The EMP(ty) threat
Bill Gertz’s account of the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack (“U.S. seen vulnerable to space ‘pulse’ attack” Nation, Tuesday) gives readers a distorted picture. Though EMP is a real effect of nuclear detonations and can wreak havoc on electrical systems and electronics, it would be difficult for terrorists to pull off. Nation-states that would attempt such an attack would face nuclear retaliation from the United States, which during the Cold War shielded its nuclear command and control systems from the possibility of EMP effects from an exchange with the Soviet Union.
There is a significant factual error in the article. Mr. Gertz notes that according to the book “War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World,” “North Korea sells its own version of the Scud for around $100,000.” As Steven Zaloga, a missile expert at the Teal Group Corp. and author of the book “The Scud,” told me for an article on EMP that I wrote for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this fall, “A price of $100,000 for a Scud might refer to a non-working training model, but not a functional weapon.” Mr. Zaloga is unsure what the going rate for a North Korean extended-range Scud would be, but a baseline Russian-made Scud (which is no longer made) would cost between $1 million and $2 million by itself. The cost of the launch system would be significantly more.
If terrorists did manage to build a nuclear weapon, it is highly improbable that they could produce an efficient EMP-producing nuclear weapon, according to nuclear physicist Richard L. Garwin, who also published one of the first theoretical papers on EMP.
Philip Coyle, former Pentagon director of operational test and evaluation, e-mailed Global Security Newswire that even “the U.S. military does not know how to [create thermonuclear-scale EMP from a Hiroshima-size weapon] today and has no way of demonstrating the capability in the future without returning to nuclear testing.”
When the United States does not have this ability, it’s unlikely, needless to say, that terrorist or “rogue” states could easily accomplish such a technological feat. It is much more likely that terrorists would build a relatively low-yield improvised nuclear device (smaller in magnitude than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, but still devastating if detonated in a city).
States could assist terrorist groups in achieving an EMP attack, but this scenario still runs into the technological hurdles of producing a nuclear weapon that could produce significant amounts of EMP. Without such a Super-EMP weapon, a terrorist group could not hope to impact a vast swath of the continental United States with one weapon detonated at high altitude.
EMP definitely is a factor to consider in conflict scenarios of a war with China over Taiwan because China has thermonuclear weapons and Taiwan covers a much smaller geographic area than the United States. (This is the scenario noted in “The Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2005,” which Mr. Gertz cites as the “recent Pentagon report.”)
However, more scrutiny should be given to scenarios of an EMP attack on the United States by terrorists before we spend the $20 billion to $200 billion dollars the EMP Commission estimates the United States would have to spend to harden its critical infrastructure from such an attack.
Project on Government Oversight
A disappointing trip to China
With regard to “Bush’s Asia tour” (Editorial, Tuesday): For a president championing a resolute expansion-of-freedom policy, President Bush returned from his Asia tour empty-handed. His handling of China — Asia’s rising power — was especially disappointing.
Asia, where economic powerhouses reside and security flashpoints flare, demands America’s constant highest attention, not sporadic consideration compartmentalized by regional economic summits.
Many advocate a comprehensive engagement policy for China, arguing that engagement leads to improving human and political rights there. However, China’s rights conditions are worse than in 2003, when Hu Jintao was elected president.
China got what it needed for achieving great-power status from the United States — ranging from access to American markets and technology to a South Lawn reception. It is thus perplexing why the administration failed to turn China’s dependence into our leverage to be more effective in changing China’s behavior.
A clear message to the Chinese that a purely symbolic visit by Mr. Hu next February can be canceled would get their cooperation.
VINCENT WEI-CHENG WANG
Toward a resolution in Cyprus
Readers of The Washington Times are well-advised to separate fact from fiction after reading the Nov. 9 letter from Osman Ertug (“Narrowing the split in Cyprus”) on the recent visit to the United States by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at the invitation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. There are other events also, which your correspondent Andrew Borowiec presented — very wisely — as moves that “widen the split” in Cyprus (“Turkish-Cypriot visits to U.S. widen split,” World, Nov. 7).
First, Mr. Ertug rewrites history as easily as he misrepresents it. He does this first by referring to Mr. Talat as the Turkish Cypriot president and second by choosing to forget that Turkey has perpetuated the division in Cyprus by occupying more than one-third of this sovereign country’s territory for the past 31 years. Mr Talat is not the president of any country because the rump state he heads is recognized only by Turkey. His presence here or anywhere in the world will not remove or ease the so-called “isolation of Turkish Cypriots.”
The economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots is caused by Turkey’s 40,000-plus armed occupation forces and the infamous Turkish barbed-wire fence — the Green Line.
Mr. Ertug knows very well that Mr. Talat is not authorized and cannot make any decision on the core issues of the Cyprus problem because the breakaway “state” he represents was best described by the European Court of Human Rights as a “subordinate local administration” of Turkey.
It is the withdrawal of the more than 40,000 Turkish troops and the more than 100,000 illegal Turkish settlers from Cyprus that would help improve prospects for a settlement.
Finally, it is in Turkey’s interests to move quickly to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, a full-fledged European Union member. This will go a long way toward helping achieve a settlement as well as facilitate Ankara’s aspirations to join the European Union family.
American Hellenic Institute
The Democratic Party, a once proud, strong and admirable political organization, has forgotten its history and disdains the principles that once gave strength to its appeal (“Milestone…” Commentary, Monday). The last Democratic president with both clear vision and guts was Harry Truman, who recognized, along with Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, that politics stops at the water’s edge. The current Democratic pretenders couldn’t carry Mr. Truman’s bourbon and branch water.
The Democrats are defeatists, pure and simple. They compound that particularly un-American trait with an unappetizing dose of political opportunism. Their visceral hatred of President Bush blinds them to the damage they cause in our struggle against Islamofascism. Then they wonder why the voters turn a blind eye to their candidates.
Surely there are Democrats who recognize how harmful these policies are to both the country and the party. The void left by the deaths of Sens. Henry Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, along with the resignation of former Sen. Sam Nunn, has damaged the party severely. Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, where are you?