The Right Opinion

Countering an EMP Attack

By Edwin J. Feulner · Dec. 17, 2011

When Americans think about the threat from foreign missiles, it’s nearly always the catastrophic effect of a conventional nuclear blast that comes to mind. We think of the doomsday scenarios that have played out in so many movies and TV shows: a nuke explodes over a large city – leveling buildings, crushing houses and creating a swath of destruction.

But that’s not the only threat that can come from a missile fired from a rogue nation, or one that has fallen into the hands of terrorists. We could also fall victim to the devastating effects of an electromagnetic pulse. With an EMP, almost everything powered by electricity would be effectively wiped out – not physically, but practically. They would simply cease to work.

Imagine the havoc this could cause. Your cell phone? Useless. The same goes for your TV, radio and computer. Your car might still run, but good luck driving on roads with no working stoplights, accessing your GPS devices for directions, or buying gasoline from pumps that won’t pump. We’d be in the dark, literally – plunged into the early 19th century in a matter of seconds.

Sound like science fiction? It’s understandable that some people would think so, especially anyone who has seen the flashy EMP attacks dramatized in shows such as “24.” Unfortunately, it’s all too real. Why? Because an EMP isn’t an altogether new, high-tech weapon. It’s the same nuclear blast we’ve come to fear as a potential destroyer of our cities. It’s just used in an alternate way.

The difference: the location of the blast. In a conventional nuclear attack, the bomb is timed to explode close to the ground. The resulting radiation blast wreaks great physical damage. But with an EMP, the same kind of bomb is set to explode high in the air. When that happens, the blast doesn’t level a city. But it does knock out the power grid, leaving the residents that have come to depend on it largely helpless.

And who among us doesn’t depend on electricity? What a chaotic, dangerous mess this weapon could leave in its wake. Everyday life would grind to a halt. Almost every feature of 21st century life that we’ve come to rely on, from fully-stocked grocery stores to fire and ambulance services, would be gone in an instant.

We can’t take comfort in the thought that an EMP is something beyond the reach of a rogue nation or terrorist group. “Several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse,” the 2004 Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack reported. “A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication.”

The threat of an EMP attack makes it all the more imperative that we pursue an immediate and comprehensive missile defense, as I urged in one of my most recent columns. Missile defense was conceived as a way to counter a conventional nuclear attack. But there’s no reason it can’t serve a dual purpose. The same missiles that can knock down a rocket delivering a low-altitude nuclear payload can do the same to a high-altitude one equipped with an EMP.

But we need to ensure the system we deploy can do the job. That’s what I mean by “comprehensive.” We need to make it a layered system – one on land, sea and air, and with the ability to take out missiles in almost any stage of flight. What the Obama administration is currently proposing, in terms of funding and design, simply won’t do the job.

That’s unacceptable. The EMP threat isn’t going away – at least, not until we show that we’re serious about disarming it. The sooner, the better.

View all comments


Anton D Rehling in Olympia, WA said:

You can forget about serious defense from obummer. He has his head so far up his backside orfice that he has no idea of any reality except the smell of his own crap.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 4:22 AM

TruthInAction in TX said:

For the worthy, 'necessity is the mother of invention'. What this country needs is a new 'works' program and updated power grid. You might be on to something here. :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 6:02 AM

Marcus said:

I recommend reading "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:36 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

Chairman Obamao won't do anything to defend this country, as his agenda is to destroy and transform it. The crisis of a rouge nation taking down a cities power grid would exite him, for another crisis he wouldn't allow to go to waste. Martial Law, weapons confiscation, and dictatorship, just what we could expect from this marxist traitor.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Chris said:

Looks like somebody watched NCIS: LA this week.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 11:35 AM

sam K said:

Electronics are built and discarded on a daily basis. If an EMP hit any major city, the only thing that wouldn't be replaced and running smoothly again in under a month would be anything owned by the government.An EMP is not the crippling, irrecoverable terrorist attack that it is typically made out to be. The danger of an EMP lies in the vulnerability that it creates. When electronics go out, communication is shot and transportation is nearly impossible. The ability of the military to mobilize is severely crippled. It would recover quickly, sure, but there's still a window of opportunity.A terrorist group of only a few hundred members or a rogue nation without the resources for a large scale invasion would not be able to leverage this vulnerability. A large, belligerent foreign power could use an EMP as a precursor to an invasion, and thereby occupy any of our major cities with little resistance.Of course, an attack facilitated by an EMP basically amounts to a nuclear attack. Few nations would risk that kind of move unless the situation truly demanded it.And, believe me, you would know if it did.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 1:28 PM

RedBaker in Florida said:

Sorry, sam_K, an EMP attack would ruin anything/everything electronic. It is truly crippling. Recovery would take years. I don't think invasion would be the aim, any more than 9/11. An EMP attack IS a nuclear attack by definition. There are lots of nasty genocidal maniacs who would love to do it to us just to cripple the nation for years.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 6:42 PM

M Rick Timms MD in Georgia said:

"with little resistance."You don't live in my neighbohood.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 10:18 PM

Dave Gore said:

A missile defense would help, but an EMP event could result from the detonation of a nuclear weapon disguised as a satellite, or from a natural solar event - a coronal mass ejection. What is deadly about all these is the widespread and prolonged loss of electrical power. Large transformers burned out by the EMP can take years to replace, and long before then people would starve. We need to harden the electrical grid.

