Monday, November 24, 2008

It Would Take Only One

Chilling article over at the Wall Street Journal about the thin line that separates us in our current state of worried comfort from medieval chaos: What a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do.

Grim reality in three paragraphs:

Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.

But as terrible as that scenario sounds, there is one that is worse. Let us say the freighter ship launches a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile off the coast of the U.S. and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago. The nuclear detonation in space creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

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.

So, how does one prepare for the end of civilization as we know it here in the early 21st Century? I dare say no basement of canned goods, bottled water, and guns is sufficient for this grim scenario.

This article reminded me of the ABC TV movie The Day After, which aired while I was in elementary school. It left indelible images and feelings in my memory, none more memorable than the scene in which the Soviet missiles arrive:

Because of the power and reality of the film, the concentric circles of its impact were felt all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]

Fifteen Iraq war movies, three killer asteroid movies in a single year's time, and yet another alien invasion flick. Oh that Hollywood would make a movie about a real threat. Sadly, that's likely the only way to get most people to realize the gravity of the reality that we face now. Unfortunately, Hollywood got out of the "help America" business sometime ago.


  1. How very telling that the picture included in this "worst-case" scenario piece contains automobiles from the 1950's- I believe an old Chevelle if I'm not mistaken. The irony is not lost on me or other progressives as this represents the circa thinking involved with this kind of fear-mongering. What I guess is so troubling is this apocalyptic non-sense is subscribed to by millions of people...still, even today in 2008. America is changing for the better and becoming more global in its thinking thank God, but not fast enough obviously for the paranoid commune-ity of 3G. Sad.

  2. Happy days, you said,
    "America is changing for the better and becoming more global in its thinking thank God, but not fast enough obviously for the paranoid commune-ity of 3G. Sad."

    A few questions for you, with all due respect:
    1.) Did you read the article presented?
    2.) Since you claim that the possibility of EMP Pulse attack is apocalyptic nonsense," do you have any source for your dismissal of said threat, or is your only point an "ad community" (as opposed to ad hominem) attack"
    3.) Are you positing that Obama has single-handedly eliminated all threat of EMP attack by virtue of his personality and charm?

    If you cannot provide anything more substantive, perhaps you should return your head to the sand from which you withdrew it, and allow the vigilant to stand guard without your snark.

    Pleasant dreams.


  3. Paul, surely you know that this is our resident cowardly troll who not only won't put his name to his rantings, but who won't even keep the same handle (probably in some misguided attempt to convince us that there's more than one of him). He's worth poking with a stick once in a while to see how he howls, but not for anything like a substantial conversation.

  4. The WSJ hypothetical is a blast over Chicago, a particularly vulnerable location, as it's on the shore of Lake Michigan, making the sea-based launch plausible. That it's the home town of Barack Obama might be an added propaganda bonus. But it isn't the target that would give the biggest bang for the buck. Hitting Chicago would probably not affect anything west of the Rockies.

    If the terrorists were strictly going for EMP effects, and ignoring the value of a dense population center underneath, they'd want to target near the middle of the KS/NE border. Not too far from the geographic center of the contiguous US is Fort Riley, so that might be on the list of targets. A bit closer to that hypothetical Lake Michigan launch is Offut AFB near Omaha, home of US Strategic Command.

    The largest population center near the geographic center is the one depicted in The Day After, Kansas City. As a resident thereof, unless I knew it were coming ahead of time I'd already be dead from the initial blast/radiation, or die within hours or days from the fallout. So I wouldn't have to worry about Nuclear Winter.

    At least I have that going for me.

  5. Actually, Monster, if I remember correctly, a blast intended for its EMP effects would be detonated much higher than normal, and thus not do nearly as much physical damage as a normal airburst, so you might survive the blast, even directly overhead.

    I really don't expect anything that sophisticated from terrorists, but in the event of a Russian cooperation with terrorists, there might be a possibility of such as attack. A purely terrorist attack I would see as being more likely something carried in on a cargo ship and detonated as it approached dock.

  6. Paules says,

    Gentlemen, Happy Days is not a member of the same republic of which we are citizens. The moniker is revealing. The election of a gentle master pleases him. He believes not in the rule of law. Indeed, he doesn't comprehend the meaning. His master has assured him that all will be well. Our happy troll willing bends to kiss the hand that feeds him. Do you know him now? Behold the sentiment of a willing slave.

    We are in his view merely fear-mongers. The happy one forgets 9/11. He ignores enemies with active nuclear programs. And then he contents himself with the fantasy that such weapons would never be used. Our happy troll is the product of decadence not unlike the Romans of the 5th Century. I will gladly die defending the ramparts of liberty. The troll will feel the lash of new-age Visigoths.

    Happy Days is a pathetic creature. No man at all in my book. We need to pitch in and buy him a harlequin's costume. Something with bells on the hat. If he's going to play the local fool, he should dress like one. I say we keep him around as a lesson in decadence. Rants are fine, but no drooling on the carpet, please.

  7. Paules:

    I simply love your prose. That is all.

    Happy Days:

    The pic was selected because it came from the movie "The Day After" about which I was speaking.

    That aside, are you even aware of the irony clogging your post? It was "progressive" thinking folk who produced the "fear mongering . . . apocalyptic nonsense" that was that movie, meant to illustrate the reality of a nuclear exchange, the threat of which hung over the world in the early '80's. The effort of the movie worked, as it actually influenced those in power to take a new course.

    I simply ask why can't Hollywood do so again?

  8. Paules, Sir...

    You wrote, "buy him a harlequin's costume. Something with bells on the hat. If he's going to play the local fool, he should dress like one. I say we keep him around as a lesson in decadence. Rants are fine, but no drooling on the carpet, please."

    I fully understand your point(s), and wished to merely "feed the troll" a subsistence diet.

    However, I hardly feel empowered to offer "Happy" the accoutrements previously reserved by the self-appointed gamboler, D4. I say, let "Happy" find his own bells and tights! I want DaddyQuatro in his honored place!

    (No need to thank me for that recognition, D4)!

    Hey, you gave me the pitch... how could I resist that hangin' curve ball? ;=)

  9. Watching this particularly cultish rightwing blogging moniker commune scrambble around with Ad Hominems and torrents of diatribe tells me that there isn't a lot of education to draw from to refute even basic assertions of logic and rhetoric. It is a sad situation as stated earlier, but DAMN entertaining! LOL. God love you people, you've made my Turkey Day!

  10. Always mildly entertaining to see the verbal vomitus the troll spews. But only mildly so.


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