Libertarian Commentary #16-17D by Nathan Barton
Really? Is this serious or just scaremongering? World Net Daily is screaming about two North Korean satellites that are “now in orbit over the US” and pose an immediate and dangerous threat of generating an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) which could shut down vital electronics across a wide span of the Fifty States – indeed much of North America. It is obvious that little thought has really been given to writing this scare-piece, which is short on facts and analysis and long on emotion.
For one thing, these satellites are NOT in Clarke orbit (a geosynchronous orbit at about 23,000 miles above the surface so that the satellite stays literally directly over one place on earth: in fact the article states that they are only about 300 miles up. So they are probably passing over the Fifty States for a short time several times a day, along with most other points on earth between probably about the Arctic and Antarctic circles. And this is not new: one has been up for over three years, the other one for two months. So why all the fuss now? And there is nothing at all about the size of these satellites. We know that North Korea has detonated nuclear warheads, but we know little about the size of them: they are likely to be closer in size to Fat Man and Little Boy (the ones delivered to Japan during WW2) than modern nuclear missile warheads or backpack nukes: it is quite unlikely that North Korea was able to boost one of their own nukes into orbit three years ago. And although there are other methods of generating an EMP, it is a nuclear warhead that is necessary to get the kind of large-scale EMP that really can take out electronics in much of North America. Yes, it is possible. But I would say it has a very low probability of really being a threat. And the US does have the capability to determine if there are sufficient quantities of uranium or plutonium in a satellite to be a nuclear warhead. Assuming that North Korea was ALSO able to put a reentry vehicle into orbit (able to withstand the very hot return through the atmosphere from 300 miles up), it would be even more obvious: go look at the ISS through a reasonably good telescope some night (such as this one).
Much as everyone is hyper about North Korean satellites and North Korean ballistic missiles delivering nuclear warhead s to the Fifty States or the Japanese Empire or even the Republic of Korea, Pyongyang is FAR more likely to deliver one of their nuclear bombs (NOT warheads) by way of a shipping container on a tramp freighter, or as part of a cargo of Taiwanese or Chinese products on a big container ship – even if the purpose WERE to generate an EMP. And an EMP generating bomb wouldn’t even need to dock or be all that close to some port (take your pick: LA, San Diego, San Fran Bay, Puget Sound, or New York or Tampa Bay…) to do immense damage to American infrastructure. Although surface bursts have a much more limited radius for their EMP than a high-atmospheric one, setting off an EMP device a dozen or so miles off Santa Barbara could fry the entire LA Basin and probably much of San Diego. The impacts would be more than enough to trigger nationwide “negative impacts.”
So why the fearmongering? These writers aren’t stupid: they can do the same research that I do. But they want to scare people. Why? Yeah, selling advertising is one thing, and WND constantly is doing that. But I think the real reason is the same reason we have the Global War on Terror and all the huffing and puffing about Russia and China and Syria and Iran and all the rest. Fear encourages people to clamor for more government, for “more protection.” More government, more government power: more military, more money, more reason to vote for Joe or Jane or whomever. Power and money.
So don’t buy into the scaremongering – but don’t ignore the fact that a non-nuclear, or even with a nuclear EMP tonight, you could suddenly find yourself without the Internet, without that working cell phone, and even without power and phone service and heat and trucks to deliver food and medicine. So be prepared, but don’t panic. Especially not into surrendering MORE money and MORE liberty to those yahoos in DC.
Enough is enough.