Saturday, December 13, 2008



If September 11, 2001, was “the day everything changed,” November 4, 2008, was the day everything changed back — at least as far as the rest of the world is concerned. The “global war on terror” was a Bush concept and will expire with his presidency, long past its sell-by date, as far as the “international community” is concerned: Weary Europeans find it unhelpful to the cause of mollifying their own restive Muslim populations, and wealthy Arabs want to get on with buying up the Western world’s banks and soccer teams with a somewhat lighter level of scrutiny than they’ve been subject to these last seven years.

As for President Bush’s own citizens, Code Orange is fine if it’s just taking your shoes off at the airport, but as a 24/7 mindset it’s kind of exhausting. So the United States elected a chief magistrate who talks about health care and job creation and hardly mentions terrorism, except for occasional effusions about invading Pakistan, which one assumes is one of those back-burner midway-through-the-second-term things after he’s lowered the oceans and healed the planet. Certainly, in the chancelleries of Europe they don’t take it too seriously. The Bush fever is assumed to have passed.

Still, there remain a handful of us who think “the war” was not entirely a construct of Rove-Cheney’s dark imagination, and valiantly tootle around town with our “FEAR, NOT HOPE” bumper stickers. Brian T. Kennedy of the Claremont Institute had a grim piece in the Wall Street Journal the other day positing an Iranian-directed freighter somewhere off America’s shores capable of firing a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile that explodes in space over Chicago:

Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans.

This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century.
If Brian Kennedy were to switch it from an Iranian freighter to an Iranian freighter secretly controlled by a Halliburton subsidiary, he might have a scenario he could pitch to Paramount. But he’s got a tougher job pitching it to America. This is the Katrina nation: Our inclination is to ignore the warnings, wait for it to happen, and then blame the government for not doing more. That last part will prove a little more difficult after an EMP attack. I doubt there’ll be a blue-ribbon EMP Commission for Lee Hamilton to serve on, or much of a mass media for him to be interviewed by Larry King and Diane Sawyer on. “An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor,” writes Mr. Kennedy. “Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World.”

Jacqueline Larma/AP

Are there really people out there who want to do that? End the entire Free World? The very term sounds faintly cobwebbed. When nukes were confined to five reasonably sane great powers, the Left couldn’t get enough of Armageddon: There were movies, novels, plays, even children’s books about the day after, and the long nuclear winter. When it was crazies like Reagan and Thatcher with their fingers on the buttons, the liberal imagination feasted on imminent nuclear immolation. Now it’s Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il and who knows who else with their fingers on the buttons, and nobody cares: What’s the big deal?

Well, the Iranians have held at least two tests in the Caspian Sea to launch missiles in the manner necessary to set off an EMP meltdown. And if you were, say, Vladimir Putin and obsessed with restoring Russia’s superpower status, you might reasonably conclude that that might be well nigh impossible without diminishing the superpower status of the other fellow. And, while you wouldn’t necessarily want your fingerprints on the operation, you wouldn’t go to a lot of trouble to dissuade whichever excitable chaps were minded to have a go.

But beyond that is a broader question. In Afghanistan, the young men tying down First World armies have no coherent strategic goals, but they’ve figured out the Europeans’ rules of engagement, and they know they can fire on NATO troops more or less with impunity. So why not do it? On the high seas off the Horn of Africa, the Somali pirates have a more rational motivation: They can extort millions of dollars in ransom by seizing oil tankers. But, as in the Hindu Kush, it’s a low-risk occupation. They know that the Western navies that patrol the waters are no longer in the business of killing or even capturing pirates. The Royal Navy that once hanged pirates in the cause of advancing civilization and order is now advised not even to take them into custody lest they claim refugee status in the United Kingdom under its absurd Human Rights Act.

“Weakness is a provocation,” Don Rumsfeld famously asserted many years ago. The new barbarians reprimitivizing various corners of the map are doing so because they understand the weakness of what Brian Kennedy quaintly calls “the Free World.” One day the forces of old-school reprimitivization will meet up with state-of-the-art technology, and the barbarians will no longer be on the fringes of the map. If that gives you a headache, I’m sure President Obama will have a prescription-drug plan tailored just for you.





December 15, 2008

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