Moon mining isn’t the only thing election and adultery enthusiast Newt Gingrich is worried about — the GOP candidate has repeatedly, publicly, manically claimed that America is on the verge of being hit with an EMP attack. This is crazy.
The NYT reports Gingrich’s record of EMP hysteria, stretching back through years of public speeches and written fretting — he wrung his hands especially hard in the forward to a recent sci-fi novel, which ought to be telling. Unfortunately for Newt, an EMP attack is more the stuff of sci-fi and Command & Conquer than pressing defence policy.
The principle behind an electromagnetic pulse attack is simple: an enemy heaves a hail mary nuclear warhead above the US, and detonates it mid-atmosphere. The resulting shockwave knocks out everything electrical below — the power grid, cars, computers, all of the Rokus — and the Stone Age aftermath would send western civilisation into a tailspin of cannibalism and warlords with giant spiky shoulder pads.
Fortunately, none of the countries that dislike the US are anywhere near capable of doing this — even the ones that have nukes to begin with (*cough* Iran). North Korea has a hard enough time keeping its tractors running, let alone launching a nuclear ICBM high across the Pacific, where it’d be most vulnerable to missile interception. And even if they did, the entire concept of an EMP attack is entirely theoretical — it’s the speculation of some physicists, not the purview of the Pentagon.
But Newt is undeterred: an EMP attack would cause “Millions [to] die in the first week alone,” a “giant lightning strike,” and a likelihood that ought to be “terrifying for all of us.”
If we have enemies capable of getting a nuke over the US, which we don’t, wouldn’t we be more worried about that? Why would anyone want to turn off our lights instead of, say, destroying New York City or Washington? Why would any country start World War III with an attack that only might-kinda-work on paper? They wouldn’t. Nuclear physicist Dr. Yousaf Butt, in a long analysis of the EMP threat, concluded “It is highly unlikely that any adversary would choose to — or, in the case of a terrorist cell, even be remotely capable of-carrying out a nuclear EMP strike against the US.” And yet, Gingrich insists “We are on the verge of catastrophic problems.”
Though as this pseudo-science scaremonger and pie-eyed sensationalist becomes a realistic contender for the 2012 election, I can’t help but agree. [NYT]
Photo: John W. Adkisson/Getty