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 10:53 AM

Tim said:

This is absurd. EMP follows the inverse square law of all electromagnetic radiation. Power decreases with the aquare of the distance. So a blast over the Big Apple, for example, would diminish to the point of non-threat 20 or 30 miles away. Local damage, yes, mostly to things that have long exposed wires, like phone and power grids. But to your notebook computer? Just not big enough to catch that much energy. Of course, if you were close to the blast, it wouldn't matter. And the technology to manage a high altitude burst is not all that simple. Much ado about nothing.Far worse will be the above ground test of the Islamic bomb. After spending billions developing it, Iran will want to test it. Can't do it underground, Iran is too prone to earthquakes. Far better to put the bomb in a cargo container, on a cargo ship, and test the device in New York harbor. They'll get far better yield data that way.9/11 was a simple attack. Never assume complexity where simple will work.BHO will do nothing, I agree. The only thing going for us is the recent string of 'accidents' involving Iran's nuclear sites and scientists. Who, how, I have no idea. If it continues, we may survive.

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Cowboy in San Antonio said:

In central Texas we got a taste of EMP effects last year when a major cable was cut by a backhoe, severing all communications and internet connections (cash registers, cell towers, phone, etc.,) for several hours. No one knew what had happened. We were literally cut off from the outside world, and 15 counties were affected. While we were trying not imagine the worst, we were very much wondering what had happened, and if, and when, our electronic communications would work again. I believe that if an idiot can cut one cable and put 15 counties out of business, the enemies of America probably have that knowledge already. If I were an enemy of the US, I would target all major communications cables, key communications towers, major bridges, power plants, and refineries. No commo, no gas, can't get across major rivers---where does that leave us? At the mercy of an enemy who has THEIR act together.

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 2:56 PM

GMButler said:

And I understand that Russia has developed a container that, for all intents and purposes, looks like a standard 53' ocean shipping container that would be loaded last on top of all others and would be able to launch an EMP missile very close to shore such that any "defensive measure" such as a Patriot missile would be unable to stop it in time. Martial law and ObaMao forever. With the passage of the NDAA, Obummer can authorize the rounding up of McCrindle and Rehling, et. al. and voila, Socialist Nirvana (it's not fascism when they do it).

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 10:10 PM

M Rick Timms MD in Georgia said:

Put your emergency radio and any other special elecronic items ( night vision goggles, etc ) in your faraday cage and don't worry. With enough food and ammunition you will do just fine until the UN troops come in to introduce your new government administrator. Thats when it will get interesting.If the subject of TEOTWAWKI is of interest try reading "Patriots" by James Rawles. Involves economic collapse rather than EMP - but still a good read with lots of information.

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 1:23 AM

Legion7 said:

Sam K. Your scenario of a full recovery has a couple of glaring flaws. It really doesn't matter WHAT the Safeway down the street does to fix it's computers, if there's no power to turn them on. We have VERY FEW transformers in the US and would have very little capacity to make new ones due to the very lack of electricity to produce them. Also, along that line, Obama has done a great job of pissing off quite a few countries that might have otherwise helped us out.Secondly, and most important, the great majority of people only have a couple of days worth of food. Within a week, your "friendly wave as you drive by" neighbor who helped set a new Black Friday gun purchase record this year, will be more than willing to gun you down for a can of chili to feed his screaming brats. I have no faith in society forming orderly recovery rules, when the majority of the people around me can riot and destroy a downtown center when their favorite sports team wins or loses...

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 1:23 AM

Old Patriot said:

I have enjoyed reading all of the comments patriots. My point of view on all of this is influenced by my military background, the southern culture of belief in liberty and rugged individualism, and also last but not least, my faith in our creator. I believe my beloved America is at a crossroads and what happens in the next twelve months will determine forever whether we survive as a free people or whether we succumb to socialist agenda of Obama and the democrats. I believe God has put, it in the hearts of all men, the yearning to be free. But with that freedom comes responsibility and accountability. The Federal government is out of control. The nanny state it supports and its economic slaves who vote for it do not understand liberty. They vote for themselves largese from the public treasury. The treasury is dry. We are going into debt $3 million dollars a minute! When the checks stop coming, the nannifed citizens will revolt, anarchy will reign and chaos will ensue the likes of which we have never seen. As bad as an EMP might be, it would pale compared to what we have already done to ourselves. I believe our nation is under the judgment of God for many reasons. Just one, abortion, has killed 53 million innocent babies in this country. God says in the book of Proverbs, chapter 6, that He hates the hands that shed innocent blood. The judgment of God has come, is coming and will come in many forms and an EMP may just be one of them. May Ameica bless God again.

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 12:36 PM