Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Columns

Nash: An impending, national disaster


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There are four fundamental types of warfare: strategic, tactical, psychological, and economic. The first and last types (strategic and economic) are those we should now be very worried about, and working hard to prevent, or, at least, minimize.

Irregular military units (e.g., rabid followers of Mohammed) may, on rare occasion, use an opportunity to engage in tactical (i.e., conventional) ground warfare (such as is now seen in places such as Syria, Afghanistan, and various African nations), but, in general those rag-tag armies rely on psychological and economic attacks. Terrorism (e.g., the wanton, random, barbaric slaying and maiming of humans, of all types and ages) is most often accomplished by horrific bombings in supposedly safe public places (e.g., in Iraq today).

Terrorists hope that, by such inhumane acts, they can destroy a population's will to resist, opening the gates for the arrival of occupying, and ruling, paramilitary forces. Terrorism usually has a side benefit in that it indirectly attacks a nation's economy, such as in these United States of America, where, in 2001, for an investment of a few thousand dollars and a handful of lives of the dangerously misguided faithful, terrorists destroyed buildings and equipment worth billions, slaughtered thousands of random civilians, and caused the creation of a monstrous, costly ($7.5 billion/year), and only slightly effective, government institution (TSA).

While the significant resources now wasted on the inconvenient and intrusive airport security measures are continuously damaging the nation, there now is evidence of a much greater threat to our economy, and our way of life: one for which we have little or no defense, and may not be reasonably able to create in time to thwart the attack. I refer to destruction of our electrical power grid, which would, both strategically and economically, bring us to our knees.

Electricity is generated at huge plants, which convert energy found in burning fossil fuels, controlled nuclear reactions, water-powered turbines, or the wind and sun. That electricity is then spread across the nation, into homes and businesses, thru a "grid," which is made up of transmission lines (wires) strung on poles and towers or buried in the ground, along with associated transformer and switching stations. Most of that infrastructure is either unprotected, or only lightly so.

We are so dependent on that supply of electricity, that its extended interruption would destroy our nation. Frighteningly, most of that infrastructure is either unprotected, or only lightly so. Chain-link fences around transformer stations may keep itinerant drunks from wandering into high voltage equipment, but they do nothing to protect the exposed and vulnerable transformers themselves from easy attack by a lone man with a rifle. That, in fact has already happened (April 2013, in California), but that very serious incident was intentionally played down, due, apparently, to reasonable fear that it might precipitate copycat acts. That person was never apprehended; we don't know why he attacked the substation. Could it have been an early test of a widespread event, yet to come?

A few rounds from a large caliber rifle can take out a transformer. When that is a random act, and only a few transformers are shut down, switching stations react and re-route electricity from other sources, minimizing the negative effects of the attack (as was done in 2013, in California). But, when enough attacks take place in a short time period, it is possible to cause the system to break down, and cease sending electricity to a wide area, or to the entire nation.

Without electricity, computers and cell phones will cease to operate, grocery stores can't check out customers, banks can't cash checks, gasoline can't be pumped, traffic control lights go dark, potable water ceases to flow, factories cease to produce, and homes go dark and cold. If the blackout lasts long enough, panic, crime, and riots will spread like wildfire; a nation, such as ours, would then self-destruct.

Protecting against such an attack seems nearly impossible, but we'd better try! As it now stands, a cadre of a few dozen trained and coordinated saboteurs (remember, only a dozen or so carried out the very successful, 9/11 attack), could cause disastrous, total, or nearly so, blackout of the nation. Burying transmission lines, encasing transformers with armored shields, providing armed guards and watch towers with searchlights at transformer stations, and aerial surveillance of power lines are possible, but incredibly expensive, measures, which, by themselves, well serve the attacker's objective of further expanding economic destruction. Besides, if readily available rifles aren't adequate to penetrate armored shields, the attackers can easily, and inexpensively upgrade to more powerful, but easily portable weaponry, such as rocket propelled grenades (the mismanaged and misused Department of Justice might even provide such, if asked politely - think DOJ's "Fast and Furious," gun-giveaway scandal).

Yes, the problem is real, seriously threatening, and with us now. What we can or should do isn't at all clear, but we'd better get started working on a defense, before there's nothing to defend. As politically and socially unacceptable as it may seem, a very significant step to save our nation would be in not only accepting, but openly supporting, racial and ethnic profiling as a security measure: had that been done in early 2001, when men fitting Al-Qaeda's fanatical profile were enrolling in U.S. schools to learn how to fly, but not land, modern transport aircraft, and had men fitting that same profile been especially well screened before boarding aircraft on 9/11, thousands of lives, and billions of dollars could have been saved. There are ways to try to protect ourselves from the next wave of sneak attacks by those determined to destroy us, by whatever means; if we want to survive, we'd better give serious consideration to using them.

What, you may well ask, is our leader (President Barrack Hussein Obama) doing about this looming national threat? Well, as the feckless Harvard lawyer promised in his recent national address, he's using his reckless pen (instead of his head) to issue executive orders, thus exercising his arrogant dictatorial prowess, while evading the democratic process. Shockingly appropriate to the subject we've been discussing, one of his first, thus-misguided actions was to further loosen immigration policies, so that those with a record of having aided and abetted terrorists are welcomed with open arms. It must be true: It was in an AP report, printed on the front page of this morning's paper (Feb. 10, 2014).

Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated feature by J.G. Nash. Relevant comment may be sent to him at jgn@jgnash.com.

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