Friday, May 29, 2009

The science and science fiction behind Newt's EMP warning

Michael Crowley writes an even-handed, easy read on the possibility of an electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack on the United States.

As you know, Newt Gingrich has been ringing the alarm on EMP annihilation for some time now (if somewhat sporadically, considering how destructive Gingrich claims it would be. Who cares about Sotomayor when we're under the imminent threat of losing all electronic production in the United States?).

Crowley traces both the science and the science fiction behind the concept. It turns out rogue nations have looked into the possibility, including some pretty heavy national security experts, who've urged defensive action, though they're in the minority.

.... few analysts take the threat very seriously. The odds that Iran or North Korea would prefer a technologically untested Rube Goldberg scheme to merely nuking us seem slim. And any terrorist group able to execute such a plan was probably capable enough to get us one way or another anyhow.

In fact, Crowley sees mischief in the EMP float -- there's book sales to mind, and more seriously, a neo-conservative agenda to further.

In the end, he strikes just about the right note:

More broadly, archconservatives like Gingrich and Dick Cheney have gotten used to invoking low-probability worst-case scenarios to justify their views on everything from preemptive military action to torture.

[Hat tip: The Vine]