Time’s Mark Thompson has a breezy item up attacking “the hawkish” Heritage Foundation for “pathetic” “cowering” in the shadow of an “exaggerated” “potential threat.” Our crime? Trying to raise awareness about the possibility that a single electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could send the entire eastern seaboard dark. Thompson writes:
The Cold War gave us warnings of missile and bomber gaps, later found to be largely mirages, that were supposedly leaving U.S. citizens vulnerable to Soviet attack. Fear of the supposed Soviet missile advantage spurred President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars initiative and the $100 billion Washington has spent preparing to counter incoming enemy missiles even as the Soviet Union disappeared.
Maybe Thompson didn’t get the memo, but Reagan’s Star Wars program has been an immense success that both President Barack Obama and his Defense Secretary Robert Gates say is a cornerstone of out national security. In the February 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense report, Secretary Robert Gates writes:
The protection of the United States from the threat of ballistic missile attack is a critical national security priority. The threat to our deployed military forces and to our allies and partners is growing rapidly. This threat has significant implications for our ability to project power abroad, to prevent and deter future conflicts, and to prevail should deterrence fail.
And why is Thompson so infatuated with Russia? Is he unaware that North Korea and Iran both have rapidly developing ballistic missile programs? And that North Korea already has nuclear weapons and that Iran, according to a CIA report released today, is close to having nuclear weapons capabilities? Read Thompson’s article it doesn’t mention Iran or North Korea once. Apparently Thompson believes it is best to just keep your head in the sand in pretend these threats don’t exist.
Heritage fellow James Carafano explains just one way Iran could use their existing ballistic missile technology to inflict a devastating EMP attack on the United States:
Iran’s Shahab-3, an advanced Scud variant, seems capable of traveling 1,000 kilometers and carrying as much as a 10-kiloton warhead. It couldn’t reach Washington from Tehran, but then, it wouldn’t have to. Iran could easily extend the missile’s reach simply by moving it to a commercial freighter and firing it from nearby using an improvised vertical launch tube disguised as cargo.
In many ways, Scud in a bucket is the ultimate weapon. It could sail close to U.S. waters without being subject to inspection by the Coast Guard or Customs. The enemy could fire the missile and scuttle the ship, leaving no record of who launched the attack.
If Iran has one missile and nuclear weapon, it might have two. It could detonate one over New York in a low-altitude air burst that would kill up to a half-million and cripple Manhattan forever.
Iran could fire a second at high altitude over the mid-Atlantic states, creating an electro-magnetic pulse that would take down a large portion of the national grid and plunge Washington, D.C., into permanent darkness.