The reliance of the United States on electronics for every aspect of its citizens' lives makes the U.S. vulnerable to an emerging threat.
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could be triggered by a nuclear warhead detonated at high altitude over America. The resulting blast would create an EMP, a shockwave that could "cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure." Even if a high-altitude EMP kills nobody at first, it would paralyze a large section of the United States. The lingering practical and economic effects would take anywhere from hours to years to resolve: when secondary effects are considered, an EMP could be even deadlier than a direct nuclear strike against the mainland. Indeed, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has written: "Where the terrorist airliner attacks of 9/11 killed thousands, a terrorist EMP attack could indirectly kill millions and conceivably cause the permanent collapse of our entire society."
This threat emanates most notably from Iran -- a country that has been building up its ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities, and whose president has promised that "a world without America" is possible. Our country is currently unprepared to deal with the threat of EMPs, as American politicians are not taking the threat seriously. One important measure to counteract the EMP threat is hardening our infrastructure against such an attack. But the most vital step is development of an adequate missile defense system. When it comes to the EMP threat, the United States cannot afford another failure of imagination.