In 2012, the Obama Administration abandoned the long-held policy of having a U.S. military equipped to fight a two-front war. Inexplicably, this was done at the same time that it was becoming increasingly evident that the alliance of China and Russia, as well as the cooperation in missile and nuclear technology between those two and Iran and North Korea, were becoming increasingly evident. Other than as an excuse to transfer defense dollars to more politically popular domestic programs, there has never been an adequate explanation of the reasoning behind the Obama Administration’s controversial decision. This has become a larger issue as the threats from North Korea become more credible, dangerous, and frequent. It would be naïve to believe that if it were necessary to deploy additional American forces, for example, on the Korean peninsula, that Iran would not take advantage of U.S. weakness in the Middle East, or that Russia would not expand its aggression against Ukraine.
A Heritage study found:
that the U.S. needs a military that is large enough and has a sufficient range of capabilities to cover multiple major military contingencies in overlapping time frames … Such a capability is the sine qua non of a superpower and is essential to the credibility of our overall national security strategy.
However, as previously reported by the New York Times and Atlantic Monthly, “The U.S. military of the future will no longer be able to fight two sustained ground wars at the same time.” That future may be now.
Direct Threat to the United States
Some have attempted to downplay the threat to the U.S. based on the imbalance between U.S. and North Korean forces. However, it is now undeniably evident that almost the entire span of the continental U.S. could be crippled by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack from a single nuclear weapon detonated at a specific altitude. An EMP attack would break down America’s electrical grid, disable almost all transportation facilities (including cars, trucks, trains, and planes), and medical centers. The inability to deliver food, water, energy and essential services, it is estimated, would result in the deaths of up to 80% of the American population within less than a year.On September 3, Peter Landers, writing in the Wall Street Journal stated that:
North Korea’s threats against the U.S. now include a tactic long discussed by some experts: an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, triggered by a nuclear weapon that would aim to shut down the U.S. electricity grid. North Korea’s state news agency made a rare reference to the tactic in a Sunday morning release in which the country said it was able to load a hydrogen bomb onto a long-range missile. The bomb, North Korea said, ‘is a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack.’
In a 2015 letter to the Obama Administration, the EMP Task Force warned:
The consequent failure of critical infrastructure that sustain our lives is a major national security threat and would be catastrophic to our people and our nation …Russia and China have substantially hardened their electric grids. Other nations are beginning to harden theirs. But the United States has done little or nothing to counter this threat … Russia and China have already developed nuclear EMP weapons and many believe others possess EMP weapons including North Korea and soon Iran—and likely their terrorist surrogates. For example, they could launch nuclear-armed short or medium range missiles from near our coasts, possibly hiding the actual sponsor from retaliation. North Korea and Iran have tested their missiles in ways that can execute EMP attacks from ships or from satellites that approach the U.S. from the south where our ballistic missile warning systems are minimal …
While the military problems, caused by decades of an ineffective policy based on the appeasement of North Korea concerning nuclear weapons that began with the Clinton Administration and the disinvestment in the U.S. military during the Obama Administration, has left Washington in a weakened condition, there are options, as well as steps that must be taken.
First, China and Russia must pay an enormous and unprecedented economic price for their role in Pyongyang’s and, for that matter, Iran’s nuclear program. It is time to seriously consider—as stunning as it sounds—a program that lays out a clear timeline of severing economic ties between those two aggressor nations and the United States if Moscow and Beijing fail to rein in their client state.
Second, it is time to realize how precarious a situation the Obama disinvestment in defense has produced, and to be fair, the GOP failure to respond to that move. American industry must be placed on an emergency footing to make up for lost time. Some of the expense of that costly endeavor—which must also include the development of an effective anti-missile shield—will be made up for in the reinvigoration of the American manufacturing sector. Key allied nations, such as those in NATO, as well as Australia and Japan, must do their share, as well.