The single greatest threat facing the United States is probably not what you think. In the Cold War, the greatest threat was that of an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Most people today would probably say the risk is a terrorist attack involving WMDs. In our worst nightmares, we tend to picture a CNN news flash, a mushroom cloud over a major city, and maybe a million dead Americans. In fact, as great as that threat is, it is nothing compared to what a single (yes, one) nuclear weapon in the upper atmosphere could do. A high-altitude nuclear detonation over the United States has the potential to create a continent-wide electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. This would knock out power, phone, and other utilities, take out a number of nearby satellites, and cripple nearly everything with an electric circuit… permanently. No phone, no internet, no television, no lights, no cars, no credit card readers, no gas pumps, no stock market, no banking: a pre-electronic world. Experts say this kind of attack would effectively return most or all of a technology-driven country like the United States to the nineteenth century in an instant. While relatively few people would die in the moments after such an attack, the death toll from starvation, dehydration, lack of medical services, and fire over the following months would make disasters like Katrina, the 2004 tsunami, and the recent Chinese earthquake look mild.
For background on this, see these articles on the topic:
- Future Shockwave?: Iran’s EMP Threat – Clifford D. May on National Review Online
- Our Nation at Risk: The Threat of EMP – Chuck Missler on Koinonia House
- Intel: Iran Plans Nuclear Strike on U.S. – Kenneth Timmerman on Refuge
The scariest part is that Iran, simultaneously with its efforts to refine uranium, has conducted high-altitude detonations of Scuds. Specifically, Iran has launched missiles from a specially modified cargo ship, concealing the missile in the cargo hold and launching it from a hatch in the deck and detonating them at high enough altitude to generate the kind of widespread EMP in question. There is only one strategic reason to do this, the same reason the Russians researched during the Cold War: preparation for an EMP attack.
This is the single most compelling reason I have ever heard to fast-track a national missile defense system. Forget about global warming, the economy, immigration, or outsourcing; no other single threat is a tenth as great or as immediate as this one. Of course, Senator Obama thinks missile defense is unproven and its funding should be cut until it is proven (how he thinks we will prove the effectiveness of an unfunded system with high costs, He has not deigned to reveal to us, though we eagerly await His messages on this topic). Meanwhile, our friends the Russians threaten nuclear attacks on Poland for helping implement a shield over the United States and Europe.
It kind of makes me want to stock up heavily on various types of supplies…
Ed. note 8/18/2018: Various links have broken over the years and have been replaced with links to archived versions of the respective pages, when possible. No archived version exists for some links, so those have been removed entirely.