note: article first appeared in December 2015
I’ve pretty much stayed away from the whole EMP subject over the years. I’ve been asked about it a bunch of times but given some pretty vague answers. I guess it is time I get serious and share my real opinions on it.
My EMP opinion has changed over the years. Remember, I worked with intelligence information when I was in the Navy back in the 1970’s. I can tell you that back then during the Cold War there wasn’t any war-based “measured response” option. There also wasn’t any of thought of a weapon to do little damage to conquer the Soviet Union or any East Block country. We were in it to win it! And that meant nuke the crap out of them.
Sure, they knew about EMP effects for nuclear explosions even back then. But that was a distant concern, issue, or topic. What we wanted was to devastate them, their military, their people, their infrastructure, just basically blow em up.
But, as times have changed I have looked at what would Russia want to do to us in terms of war-based destruction. Russia is short of resources, all kinds of resources with the possible exception of fossil fuels. That being the case, I don’t think Russia would want to slick us off like glass with nukes. Well, with one possible exception, if we hit them first. If we would throw our missiles at them first, they would throw everything they had back at us as fast as they could turn keys and push buttons.
If you think about it, why would Russia, or even China, want to turn us into a nuclear wasteland? I simply don’t think they would.In all reality…they would love to have access to our resources…natural and man-made.
Iran on the other hand has the stupid 12th Imman, end of the world thing as part of their Muslim Shia beliefs. Those crazies would nuke us just to fulfill their desire to expedite the end of the world. But, Iran would hit Israel before they would hit us.
The crazies in North Korea, although crazy, don’t do anything without the approval of China. NK won’t nuke us unless China tells them it’s OK. North Korea really doesn’t want war. They know they would lose. But, they want the attention and associated power that comes with threatening war.
We are China’s biggest customer of the goods they produce. We spend huge amounts of money buying their stuff year in and year out. China loves those dollars! Why would they want to blow-up their best customer?
Well, there actually is a point when China might make a move against us. China has been an empire for 1000’s of years. Yes, China is currently a communist country, but it no less an empire now than it was 500 or 1000 years ago. When it comes to international politics China views everything in a very large context. I am talking in terms of 100’s of years to accomplish something, for sure decades.
Let there be no doubt in your mind, China expects to be a, if not the, world dominating empire. It is only a matter of timing for them. When China decides that the timing is right, they will use all appropriate tools available to them to accomplish their goals. And using nukes against us is seen as a strategy, nuclear weapons are nothing more than tools to them. Albeit maybe not their first or most desired option.
That being said, I do not think that China wants to slick us off either. It just wouldn’t fit their history-based reputation. Sure, they want to beat us, and beat us decisively, but I don’t see them going into “annihilation mode” on us. I think they want to subjugate not eliminate. They like our natural resources and ability to grow lots of food.
You also have Pakistan and Turkey as nuclear armed countries. While they are both supposedly secular governments, they are both Muslim countries. Pakistan has really moved towards being a Islamic government, Turkey is now maybe the most Muslim of both countries. When Pakistan completes its total transition to an Islamic state, then I would move them into a similar category as Iran. Same would be true for Turkey. I think it won’t be long for both of them to finalize that transition.
So what about the EMP thing again?
Remember, I look at “threats” as “risks.” And I then look at all of it in terms of “risk mitigation”. Risk is judgement based on probability and severity of the risk actually occurring. I look at an EMP strike the same way.
I see the risk of us being hit by a nuclear weapon that generates an EMP as low…very low at this time actually. The reason I give it such a low probability is their fear of retaliation. Russia and China have no desire to exchange a nuclear strike with us. Iran would probably love it but they aren’t ready for that yet. Pakistan and Turkey probably aren’t ’t too far behind Iran but they are maintaining a resemblance of normal behaviors. North Korea, well, they are complete nuts jobs in that country, so I don’t expect them to actually launch a nuke at us.
So based on all of that, I see the probability as pretty dang low. However, 20 years ago I would have given it a zero chance. 10 years ago, slightly more than zero. When Iran did the nuke deal with Obozo I believe Iran’s potential use of a nuke against another country went to 100%. Their use of a nuke against us is maybe at 50%. Iran nuking Israel………..just a matter of time. It’s not an “if”……it’s a “when.”
So now I have to rate the probability as on the chart.
Here is where it could get ugly. If anyone launches a nuke at us and it actually detonates on US soil, it will be devastating regardless of where it hits. It will be the blow against us that challenges, and perhaps negates, our super-power status. If we are hit, and we don’t hit back, we will be re-categorized to the group that includes France, England, Italy…maybe worse. If we are hit and we hit back, then we can expect WWIII. And should that happen, an EMP is the least of our problems.
So let’s look at the severity if it is just an EMP. By the way, it would be more along the lines of North Korea going rogue and hitting us with an EMP without China telling them to. However, there is a potential scenario where China would tell them to hit us with an EMP just to weaken us and test out retaliation resolve.
Whatever the reason we were hit, the outcome would be very damaging. The damage would be two-fold. 1) the actual direct result damage to infrastructure, 2) the economic fallout.
The economic damage would be far worse than the direct damage. The stock markets would crash, the economy would nose dive. It would be economic Armageddon for awhile. Mostly due to banking being out of business. Yeah, completely out of business. Modern banking is all computer based with that information being transferred between customer and banks, banks and business, etc. entirely by electronics (i.e. the Internet). An EMP would fry most large-scale electronic systems, including the Internet and telecommunications.
The direct damage is a little less clear. EMP damage is directly related to a few things:
- The size of the weapon as described in “megatons”
- The altitude above the surface of the earth
- Your relative location to the blast area
The absolute worse location to be at the time would be directly under the atmospheric blast. As the zone expanded outward, the impact would lessen. But, that would be in direct relation to the size of the detonated weapon. The bigger the weapon, the larger the affected area. However, the further away from the blast you were, the more diminished the impact would be.
Now is when it gets blurry. And I will cover that tomorrow when I finish this 2-part series.
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