World war is in the air, so much so it is becoming commonplace for America's enemies, and friends, to say so. Weak U.S. foreign and defense policies are virtually inviting aggression by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — whose provocations are in the press almost every day.
For example, Russia recently conducted a nuclear civil defense exercise involving 40 million people, moved nuclear missiles to Kaliningrad to target NATO troops deploying to the Baltic states, and unveiled a new super-heavy nuclear missile — the Satan-II— designed to make a disarming first-strike against the U.S.
"NATO risks nuclear war with Russia within a year" warns NATO's recent Deputy Commander, General Richard Shirreff, in a book and press statement of May 2016. "Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, the governments of the United States and China are a few poor decisions away from starting a war that could escalate rapidly and end in a nuclear exchange," according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, May, 2016.
Among the cassandras is my new book "The Long Sunday — Election Day 2016 —Inauguration Day 2017 — Nuclear EMP Attack Scenarios," I do not predict that a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack is likely to occur between the national elections on Nov. 8 and the next presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.
However, it is a sign of just how deeply troubled and unpredictable are our times, when almost every day brings another unpleasant surprise, that even a nuclear EMP attack may plausibly be in our near future.
Enemies planning to attack the U.S. or its allies could find few better times than between Election Day and Inauguration Day, when the nation is transitioning to new leadership.
The dates for Election Day and Inauguration Day, and the long period for transitioning from one presidential administration to the next, are traditions rooted in the agrarian past, long before the nuclear missile age and before anyone could conceive that EMP and cyber surprise attacks could happen at the speed of light.
Hostile military planners would have a treasure trove of reasons for launching a surprise attack against the U.S. or its allies during "the long Sunday" — lasting 74 days — between Election Day on Nov. 8, 2016 and Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2017:
- For the first time in eight years, the United States will be undergoing transition to a new commander in chief and new presidential administration, while for 74 days the outgoing president and administration remain in office as "lame ducks."
- Disruption of national leadership, a top military goal, will be occurring naturally because of the transition to a new president and new administration.
- A surprise attack on the U.S. or its allies will very likely cause a leadership crisis, perhaps even throw into chaos the National Command Authority, because the incoming president and new administration (even if from the same party) will not want "lame ducks" making profound decisions about war, peace, and national security that they will have to live with.
- Because American politics has become a zero-sum game of winners and losers, after one of the most divisive elections in U.S. history, Americans will probably be even more deeply divided, and may not rally behind the old or new commander in chief to defend a U.S. ally or even the U.S. homeland. Indeed, half the country is likely to blame the "lame duck" president or the new president for an attack on the U.S. —regardless of who is elected.
- Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day holidays and typically 5 days of inaugural celebrations leading up to Inauguration Day occur within "the long Sunday." Official Washington, D.C., from top to bottom, including in Congress, the Department of Defense, and the Intelligence Community, is mostly on holiday and many are physically absent. Among those who remain many or most are psychologically absent and at their least vigilant.
- President Obama and his administration are a known quantity, infamous for irresolution and passivity in the face of aggression, as in Russia's annexation of Crimea and war on Ukraine, China's undeclared annexation of the South China Sea, North Korea's nuclear threats against the U.S. and its allies, Iran's illegal missile tests, and Syria's illegal use of chemical weapons. The temptation to strike a "lame duck" President Obama, when he and his administration are weakest, before they leave office, may be irresistible.
- Plans to strengthen U.S. conventional forces, modernize nuclear forces, and protect national critical infrastructures from EMP and cyber threats have been proposed, but not yet implemented. Better to strike when U.S. strength and preparedness are at their nadir.
God forbid, but it may not matter if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton has "3 o'clock in the morning courage" if — before the lame duck President Obama leaves office — America's enemies choose to strike.
Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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