E M P.   What’s that?  Electro magnetic pulse.  Consider some of the headlines and stories that we read over the last week concerning the power crisis, that certain areas of the East Coast, e.g., 1 million people are still without power five days after a major “derecho”.  While power crews were working 24/7 and people sweltering, I looked at this story from the perspective of what might Iran, Al-Quaeda, Hezbollah, etc have learned.  Imagine, the “greatest” country on the earth, can’t turn the lights back on for more than a week.  What have they learned about us and our country’s reaction to disasters, from our local emergency response teams, our power grid and infrastructure, our human nature.

EMP was first brought to my attention by Newt Gingrich via Twitter earlier in the month:  Friend and coauthor bill forstchen notes washington-baltimore blackout mild taste of what an emp (electromagnetic pulse) attack would do @newtgingrich (July 2); Forstchen’s novel “one second after” is an amazingly vivid story of small town’s struggles after all electricity has been destroyed by emp @newtgingrich (July 2).  I went to Forstchen’s website to learn more.

William Forstchen has a Ph.D. from Purdue University with specializations in Military History and the History of Technology. He is a Faculty Fellow and Professor of History at Montreat College, and resides near Asheville, NC. He is author of a book, One Second After, which is a fictionalized story of a father and two daughters coping with the aftermath of an EMP attack.

So what is EMP and why should we be worried?  From the author’s website:

EMP is shorthand for Electro Magnetic Pulse.    It is a rather unusual and frightening by-product when a nuclear bomb is detonated above the earth’s atmosphere.

The closest similarity to EMP is solar storms which some of us have read about, and Quebec province experienced in 1989 when a solar storm knocked out its power grid.  While Forstchen’s novel is fiction, it is based upon a very real scenario.  So real, that the US Government formed a Commission to look into the US’ preparedness for and aftereffects of a potential EMP attack.  The Commission issued a report in 2008 and its Chair, Dr. William R. Graham, provided testimony before the Armed Services Committee:

Although EMP was first considered during the ―Cold War‖ as a means of paralyzing U.S. retaliatory forces, the risk of an EMP attack may be greater today than during the Cold War, as several adversaries seek nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and asymmetric 2ways to overcome U.S. conventional superiority using one or a small number of nuclear weapons.

The electromagnetic fields produced by weapons deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics, and
information systems upon which American society depends. Their effects on critical infrastructures could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the Nation.

It is my hope that the Commission’s work can help play a role in restoring a national consensus on the need to take nuclear threats seriously – including the threat posed by an EMP attack – and to strengthen U.S. efforts to deal with that threat.

While many of us baby boomers grew up fearing the Godless Commies would get us, a nuclear EMP attack is within the realm of possibility should Iran, North Korea, or any of the multitude of terrorist organizations develop or get access to a nuclear weapon.  Forstchen’s website lays out in graphic detail what would happen if our electrical grid and computer systems get fried in a millisecond by an EMP.  While you may not agree with all his conclusions, his book was well-researched, with interviews of Pentagon officials, the EMP research community, emergency first responders, as well as members of Congress.

While the economy and jobs are on the minds of most Americans this election year and we are a war-weary nation, the mere fact that the President is seeking to lower our nuclear arsenal below START Treaty levels, and is opposed by the Pentagon, is worrisome enough.  The non-pursuit of a robust foreign policy and neglecting to take a leadership role in the world, rather than leading from behind, is done so at our peril.

November 6, 2012.  The day we take America back.

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