The ongoing oil crisis pales in comparison to a recently-identified threat slowly catching the attention of reporters and think tankers alike.
In the opening paragraph of a Wall Street Journal Online opinion piece published today, readers were asked to use their imaginations and envision a frightening choice facing terrorist enemies of the United States (think Iran):
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 means via which a terrorist — or a terrorist nation — might accomplish the latter option is explained in successive paragraphs as an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack and was the focus of a study conducted by The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack.
According to the commission’s Critical National Infrastructures Report (PDF, 7MB) report delivered to Congress July 22, the EMP threat “is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold our society seriously at risk and might result in defeat of our military forces.”
In a recent backgrounder for the Heritage Foundation, senior policy analyst Jack Spencer exclaimed, “this alarming report clears the way for Congress to debate more seriously the most effective measures to meet the threat of an EMP attack.” Talk about an understatement.
He goes on to explain that protecting the United States against the evolving EMP threat will require a mix of active defenses, passive defenses, and policy changes. Specifically, the United States should:
- Develop a clear policy about how it will respond to an EMP attack;
- Assess which assets of the nation’s power grid and telecommunications infrastructure are most critical to the overall system;
- Harden those critical assets against EMP;
- Retrofit at least a portion of U.S. military assets to protect against EMP;
- Engineer EMP protections into a greater percentage of future military capabilities; and
- Deploy an effective ballistic missile defense.
Unlike the threat of skyrocketing oil prices doing great harm to our economy, an EMP attack holds potential to not only shut down the engines driving our economy, but to return Americans to the standard of living experienced more than a century ago. Hence, there’s no better reason to ensure IRAN is stopped before such an attack can be executed.
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For more about the EMP threat, read this article from Defense Industry Daily.
See also: Emergency Plan Fails to Consider EMP Threat