Stopping the Next Historic Attack 

A flag hangs outside of the Pentagon prior to wreath-laying ceremony with President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff scheduled to take place later this afternoon at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial on Sept. 11, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.  (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

By Dr. Peter Vincent Pry Monday, 13 September 2021

On Sept. 11, 2001, in the wake of the terror attacks that collapsed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the United States Pentagon, and that could have hit other targets if not for the brave passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, frightened Americans wondered “What’s next?”

For the generation that witnessed these events that launched a decades-long Global War on Terrorism, the tragic genesis is known simply as “9/11” — both the date of the terror attacks and, ironically, the call number for emergencies.

As we were reminded of this weekend on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, 9/11 is becoming history that needs to be explained, much like “Pearl Harbor” or “World War II,” to each new generation as we move further away from the date of the tragedy.

Dangerously, the Biden administration and Washington elites who lived through 9/11 and were taught about Pearl Harbor have forgotten the national security lessons from both events.

Pearl Harbor happened because of a failure of strategic imagination due to the false belief that Japan would not dare attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Until Japan’s air raid on Pearl Harbor actually struck on Dec. 7, 1941, the consensus among Washington experts was that such an attack couldn’t happen — because aircraft carriers had never been used to sink a fleet of battleships before, so it would not happen now.

9/11 happened because of a failure of strategic imagination due to the false belief that terrorists would not dare attack the U.S. homeland. Until al-Qaida hijacked U.S. airliners and flew them into buildings, the consensus among Washington experts was that such an attack could not happen — because it had never happened before, and so would not happen now.

The same complacency, cocksure overconfidence, lack of common sense, and willful blindness that produced Pearl Harbor and 9/11 once again dominate thinking in Washington. The Afghanistan debacle is symptomatic of an incompetence that can kill millions of Americans.

Below is a partial list of future historic attacks waiting to happen due to failure of imagination:

Russian conquest of European NATO is regarded in Washington as a virtual impossibility because: a few thousand U.S. troops in the Baltics and Poland are supposedly a “trip wire” providing extended nuclear deterrence; U.S. conventional forces are supposedly technologically superior to Russia’s and can be projected across the Atlantic to save NATO; and NATO is supposedly unbreakable, so strong are the ties that bind Europe and Washington.

Yet analyses by both the Department of Defense and RAND find that Russia can overrun NATO’s frontline states in Eastern Europe in 72 hours. Russia has an at least 10-to-1 advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons, that could easily destroy U.S. and allied nuclear weapons based in Europe, as well as blast through U.S. and allied conventional forces to quickly reach the English Channel.

Would Germany and France’s progressive, anti-nationalist, and environmentally “woke” political leaders even fight when the first Russian nuclear EMP attack turns-off the lights across Western Europe?

China’s conquest of Taiwan and nuclear war with the U.S. is regarded in Washington as a virtual impossibility because: China supposedly does not yet have enough sealift capability to invade Taiwan; the U.S. Navy and U.S. nuclear superiority provide extended deterrence to Taiwan; and China’s nuclear “No First Use” policy promises they will not make a surprise nuclear attack.

Yet China may be able to conquer Taiwan with missile and air strikes — including nuclear strikes if necessary — the way the U.S. forced the surrender of Imperial Japan in 1945 from the air, including use of A-bombs, without having to invade.

The U.S. intelligence community estimated in January that China has only 200 nuclear warheads, while the U.S. with 1,400 nuclear weapons supposedly has clear superiority.

However, recently satellites discovered China is building 350-400 missile silos, probably for their DF-41 ICBM carrying 10 warheads. Now analysts warn China could in a few years have 3,000 nuclear weapons and clear superiority over the U.S.

China also recently threatened, if even a single Japanese soldier or ship comes to defend Taiwan, China will suspend its “No First Use” pledge and force Japan to surrender with nuclear strikes on their home islands, to be followed by occupation.

Will the U.S. risk nuclear war with China to defend Taiwan?

“Climate change” is the “new World War II” according to Washington elites.

Yet real existential threats like cyberwarfare, solar and manmade EMP are neglected.

On May 7, Russia’s cyber-attack on Colonial Pipeline turned-off gasoline to the eastern U.S. — including to east coast military bases that would project power to defend NATO.

The Biden administration’s impotent non-response to this cyber-attack, an optimistically named executive order “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” ducks responsibility, urging private sector utilities and industries to protect themselves from cyberwarfare.

Biden’s suspension of Trump’s executive order “Securing the U.S. Bulk-Power System” re-opens the door to importing equipment critical to U.S. electric grids from China — inviting Beijing to “turn off the lights” in America, as they did to India’s city of Mumbai (population 20 million) in October of 2020.

Will Washington never learn the lessons of Pearl Harbor and 9/11?

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, and on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.  He is author of Blackout Warfare (2021) and The Power And The Light (2020).