported last week, the EMP Commission Chairman for 17 years recently noted that the Defense Department is withholding key information from the private sector responsible for providing electricity to the public.
  • The Congressionally mandated nonpartisan EMP Commission reports warned of the devastating consequences of such an attack in 2004 and in 2008, as was well known from previous highly classified information. (Click here and here for the Commission’s 2004 and 2008 reports.) This conclusion is further reiterated in the Commission’s most recent report, undergoing classification review. Click here for my last High Frontier message, which provides a summary briefing (to a national level Infragard meeting in Washington, DC) by the EMP Commission Chairman who had served for the past 17 years, until that Commission was disbanded by an unbelievably stupid congressional mandate, even as North Korea and Iran are ramping up their threat of such an attack. 
  • He reiterated the EMP Commission’s previous reports that the electric power grid vulnerabilities are critically important, deserving remediation immediately. He testified a decade ago 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. Little has been done to respond to that warning.
  • 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.”
  • In 2013, 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 — including from the Gulf of Mexico.

My report four years ago also noted that these activities already bridged into potential “tactical warning” events that might signal an imminent attack, suggesting a certain irrelevance of debates over sanctions in the broader context of the then ongoing ill-advised negotiation with Iran on its nuclear weapons development programs.

Meanwhile President Obama signaled his willingness for Iran to continue with a “modest nuclear enrichment program” . . . whatever that meant. And now Iran has reportedly purchased nuclear weapons from North Korea, as mentioned above and as should have been expected when the terrible Iran deal was concluded in 2015.

I could go on and on with more recent facts that make clear that once Iran mates nuclear weapons to its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), it can immediately join forces with its ally North Korea in threatening a devastating attack on the United States — including EMP from a single burst of an appropriately designed device at a couple hundred miles, say over the eastern seaboard to shut down the Eastern Interconnection of the electric power grid that produces most of the nation’s electricity.  

Iran might want to double up on attack strategies, of course: For example, one from a satellite over the South Polar region and one from a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico — both in the context of overall diplomatic and other distractions.

So how can diplomacy help?

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.

That was then … and what about diplomacy today???

Some Key Bottom Lines:

How long will the U.S. “powers that be” wait to respond to the “strategic warning” we have so clearly received?

Or will some future Roberta Wohlstetter tell a comparable story to her Pearl Harbor analysis explaining our failure to respond to the “tactical warning” of such an event?

While pondering these questions, note that it seems clear from many of our past messages that the Washington “powers that be” continue to dither, out of ignorance or incompetence — or both. Members of the Executive and Legislative branches have been collectively failing in their sworn duty “to provide for the common defense.”

The operationally key issues have been governed by purely political considerations.

The threat is well known — and validated by numerous competent technical reviews, including by the just concluded EMP Commission as summarized by its Chairman and reported in last week’s High Frontier message. The cost of protecting the electric power grid is minimal by any reasonable measure of normal expenditures of the Federal Government — even as it again struggles at year’s end with another continuing resolution.

Remind me, how long has it been since congress passed and executed a budget?

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 . . .

We have long had strategic warning — will we wait until we have tactical warning and have no time to respond with adequate measures to protect the American people from this existential threat?

What can you do?

Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.

Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.

Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.

Click here to make a tax deductible gift.  If you prefer to mail a check, Please send it to 500 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

E-Mail Message 171212

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