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Existential threats and stark reality

(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series explaining how the United States remains vulnerable to attack, despite its global military imperium. Read Part 1 here.)

The threats facing the United States are nontraditional. As we progress technologically, we become more dependent on the technology. As our knowledge of the universe expands, we become more aware of how the universe can pose challenges to our technology-based standard of living.

Many Americans are familiar but the threat posed by electromagnetic pulse weapons and how they could disrupt our electrical grid. However, solar flares have the potential to do the same amount of damage. While we may trust that the State Department will be able to defuse tensions with the North Koreans, the sun is a harsh master.

As we’re now aware of the threat through our scientific discoveries, a responsible national security plan would include the protection of America’s electronic infrastructure and power plants from EMP-like occurrences, be they man made or natural. If we don’t, such a disaster could cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans – either from the loss of power at critical locations like hospitals or devastation of our food supply through the lack of electricity for refrigeration.

But the news from space does not get any better, as the recent tragedy in Russia shows us. The threat from meteorites and other solar system bodies colliding with Earth has always been real, but now we have reached level of technological sophistication where we do not have to be resigned to planetary extinction. The American government should prioritize the development of countermeasures to extinction-level events originating from space. At the very least, efforts should be made to protect our water supply from contamination.

Immigration reform and securing the borders and ports have been issues brought to the forefront of the national security debate. Immigrant screening is a neglected tool of defense. White guilt over past crimes – mostly against black Americans –- has prevented a dispassionate look at the facts regarding immigration.

After the Boston bombings, we should be able to discuss the issues with candor. Should American citizens in the 21st century be put in harm’s way to further the agenda of a few policymakers in Washington with little benefit to the American people? The U.S. is the third most populous country in the world. Only India and China have more people. If American companies need workers, it is a social problem – not a demographic one. Public safety from terrorism, crime and infectious disease brought to America by immigrants must be the primary concern of a responsible government.

The states must take the lead on defending their people from biological and chemical attack. With their independent taxing authority, they do not need to wait on the stubborn government in D.C. If quarantine is ever needed, state authorities will be the first to recognize it and implement it. Federalism gives the U.S. flexibility that other countries do not have. Let’s use it.

American armies are useless against EMPs, solar flares and asteroids, but they can help prevent unauthorized access to American land. NASA can be reinvigorated with a mission to protect the U.S. – and, by extension, the planet – from asteroids and other spatial threats. States can begin stockpiling gas masks, storing vaccines and antidotes and educating their populations about the threats. This will not happen until the American people are tired of being poorly led.

This is a real defense agenda; drone striking Yemenis is not.