You wake up and nothing works.
No cell phone or land line.
No electric tooth brush.
No internet or cable.
No laptop. No tablet.
No, it’s not a scene from the Twilight Zone. It’s the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse attack. EMP for short.
An EMP attack would look like this:
- North Korea launches an ICBM toward North America
- The warhead detonates 100 miles above Colorado
- Waves of electromagnetic energy pulse down across the fruited plain
- Every semiconductor and small wire in the United States burns out
No boats. No lights. No motor cars.
Not a single luxury.
Like Robinson Carusoe—as primitive as
Communication would be reduced to two kinds:
- Walkie talkie radio
For walkie talkies to work, people must have protected them. Protected them in a Faraday cage.
A Faraday cage is a device. It’s a device that protects what’s inside from electrical damage. Faraday cages work because they’re super-conductive. They give electricity the ultimate path of least resistance. Why does resistance matter?
Electricity operates likes this: positive and negative poles. One seeks the other. When you release a large amount of positive electricity, it goes looking for negative electricity. It looks for grounding.
Electronics, like radios, are full of wires and stuff. Stuff that conducts electricity. So those protons in the atmosphere use that wiring to find a ground. To find their negative mates. That’s what fries out the electronics.
But a Faraday cage conducts electricity better than a radio. Or a cell phone. If your device is inside a Faraday cage, the electricity passes around the outside of the cage. Your electronic device inside is left unharmed.
So paranoid people who keep their radios and electronics inside Faraday cages will have electronic communications. The rest of won’t.
But there’s good news. You can protect your stuff.
You can keep your devices sealed in one of these bags overnight. You can carry a few in a back pack to work, in case you hear a civil defense warning in the middle of the day. A warning that North Korea has launched an ICBM. The ICBM evaded our missile defenses. You have about 20 minutes. Twenty minutes to prepare.
You grab your radios, your phone, and your laptop. You slide them into anti-static bags. You seal the bags. And you wait.
Wait for the boom.
Wait for the power to go out.
Wait to see cars stop in the middle of the highway.
And if the EMP attack never comes? Well, you’re out $10 for the anti-static bags.
Maybe Kim’s a lunatic. Maybe he’s a fox. Maybe he’s playing us all. The USA. China. The UN.
Or maybe he’s a genius. Maybe he sees a path to an end game. Maybe he’s thought ahead about how others will respond to various moves on his part. And maybe he has found his best move. Kim could think like this:
- If I bomb Guam or Japan, the world will applaud the USA’s nuclear retaliation that wipes out my kingdom.
- If I keep acting belligerent but do nothing, China will eventually get tired of my antics and cut trade ties with my kingdom.
- If I hit the USA with an EMP, there’s no visible destruction, no mushroom cloud, no radiation burns, no Hiroshima-like aftermath. Their lights go out. If anyone dies, it’s because the USA is weak and unprepared and soft.
- And if the USA tries to retaliate against my EMP with the full-on attack, the world will be on my side. They’ll see that the USA is over-reacting to a demonstration of power that directly killed nobody.
I have no idea if that’s how Kim thinks. I have an idea that, if he thinks that way, he’s somewhat right. The USA and our western allies are soft and weak. The American people, save for a few rugged places like Houston (and thereabouts) are soft and weak and desperate for comfort. People would trade their freedom for comfort. They do it all the time.
Would Chuck Schumer support retaliation for an EMP attack? Would Paul Ryan?
I honestly doubt it. I promise you the US Chamber of Commerce would oppose retaliation. For fear of stock market losses. Since Schumer and Ryan are both employed by the Chamber, they’ll oppose retaliation out of fiduciary duty. So will Code Pink. And Bernie “Stalin” Sanders. And Mitch McConnell. And Google and Mark Zuckerberg. And Apple. And Theresa May and that wimpy French president. And Angela Merkel.
For fear of losses to the world’s elites, all the old allies would oppose US retaliation for what some would call “a sophisticated prank.”
Call me cynical. But I’m preparing (mildly) for an EMP attack. Just in case Kim Jong-un’s opinion of western world leaders is as low as mine.