By Timothy Imholt
As a nation we have long depended on early warning systems like RADAR to tell us of incoming threats. This started during World War 2 when advances the first RADAR systems in the world warned Great Britain of incoming German airplanes allowing the British to put their defensive aircraft exactly where they were needed.
This has extended into defenses against missiles. We have all watched the videos from the Gulf when US PATRIOT Missiles knocked down incoming Scud missiles to defend our troops. These are RADAR guided missiles.
We are fantastic at finding things that fly at us. One might even venture to say we are the best in the world at this.
During World War 2, the only time nuclear weapons have been used in hostile activity, these weapons were delivered using bombers. Japan was hit twice by the United States with fission weapons which brought the War to a close much sooner than otherwise thought possible. We can argue the necessity but that is the history.
If a nuclear device was put into a bomber or thrown on a missile and launched at the United States we would detect it. Of that, there is very little doubt. We might not find it fast enough to stop it depending upon the launch site but we could probably do something.
That isn’t the fear.
The fear is what happens in the modern world.
Nuclear weapons are not the massive things they once were. The World War 2 era devices were massive, hard to move and just simple put big, ugly devices. It is 70 years later and technology has miniaturized everything during the years between here and there.
Today, if someone sneaky, were going to launch an attack it would be through DHL or FEDEX. Don’t believe me, how about The Lexington Institute’s Daniel Goure PhD. He wrote an interesting article, the complete text of which can be found at: http://lexingtoninstitute.org/terrorism-3-0-and-the-need-for-100-percent-cargo-scanning/
The two important paragraphs are:
Counterterrorism experts have long worried that maritime transportation, particularly the traffic in TEUs, could provide a difficult to detect avenue for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction to U.S. shores. That is why since 2007 there has been a law on the books that the Department of Homeland Security pursue the goal of screening 100 percent of all cargo bound for the United States by the end of 2011. While some progress has been made towards this goal, the reality is that cargo screening today is largely a paper exercise, relying on shippers to provide manifests of what is contained in cargo bins or TEUs. Less than one percent of cargo containers, whether traveling by air or on ships, are actively inspected or scanned with a detector. Sending a bomb in the cargo hold of a commercial airliner or cargo ship might seem to the terrorists like a pretty sure thing.
A weapon of mass destruction or radiological device going off in a U.S. port would cause incalculable physical and economic damage and could result in the loss of tens of thousands of lives. The impact on international trade could be even worse. In the wake of 9/11 the U.S. government initially grounded all flights over the United States. It took about a year to reopen Reagan National Airport. After the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, all U.S. deep water drilling was halted for two years while safety measures were reviewed and upgraded. In the absence of 100 percent cargo screening, even a failed attempt to smuggle a device into the U.S. could bring international trade to a complete halt. Closing U.S. ports for weeks, much less months or years would cripple our economy.
That is correct. One percent of cargo coming into the nation is scanned for these devices and could easily contain one or more on any given day.
If someone with one wanted to get it here, it would no longer take a large effort to do so.
This is why a nuclear Iran, or nuclear terrorism (I’m not certain there is a difference) must not be allowed to happen ever. Not ten years away…ever. If we can’t do better than one percent, and we depend on the shipper to help us, we don’t understand our enemy.
Timothy Imholt PhD
As a short Post Script, I wrote a book about what I think the world would look like should Iran get these devices and do what they have stated they desire to do with them. This book is called The Last World War: Volume 1 Trial By Fission, which is available on Amazon in print and on Kindle.