Newt Gingrich’s “What ifs” – the EMP

Photo: DoD Photo: Newt learning how to drive a STRYKER tank

This is the most worrying, outlandish, absurd, and threatening thing I have read yet about the republican campaign: Newt Gingrich warning against what in nuclear terms is called EMP, short for an electromagnetic pulse, meaning essentially the electromagnetic shock waves that would follow a nuclear detonation high up in the atmosphere somewhere over the American heartland. In Newt Gingrich’s mind this potential doomsday scenario presents Americans with one of the biggest national security threats in its history, as such a blast would possibly disrupt the nation’s electricity grid for weeks or even months. It is, he says, like going aboard the Titanic knowing it’s going to sink and not putting on the lifeboats.

Would such a blast wreak havoc? Sure, it would, although scientists disagree over its secondary effects. Is such a blast likely to happen? Not very likely say the scientists but if it does, the effects can not be predicted. Besides, they add, it really is the concern of yesterday; its threats are “theoretical” and defending against it would be as straight-forward as against any other type of missile attack. However, the threat itself is all that Newt Gingrich needs in order to argue for the pre-emptive destruction of both Iran’s and North Korea’s missile supplies, something that he would prioritize were he the commander in chief.

While the idea and its consequences sound only a bit more plausible than the threat of enemy scientists cloning the dinosaurs to be used to trample lower Manhattan, it leaves us with three observations (or rather, one observation and two questions). First of all, the guy is stuck in the Cold War, enjoying every fear-mongering minute of it. Second, who are those powerful enemies that would be able to carry off such a technologically complicated blast in the outer atmosphere? Third, can someone please trace which high-tech military hardware companies or which power companies are paying for his campaign? Because I suspect that this “threat” may be a prime example of the military industrial complex at work. Beyond attacking North Korea and Iran, Gingrich’s main arguments in preparing for such an attack is indeed to strengthen the country’s electrical grid and its defenses. While such an investment in the electrical infrastructure is indeed badly needed on its own merits, to safeguard it against EMT would require billions of dollars in protective steps. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are homeless, jobless and without healthcare… (you fill in the rest). But no, those things don’t threaten our national security and they are not paying for Newt’s campaign, so they don’t deserve our attention.

One of the best documentaries on the subject (featuring Gingrich himself): http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/missile/

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