But I feel compelled to offer this backdrop to your thoughts and actions today. We face a situation that is not just going to calm down of its own accord, and we've really and truly run out of good options.
Dr. Peter Pry is the Executive Director of the Task Force on National Homeland Security, Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP (Electric Magnetic Pulse) Commission, and is considered one of the country’s most knowledgeable experts on nuclear weapons technology. He is the undisputed preeminent authority on the existential threat presented by the proliferation of EMP weapons and gained national prominence in various testimonies before Congress, where he has categorically stated that the detonation of a single EMP weapon by a rogue state such as North Korea or Iran could destroy the US.
In September of 2014, Peter and I collaborated on a Blaze Magazine article, Blackout, where he outlined how a single EMP nuclear weapon, detonated at apogee (between 50 to 200 miles above the US), would destroy the country’s entire electrical grid. Airplanes would fall out of the sky, our cars would not start, banking, nearly all non-barter related commerce would cease, and nine out of ten Americans would eventually die due to total societal collapse.
I recently caught up with Peter to ask him what he thought about the new North Korean nuclear missile crisis.
Kelley: If Trump’s negotiations with President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government fail to bring about regime change in North Korea, can the US successfully take out their nuclear sites? And do we know where they all are?
Pry: We don’t know where they all are. We do, however, have the ability, I believe, to do a successful preemptive strike. Which doesn’t mean we get a hundred percent of everything. But we would be able to effectively disarm them, certainly of their ICBM’s (intercontinental ballistic missiles). They don’t have that many of them, maybe only a dozen. So, we have this window of opportunity when it comes to their ICBM’s.
Kelley: How should the strike be conducted?
Pry: It should include everything in our arsenal, our own EMP, cyber, conventional forces (ours and Korea’s). We can get most of their stuff in a first strike but there’s no guarantee we get all of it, even all of those small number of ICBM’s. But if any of those survive, our missile defense forces should be able to handle them.
Kelley: But what about all those vast numbers of short-range missiles we read are pointed at South Korea? Can all of those be taken out in a surprise attack?
Pry: It’s problematic when you’re talking about medium-range missiles, the no-dong’s. Most are not nuclear-armed. But I think we are grossly underestimating the number of nuclear warheads they have. They could have 100 nuclear weapons, most of them mounted on the no-dong’s. So there is no doubt, our allies would be more at risk from some of these surviving missiles. They hide them in tunnels and under bridges. But what are we going to do? Wait until they have enough (nuclear weaponized missiles) to make preemption impossible?
Kelley: Is North Korea reaching critical mass in terms of its nuclear weapons capability?
Pry: Not yet. Through our offensive and defensive systems we still have a reasonable chance to get all of their weapons and systems. But some of the short range missiles, the no-dongs, could get through and hit some cities.
It might be useful at this time to revisit a chillingly prescient 2003 Commentary article by Joshua Muravchik entitled "Facing Up to North Korea." He walks the reader through the chain of folly that was North Korea policy up to that time - the Agreed Framework, the predictions of wonks that the regime would sink under the weight of its economic failure. Of course, since then, we have seen utterly pointless Six-Way Talks and eight years of "strategic patience."
And now we are forced to face what Muravchik urged us to consider fourteen years ago:
Let that phrase "less costly than a few years from now" echo in your head as you head out to engage the world today.