DANIEL VAUGHAN: The Chinese And Russian Plans To Attack The American Homeland

February 5, 2024

In the 20th Century, when you wanted to disrupt a country's infrastructure, it required a broad military strike. Both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other skirmishes involved broad bombing of critical infrastructure. If you wanted to knock out electricity, you'd target whatever was generating that power and destroy it.

In the second half of the 20th Century, and even into this one, people began to fear another thing: an EMP blast. This was an explosion that could knock out all electronic devices and infrastructure without the destruction of a nuclear bomb. The 2001 film Ocean's 11 played on this when the thieves knocked out Las Vegas with a small EMP blast.

But as time has passed, it's increasingly clear you can knock out any infrastructure without exploding or destroying anything. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. Cyber-warfare has arrived, but we've yet to see it employed in a war-like fashion like bombs.

This was one of the subjects FBI Director Christopher Wray discussed during his Congressional testimony this past week. Wray testified, "China was ramping up an extensive hacking operation geared at taking down the United States' power grid, oil pipelines and water systems in the event of a conflict over Taiwan."

He added, "China's hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities, if or when China decides the time has come to strike ... Low blows against civilians are part of China's plan."

China isn't alone on this front. We know the Russians have worked on similar technological attacks. In some cases, we know the Russians have successfully hacked into water and electrical systems in the US. They've used similar attacks in Ukraine.

This is the new war. It's fought with other methods than the military. In the conflict over Ukraine, the United States has weaponized its economy to punish Russia, China, and Iran. Those countries have countered with similar actions. Electronic systems and outer space are the next frontiers.

And while it's concerning seeing this here, it's also likely true we're conducting similar operations on the Russians and Chinese (or at least, I hope we are).

The reality of nuclear bombs has changed the nature of military fights. Instead of direct conflicts, we experience indirect conflicts with proxies. Russia is invading Ukraine and fighting Ukrainians. Ultimately, however, this is a fight between Russia and the United States with its European allies, who are funding and supplying Ukraine.

Iran presents a similar conflict. The United States is directly engaging with Iranian proxies in the Middle East. In turn, those groups fire on the United States. A direct conflict forces countries to deal with the reality of nuclear weapons and invading another nation.

These indirect conflicts save the world from a broad conflict, for now. Knocking out the electrical systems of an average citizen is an attempt to make a conflict harder on a country. And because Russia and China use third-party mercenary-type groups to engage in this behavior, they have plausible deniability.

The United States plays along with this charade to stay out of a broad war. US Intelligence officials told Politico that they were "unsure" of how much Iran controlled its proxies. Apparently, these groups can go rogue, and Iran can't always stop that.

No one believes a word of that. Iran funds, supplies, and controls each one of these terrorist groups. They use them to inflict pain across the region. When Donald Trump authorized a strike that specifically killed Iranian military commander General Qasem Soleimani, he was cutting out the proxies. Killing Soleimani in Iraq was admitting the reality: Iran was causing all the chaos.

Israel has conducted similar strikes over the Hamas conflict. When they killed one of the Iranians responsible for brutal terrorist attacks, they killed him in Syria, and no one doubted he was part of the Iranian military.

Russia, China, and Iran are all using the same playbook. And they're likely looking at using third-party terrorist-like groups to conduct strikes on critical US infrastructure. It's one of the places where we are weak because none of our electricity, water, and other systems were designed for the cyberwarfare age.

During the Cold War, people built bunkers to hide from nuclear blasts. There were drills on how to handle various disasters. The United States needs to start building response plans for when critical systems go down. We experience brief moments like this during natural disasters.

But it's different when a foreign country attempts to take you down. The warning signs are there. And the time to prepare is now, too. Along the way, we should start investing in hardening our critical systems nationwide.

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