Terrorism–An Existential Threat
by DR. PETER VINCENT PRY
February 13, 2015 national security_obama_kerry_hagel_power_rice_mcdonough_
Terrorism is NOT an existential threat, according to Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security advisor, and according to the new White House national security strategy unveiled on Friday, February 6, 2015. Nor does the United States face any other threats to its existence, according to the White House, except for “climate change.”
Rice explained, “Too often, what’s missing here in Washington is a sense of perspective. Yes, there is a lot going on. Still, while the dangers we face may be more numerous and varied, they are not of the existential nature we confronted during World War II or during the Cold War.”
Polling indicates as many as one-third of Americans believe Rice and the White House, when in reality the U.S. faces existential threats of greater severity than World War II or the Cold War from terrorists, Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea.
Regular readers of Family Security Matters do not need to be told why Russia, China, and North Korea–all nuclear missile states hostile to America and U.S. allies–pose a growing existential threat to the United States.
This article shall focus on the existential dangers from terrorists like Al Qaeda and ISIS and from the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism–Iran. Islamic terrorists and Iran pose an even greater threat to the existence of the United States than did Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany during World War II, or than the USSR during the Cold War.
Nuclear Iran Worse Than Nazi Germany
During World War II, Germany and Japan in order to defeat the U.S. would have had to invade the American heartland with million man armies, which was never a realistic prospect. Nazi Germany conceivably might have vanquished the United States, if the Nazis developed atomic weapons and long-range missiles.
U.S. leaders were wise enough to deny Nazi Germany access to heavy water and other nuclear weapon materials by strategic bombing, and to smash their missile program at Peenemunde, ensuring that the Allies did not have to face an Adolph Hitler armed with nuclear missiles. Where Nazi Germany failed, Iran is succeeding in developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of striking any nation on Earth.
Indeed, Iran probably already has nuclear armed long-range missiles, according to senior Reagan Administration officials, who were among President Reagan’s closest advisers on national security matters:
“Regardless of intelligence uncertainties and unknowns about Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, we know enough now to make a prudent judgment that Iran should be regarded by national security decision makers as a nuclear missile state capable of posing an existential threat to the United States and its allies.”
So says Dr. William Graham who served as President Reagan’s Science Advisor, Administrator of NASA, and Chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission; Ambassador Henry Cooper who was Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative; and Fritz Ermarth, former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, in a joint article. Astonishingly, this warning that Iran is already a nuclear missile state–and an existential threat to the world–coming from the sages who won the Cold War, has been ignored by everyone but Family Security Matters and Newsmax.
Terror Blackout of Civilization
Terrorists do not need a nuclear missile to pose an existential threat to the United States, however.
Technology has so evolved since World War II and the Cold War that the U.S. and the West have become an electronic civilization. Our prosperity and very lives depend upon a complex web of high-tech information, communications, financial, transportation, and industrial critical infrastructures, all supported by the keystone critical infrastructure–the electric power grid.
Admiral Michael Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency and U.S. CYBERCOMMAND, in November 2014, warned that China and other actors could make a cyber attack that would blackout the U.S. national electric grid for 18 months, with catastrophic consequences for society. The Congressional EMP Commission warned that a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill up to 9 of 10 Americans from starvation and societal collapse.
Terrorists and hostile nations are probing U.S. cyber defenses every day and are working hard to develop the cyber equivalent of a nuclear warhead.
Terrorists can also pose an existential threat to the United States by attacking its technological Achilles’ Heel the old fashioned way, using bullets and bombs. A study by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the government agency responsible for grid security, warns that a terror attack that destroys just nine (9) key transformer substations, out of 2,000, could blackout the entire nation for over a year.
Terrorists have learned that the electric grid is a major societal vulnerability. Terrorist attacks have already caused large-scale blackouts of 420,000 people in Mexico (October 2013), the entire nation of Yemen (by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in June 2014), and 80 percent of the grid in Pakistan (January 2015)–this last a nuclear weapons state.
And if terrorists steal a nuclear weapon from Pakistan, buy one from North Korea, or are given one by Iran, they could loft the warhead by balloon or missile to high-altitude over the U.S. to make the ultimate cyber attack–a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP). EMP could blackout the national electric grid and other life sustaining critical infrastructures, perhaps permanently.
Cult of Death
Another important difference between the dangers faced by the U.S. in World War II and the Cold War, compared to the threat from Islamic terrorists and their state sponsors today–Nazism and Communism were both secular movements.
Nazis and Communists both knew that their cause would be won, or lost, on this Earth. The Nazis were willing to die fighting, but even Hitler thought his “master race” was doomed with the fall of Germany. During the Cold War, the Communist leaders of the officially atheist USSR did not want to die, so they could be successfully deterred.
Islamic extremists cannot be deterred.
Islamic terrorists themselves say they are in love with death, with martyrdom for paradise. Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Mullahs of Iran seek a spiritual victory beyond this world, to be achieved even at the price of self-destruction.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe and Electric Armageddon, both available from CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com