How One Nuclear Missile Could End Life As We Know It

Most people dramatically underestimate the threat of rogue regimes with nuclear weapons.

Imagine a world where Iran gets nukes. Well, the first thing that will happen is that Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia — among many others — would buy, borrow, or steal nuclear weapons to keep Iran from using nuclear blackmail to dominate the region.

Unless North Korea is forced to give up its nuclear weapons, the same thing will eventually happen in that region, too — especially given that the United States is likely to be so broke in coming years that we’ll no longer be able to play “global sheriff.” What that means is that Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan — among others — will all end up with nuclear weapons — and the same thing may eventually happen in South America.

Now, smaller nations without the resources of the United States or China may have trouble maintaining large arsenals, but they really don’t need a huge arsenal anymore.

They can sneak nuclear weapons into the United States via terrorism and if there’s enough proliferation, we genuinely may have no idea where it comes from. How smart would the amnesty and open borders crowd look if that happened?

There’s also another possibility, one that may be closer than we think. A single nuclear missile launched by a rogue regime could literally end life as we know it in the United States via an electromagnetic pulse,

Picture a massive tsunami, but with lightning instead of water. And, like the surge produced by lightning, electrical systems act like antennas sucking down a rush of electrons that fry circuits and burn out microchips.

EMP is not normally addressed when talking about nuclear attack because most strikes are planned as low-air bursts where most of the energy, EMP included, goes straight into the ground (and flattens the target in between). In such scenarios, electrical systems would be disabled by EMP, though few would notice because most people would have been crushed or melted in the firestorm following the detonation.

A deliberate EMP attack, however, would be different. If, for example, an enemy detonated a nuclear weapon carried on a ballistic missile 200 miles or so above Earth, people on the ground might never know an attack occurred. But if the explosion happened high enough over North America, the blossom of EMP might cover the entire United States.

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 the U.S., concluded the 9/11 Commission chair, scientist William Graham, “would be a lot like life in the 1800s,” except with a significantly bigger population.

Just keeping modern-day America fed would be virtually impossible without working transportation or communications systems. Water-pumping and sewage-treatment plants would be offline. Modern medical care would be virtually nonexistent. Even if the rest of the world mustered the largest humanitarian mission in human history, the suffering would be unprecedented.

EMP attacks are often thought off of as attacks against the U.S. infrastructure. But the truth is a large-scale one would be an instrument of genocide.

That, my friends, is why a missile defense shield is one of the single most important things that our government is working on. Day-to-day, we tend to get bogged down with the details of policy, but we should never forget about the long-term threats this country faces and what we need to do to prevent them.

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