While Americans debate the Second Amendment “right to bear arms” the First Amendment “freedom of speech” imperils national existence when any fool can publish an article belittling the threat from electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
“The Hype and the Reality of the EMP Threat” (Geopolitical Futures: February 15, 2018) purports to take a “middle view” on EMP, but really bends over backwards to dismiss or minimize the EMP threat, especially from North Korea. The author is clearly a non-expert on EMP as he makes many mistakes:
— Contrary to the author, the short-wavelength E1 EMP, not the long-wavelength E3 EMP, is the more dangerous and damaging form of EMP, as it can destroy small electronics, such as computers, cause cars to stall, make airplanes fall out of the sky, and cause more widespread and deeper damage to the electric power grid and other critical infrastructures than E3 EMP.
— Contrary to the author, an EMP attack from a low-yield 10 KT warhead would cause an E1 EMP field on the ground about 600 kilometers in radius, but the damage will not be confined to the field. Such an attack would assuredly cause cascading failures and a prolonged blackout of the Eastern Grid, that supports most of the U.S. population and generates 75 percent of U.S. electricity.
— Contrary to the author, the USSR’s series of EMP tests over Kazakhstan destroyed electric grids over an area nearly as large as Western Europe.
— Contrary to the author, nuclear tests are not the primary source of information about EMP. For example, the Defense Department has been using EMP simulators for over 50 years to test EMP effects. The EMP Commission did many such tests, proving that modern electronics are over 1 million times more vulnerable than the vacuum tube electronics of the 1950-60s, and that such electronics would be damaged or destroyed by EMP, if not protected.
— Contrary to the author, a Super-EMP weapon, though of much lower explosive yield than a standard H-Bomb, would nonetheless pose a much greater EMP threat precisely because it generates extraordinarily powerful E1 EMP fields. The EMP Commission warns that North Korea has two satellites orbiting over the U.S. on a trajectory consistent with making a surprise EMP attack, possibly armed with Super-EMP warheads.
— Contrary to the author, North Korea or another adversary could have high confidence that a nuclear EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences and pose an existential threat to the United States, if the power grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures remain unprotected.
— Contrary to the author, classical deterrence may not work against EMP, because an EMP attack can be executed anonymously (by satellite or off a freighter, for example). Moreover, an EMP attack could destroy the national technical means necessary to identify the attacker. Deterrence only works if you know against who to retaliate. And even then, deterrence is no guarantor of security. Every war that has ever been fought is an example of deterrence failure.
In summation, the article is a laughable example of yet another non-expert posturing as an expert, pretending to know “the reality” of the EMP threat, while dismissing the work of real experts on the Congressional EMP Commission as “hype.” But I am not laughing, because this sort of erroneous speculation and misinformation by non-experts could get millions of Americans killed.
Ever since Newt Gingrich raised EMP during his presidential run, the Left, academics, and the liberal mainstream media have tried to marginalize the EMP threat as a crazy Republican obsession. The Republican National Committee Platform, on which President Trump and the Republican Congress ran and were elected, included a provision on protecting the electric grid and other critical infrastructures from EMP — of course, this increased denial of the EMP threat by the Left and the media. Anything Trump and Republicans take seriously must be crazy, right? Yet EMP has always been taken seriously by every president and Congress since its discovery in 1962, as billions have been spent on a bipartisan basis to protect U.S. C3I and strategic forces from EMP. Even President Obama spent nearly $1 billion to further harden the NORAD command post inside Cheyenne Mountain from a nuclear EMP attack.
Another factor moving the Left and the media to belittle EMP is President Trump’s plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent and National Missile Defenses. The EMP threat provides an additional good reason for such modernization. But the Left and the media are opposed to U.S. strategic forces modernization, whether offensive or defensive. They still think the U.S. should try leading the way toward Obama’s “world without nuclear weapons.” EMP, if taken seriously, makes such aspirations appear all the more naïve and non-serious.
Unfortunately, real EMP experts, like the EMP Commissioners and their staff, are outnumbered by idiots, poseurs, and irresponsible journalists by hundreds to one. Another recent example is a new book “EMP Hoax” that relies heavily on non-expert critics of the EMP Commission — and is written by a professor of English literature.
The blind are leading the blind toward the abyss that is EMP.
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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