On the front page, Monday’s New York Times provides a slanted and insidious “news” item on Newt Gingrich’s warnings about the danger of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons. The author of the piece, William Broad, clearly sought to convey the impression that the former House Speaker is scaremongering about a nonexistent, or at least much exaggerated, threat. This piece is seriously ill-informed, misleading, and dangerous insofar as it serves to perpetuate what is already a serious vulnerability to EMP attacks.
Among the remarkable defects in Broad’s reporting are the following:
The Times failed to mention the fact that a blue-ribbon, congressionally mandated EMP Threat Commission produced a number of studies confirming the reality of a scenario in which ballistic-missile-delivered high-altitude electromagnetic pulse attacks could occur, with “catastrophic” effects on the United States.
The Times reports that some of those who dismiss the EMP threat claim that missile defense is the answer. One cannot help but observe an irony: Sources such as Philip Coyle and the Union of Concerned Scientists — and, for that matter, William Broad and his newspaper — have been relentlessly hostile to American deployments of anti-missile systems.
Those of us who actually support U.S. missile defense believe it can and must be part of the answer — and would be, had the critics and the Obama administration not done everything possible to defund, dumb down, and otherwise constrain such systems.
The Times also promotes the meme that, even if EMP could be a threat, it isn’t at the moment, since the nations that we might worry about are at the “kindergarten stage” of obtaining the long-range missiles and nuclear arms they would need to engage in such attacks against the United States. This misses a couple of key points:
Among the nations that understand America’s vulnerability to EMP are Russia and China. They are certainly capable of exploiting it at any time.
In addition, an enemy need not have long-range missiles; short-range missiles launched off a ship would suffice to deliver a strategic EMP attack. Virtually all the world’s bad guys — including not only North Korea and Iran, but the Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah as well — have Scud missiles that could perform this mission. What is more, Iran has already test-launched ballistic missiles off of ships and launched another, the Shahab-3, in a manner that seemed to simulate a detonation at apogee. In other words, as soon as a nuclear weapon is available, Iran could be capable of waging an EMP attack.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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