Monday, July 27, 2009

Is EMP for R.E.A.L?

James Carafano thinks Newt Gingrich's doomsday scenario is pretty legit.

Last year, a congressional commission studied how a high-altitude EMP strike would affect the nation's infrastructure. The answer was simple: It would be devastating.

The entire U.S. electrical grid might be gone and all the instruments of daily life that depend on electrical power useless. Life in United States, concluded the commission's chair, scientist William Graham, "would be a lot like life in the 1800s," except with a significantly bigger population.

.... The EMP problem isn't talked about much, yes. But not because responsible people think it's a sci-fi scenario. They don't talk about it because they are so overwhelmed by the challenges such an attack would pose.

UPDATE: I posted this on March 29, and will do so now, since it gives a good b/ground.

Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen claim North Korea's incipient "communications satellite" bespeaks a much more malignant threat.

The rocket that carries the satellite could also carry a nuclear warhead "over any location on the planet in less than 45 minutes".

So how could that wipe out the United States?

The authors:

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a by-product of detonating an atomic bomb above the Earth’s atmosphere. When a nuclear weapon is detonated in space, the gamma rays emitted trigger a massive electrical disturbance in the upper atmosphere. Moving at the speed of light, this overload will short out all electrical equipment, power grids and delicate electronics on the earth’s surface. In fact, it would take only one to three weapons exploding above the continental United States to wipe out our entire grid and transportation network. It might take years to recover from, if ever.

Newt and Forstchen then urge the reader (you) to skim the Report of the Commission To Assess the Threat of the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (pdf).

And in case you think this is Newt Gingrich being manic, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece last August, titled "The EMP Threat", which the WSJ urges not to read before bedtime.

Imagine you're a terrorist with a single nuclear weapon. You could wipe out the U.S. city of your choice, or you could decide to destroy the infrastructure of the entire U.S. economy and leave millions of Americans to die of starvation or want of medical care.

The latter scenario is the one envisioned by a long-running commission to assess the threat from electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. The subject of its latest, and little discussed, report to Congress is the effect an EMP attack could have on civilian infrastructure. If you're prone to nightmares, don't read it before bedtime.

Gingrich and Forstchen conclude with an apocalyptic soundbite to end all apocalyptic soundbites:

What good will a bailout be if there is no longer a nation to bail out?

Here's a piece by Michael Crowley calling EMP a "pulp fiction fantasy".


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