July 1, 2006
EMP and the Unfought VictoryBy Timothy Birdnow
"Thus one who excels at employing the military subjugates other people`s armies without engaging in battle, captures other people`s fortified cities without attacking them, and destroys other people`s states without prolonged fighting."
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
(Sun Tzu was the great second century Chinese military strategist who produced the definitive textbook for waging war.)
North Korea is proceeding with a test of its Taepo Dong 2 ICBM, and the United States has activated its spiffy new missile defense system with portentous threats to shoot down any test rocket. The situation seems to be escalating, and the DPRK seems determined to fire its multi—staged doomsday machine in spite of America`s determination to stop it. At first glance this showdown seems odd; America has repeatedly failed to take a stand against North Korea's military development, and, although the Taepo Dong 2 can possibly reach California and the West Coast, the lack of decent guidance systems make an attack unlikely.
Why has our government become so concerned?
In 1998 North Korea shocked the world by test—firing a medium—range missile over Japan, and they have since broken the moratorium on testing they agreed to in 2001. The missile they are currently planning to test (the Taepo Dong 2) is a two staged rocket with a range between 6,000 and 9,000 Kilometers, according to MissileThreat.com (that's roughly between 3728 and 5592 miles—one thousand kilometers=621.37 miles) and the distance between Los Angeles and Seoul, South Korea is 5956 miles. Considering we underestimated the reach of Taepo Dong 1 it is not inconceivable that a Nuclear—tipped missile could hit one of our major West Coast cities. It could easily strike Hawaii or oil—rich Alaska.
Furthermore, it is a small step to move from a two—stage to a three—stage rocket; if you are technically savvy enough to be successful with two stages, adding a third stage requires nothing new. A three stage Taepo Dong would have enough range to reach Chicago.
But that is probably not the major concern of the United States government.
The detonation of a thermonuclear device has multiple high—energy effects; there is the blast itself, the heat and radiation flash, the fallout that follows, and the Electromagnetic Pulse. It is the Electromagnetic Pulse, or EMP, which may be the reason for the government`s concern.
During the Cold War, military planners on both sides of the Iron Curtain knew that, when detonated in the atmosphere, an atomic weapon produces a ferocious magnetic pulse (actually several waves) which could be used to knock out the electronics of the enemy. An EMP strike will take out all of our unprotected computer systems, take down our electric grid, our radar systems, every piece of electronic equipment which has not been protected. The Cold War strategists said "so what?"; there won`t be anything left of either country for this to matter. The policy on both sides was Mutual Assured Destruction, which meant that a failure of our fine electronics would be our last worry. We knew about the effects of EMP, but we didn`t take it into account (except for military applications).
J.R. Dunn has a great article on this matter, published earlier in The American Thinker.
An EMP attack does not require pinpoint accuracy; it requires height! The higher the device is when it detonates, the greater the area affected. Energetic particles affect anything within line of site, and is also carried by the Earth`s magnetic field, increasing the range of damage. A missile fired at America doesn`t need a fancy guidance system.
Such an attack would be devastating to a nation that uses computers and sophisticated electronics, such as the United States. All cash registers are computers, all bank accounting systems, all credit systems, etc. would be affected. Electricity will be down, so there will be no gasoline available. This won`t matter, since none of the cars will work (all modern cars are regulated by microcomputers). There will be no planes flying (outside of some military aircraft) since there will be no guidance or control, and no fuel. Ditto trains. Water pumps won`t run, so people will go thirsty. The services we take for granted will fail. How long before panic sets in?
Even if an EMP strike should only hit the West Coast, the disaster would be catastrophic; the United States electric grid is divided into three segments, and this strike will more than likely take the entire western power grid completely out. It's going to be very hard to maintain order with no running water in the arid western United States! Farmers will lose their crops, the sick and elderly will die without air conditioning, and other electricity—dependent services.
Of course, Silicon Valley will be toast, as well as such important places as Lawrence Livermore Labs; our days as the high—tech leader could be numbered. What will this do to our economy, supposing the country makes it through in decent shape?
Couple an EMP attack on the West Coast with a terrorist strike, and you have a recipe for chaos. Here is one simple scenario; send men into the California/Arizona/Nevada scrubland and light fires. Without aircraft or water those fires could engulf the entire west. This would be an easy, low—tech way to maximize damage, while keeping operational costs to a minimum. Of course, the usual terrorist methods — bombs, sniper attacks, etc. would also work well. You could light natural gas wells, oil wells, and other combustible facilities on fire and watch the black smoke pour into the sky. You could take steps to poison water sources, so that people would die from drinking tainted water. The point is, nobody will be able to stop sleeper cells from acting after such an attack, and the terrorists would know the best ways to strike to maximize their damage.
The real question is, how would the United States respond to such an attack? Will we launch a nuclear strike against North Korea, killing millions and poisoning the entire region (including our friends in Japan and South Korea)? An EMP attack against the DPRK would be the equivalent of embargoing gasoline on Sitting Bull; they have so few high tech gadgets it would be pointless.
Would we launch major conventional airstrikes? North Korea has buttoned everything down in bunkers, and will undoubtedly be prepared for such an attack if it came. Would we be capable of mounting an invasion, with our military tied up in Afghanistan and Iraq, and having to watch Iran while our country is in turmoil as a result of the attack?
The reality is, our options would be severely limited, especially since China would be there to act against us. Of course, our good friends France, Germany, Russia, etc. would offer their condolences while snickering behind our backs and would make every effort to prevent U.S. action. Ditto for the American Left, who would believe we got what we deserved for electing George W. Bush.
In short, unless we somehow mustered will which the American people may no longer possess, we may be powerless against such an attack. Tiny, barbaric, impoverished North Korea lead by a mad Kim Jung—Il could, theoretically, take down the World`s great superpower!
Fortunately, Ronald Reagan had the foresight to order the development of a missile defense system. If it works.
But one question remains, one issue lies unresolved in all of this; who stands to benefit most from such an attack?
According to the Washington Times January 12, 2000:
Who is it that wishes to create a new Asian sphere of influence? Who is prevented from seizing what they consider a runaway province by the United States? Who wants to supplant "The American Century" with their own?
North Korea depends on China for its survival, and has ever since millions of Chinese troops poured across the Yalu River during the Korean War.
It would be the perfect military victory; push your crazy client state into launching such an attack on the enemy, one which doesn`t kill people directly, but severely damages the enemy infrastructure, while knowing that world opinion, and liberal opinion inside of the enemy`s own house will work to restrain retaliation. Then, if retaliation does come, it will be against dirt poor, tiny, starving North Korea, and not against you.
Would we attack a seemingly innocent China? They would, of course, offer condolences, condemn the act, and tender some help. A counter—attack against the Chinese would be universally condemned, and would be the end of American leadership in the world.
Any way you look at it, China wins with this scenario. There really is no down side for them.
Remember that Sun Tzu was Chinese.
Timothy Birdnow blogs in St. Louis, Mo.