The prospect of relatively short-range missiles being used to mount an EMP strike compounds the challenge to our modest anti-missile systems. They may or may not be able to contend with missiles launched from the sea close in to our shores. The determining factor would primarily be the location and readiness of the Navy’s missile-defense-equipped Aegis ships. Our west-coast–deployed, ground-based interceptors will be unable to do the job against short-range missiles fired off our east or Gulf coasts. (On this, see a recent article on NRO, co-authored by a former director of Pres. George H. W. Bush’s missile-defense program, Amb. Henry Cooper, and Dr. Robert Pfaltzgraff.)
Finally, the Times’s report ignores another, particularly ominous fact: Even if there were no danger of what the Obama administration calls “man-caused disasters” involving electromagnetic pulse attacks, there is the imminent problem that Mother Nature will unleash what amounts to the same thing, via cyclically occurring and intense solar flaring that is expected to occur within the next few years.
The result will be to expose large swaths of the northern hemisphere to high levels of electromagnetic energy. Missile defenses obviously provide no protection against such an effect. Only hardening of our electrical grid and other critical infrastructure will prevent a similar kind of disruption and possible destruction of both — with truly calamitous consequences for our country and its people.
In short, Newt Gingrich is absolutely right, and the New York Times shamefully wrong. The EMP threat to America is real and potentially catastrophic. Our enemies know this, and either have obtained the means to inflict such devastation or are well along in the process of acquiring them. Even if they do not execute such a strike, we must be prepared to contend with a naturally occurring phenomenon that may be every bit as devastating.
If the Times’s mischaracterization of this danger contributes to our continued vulnerability, it will represent more than journalistic malpractice. It may help exacerbate a looming disaster.
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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