Warfare in the 21st Century

There is an article today in the Wallstreet Journal Online, which discusses the truly damaging effects that a single nuclear weapon could have in the hands of our enemies. Brian Kenndey writes,

Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans.

This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century. It would require the Iranians to be able to produce a warhead as sophisticated as we expect the Russians or the Chinese to possess. But that is certainly attainable. Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions.

Contrary to being the stuff of some half-brained sci-fi novel or movie, this is a real and genuine threat. When coupled with the recent and sustained cyberattacks on the pentagon as well as the McCain and Obama campaigns, it reveals an area where the United States is badly in need of being on the forefront: technological defense.The U.S. has long prided itself on being the leader in military capability. From developing tactics, advanced fighter jets and technology to aid ground personnel, the United States has long had an upper hand on the militaries of pretty much every other country. We have developed weapons recently which have the ability to place soldiers out of harm’s way. This is undeniably a great thing.

But the goal of government and the military is defense of the American people. When one stops for a moment to consider how closely tied our economic and personal liberty are to technology, it is easy to see that the U.S. military must make ardent strides to defend this relatively new and undeniably important part of life. This goes beyond shallow rhetoric of not “wepaonizing space,” or investing in “unproven missile defense systems.” This is in defense of our very lives and livelihoods.

Pause for a moment and think about the effects that would be wrought if our enemies were to detonate a nuclear warhead hundreds of miles above our heads. Most technology would be wiped out, save for those who had the foresight to protect against such a possibility. The economy would come to a sudden stop as the vast majority of plants would be unable to produce. The loss would be truly devastating.

Consider as well a potential cyberterror attack on key segments of the economy. Imagine mass infiltrations of key government systems, banks or the mass theft of personal information that could occur. How many key sectors would need to be attacked to shut down the economy?

The country could potentially be defeated without a single shot ever being fired. As such, it is more necessary than ever that we continue our military investments, but work to make them better capable of protecting Americans in the 21st century.

For that reason it is a good thing that the president elect has decided to continue on with our missile defense systems.