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View Full Version : Why haven't modern nukes been used yet?


Peppy
12-31-2003, 02:10 AM
or something simlarly horrible?

After reading the thread on possible locations for a first strike, I got to wondering why nukes, even small rogue ones haven't ever been used.

I guess I'm wondering, for those who have seen it, why hasn't a "Sum of All Fears' scenario happened yet? (Baltimore)

And why does everybody assume the terrorists will attack points of great significance? I think it would be even more terrifying if a small, non-descript suburb was suddenly razed to the ground. Wouldn't it be more terrible if the guy who lived hundreds of miles away from New York or the White House or the Sears Tower couldn't feel safe?

Doesn't the India/Pakistant nuke situation bother anybody?

UnclePoo
12-31-2003, 02:57 PM
HUH??
What's the question???

mrblue92
12-31-2003, 04:27 PM
Why?

Well, weapons-grade nuclear material is still pretty hard to come by, as is the technical expertise to build a multi-stage device. Those countries who have invested billions of dollars to create said weapons for the most part have a vested interest in keeping them out of the hands of people who would actually use them. While it's certainly possible that a commited group of fanatics could acquire the components, assemble, and deliver a nuclear bomb, none of those steps is terribly easy.

If I'm a terrorist with relatively limited resources, I'm probably going to try to limit my risk of getting caught and avoid the nuclear angle altogether. It's much easier to make your own explosives from common chemicals. Or, sadly, crash airliners.

If I'm the leader of a country trying to develop a nuclear program, I'm highly visible and the obvious target of any potential reliatory strike. Even if I get nukes, am I going to use them? Possibly if I'm completely out of my mind, but even bad chess players can see when their king has just been checked. The only scenario when nuclear use would be feasible is if one could rationally expect no (or only limited) repercussions (like the US use in 1945). It's difficult to imagine such a case these days. Nuclear use now is essentially a suicidal act.

To be clear, I'm not saying humanity is now so enlightened that nuclear attacks are impossible--far from it. I'm just pointing out that those who have been smart enough to have the acquired the weapons have thus far been smart enough not to use them.

Oh... FTR, Clancy's book actually blew up Denver... they changed it for the movie. :)

HPL
12-31-2003, 04:59 PM
I've personally been wondering why Chemical weapons haven't been used by Terrorists againes the US yet. Those tend to be a lot easier to get a hold of.

LeeG
12-31-2003, 06:58 PM
One of the fears that politicians can rely on is that the bad guys will get the magic rings and use them against us. We've got a lot of magic rings so we know what they'll do.
9/11 showed it doesn't take magic rings,,it takes a willingness to die. Fancy high end weapons really aren't necessary. They're expensive and require special training. Why bother limiting the job requirements for recruitable terrorists if it requires a lot of special skills? Which would you want,,someone willing to commit suicide/murder or someone willing to committ suicide/murder who also has to know the details of a special weapon (that probably hasn't benefited from corporate testing and previous wars, gov't support). If you've got a finite number of suicide terrorist it makes sense to invest in their dedication and not getting the right magic ring,,er,,weapons.

Wesley Clark
12-31-2003, 07:54 PM
because only about 9 countries have them to date. The US, France, UK, Russia, China, N. Korea, India, Pakistan & Israel. Nukes aren't like tanks or rifles, where virtually all 200+ countries on earth have them. And some of these countries are new to nukes and haven't had a chance to use them, N. Korea has had them for about 5? years, Pakistan maybe 10. India about 30, Israel & China about 40.

Besides, the M.A.D. philosophy is a really strong deterrent because even the leaders know that if they use WMD their country will be invaded by the entire 1st world combined and they will eventually be captured and held accountable for it. Supposedly that is why Saddam didn't use Chem or bio weapons on Israel during the Gulf war, and probably why N. Korea hasn't used any WMD on Japan or S. Korea yet.

pothead
12-31-2003, 08:53 PM
Originally posted by Wesley Clark
because only about 9 countries have them to date. The US, France, UK, Russia, China, N. Korea, India, Pakistan & Israel.

You forgot Iraq. :rolleyes:

As for chemical and biological weapons, they have been used- just not on a stupendously large scale. In 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo, a religious cult in Japan, released toxic sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway system. 12 people died and more than 5000 were hospitalized.

http://cfrterrorism.org/groups/aumshinrikyo.html

Then there was the whole anthrax letter fiasco in the U.S. in 2001. 5 people died from the 23 who contracted it.

http://www.terrorismanswers.com/weapons/anthraxletters.html
http://www.terrorismanswers.com/weapons/anthraxletters2.html

Governments have also reportedly used toxins. Saddam allegedly used VX gas against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war and in combination with mustard gas, against the Kurds in northern Iraq.

http://www.terrorismanswers.com/weapons/vx.html
http://www.terrorismanswers.com/weapons/mustard.html

If anyone recalls the Chechnya hostage incident in October, 2002 when Chechnyan rebels held about 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre. Russia pumped the place full of an unknown gas. They ended up killing 116 hostages because of the gas, and 2 due to gunshot wounds. Brilliant on the part of the Russians. :rolleyes: They also got the 50 Chechen rebels. Doctors think it may have been an opiate derivative because a drug that reverses the effects of opiates, narcan, worked in treating the surviving hostages while a nerve gas antidote, atropine, did not. Some experts refute that Russia could have a substance other than nerve gas that could knock so many people out so quickly.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,2763,821506,00.html?=rss
http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/10/27/moscow.putin/index.html

HPL
01-01-2004, 03:05 AM
Maybe not a good way to kill people, but it would seem to be a cheap and effective way to scare the shit out of people.

From what I understand, Symptoms of Mustard Gas exposure don't begin until hours after contact or inhalation, and the Gas is both invisible and oderless. It's also probably extremely easily to make or get.

I could imagine while not being deadly, it would cause a major panic if used in the right place.

So where does this theory break down?

pothead
01-01-2004, 12:14 PM
Originally posted by HPL
Maybe not a good way to kill people, but it would seem to be a cheap and effective way to scare the shit out of people.

From what I understand, Symptoms of Mustard Gas exposure don't begin until hours after contact or inhalation, and the Gas is both invisible and oderless. It's also probably extremely easily to make or get.

I could imagine while not being deadly, it would cause a major panic if used in the right place.

So where does this theory break down?

It might sound easy to make mustard gas- I have no idea if it does- but in reality the technical aspect is probably a lot more complex. The following applies to all sophisticated weaponry- chemical, biological, nuclear, etc.

First, you need the precursors. While the components of mustard gas are used in detergents, cosmetics, and other household products, it doesn't mean they are readily extractable nor available from your local hardware store. The chemical suppliers who do have these chemicals are monitored closely by the government. Plus the proper credentials are required for anyone wanting to buy the chemicals. If you happen to buy such chemicals, and are not Tide, you're likely to have FBI agents knocking down your door.

Second, you need the equipment and the expertise to operate it. I doubt your common terrorist has such knowledge to use or the ability to obtain the equipment. Again this equipment is likely to be on a watchlist and anyone suspicious seen buying it would be investigated.

Its nearly impossible to obtain or manufacture these weapons within the U.S. But it has happened- see my previous post. If al-Qaida happens to raid some old Soviet depots and secures the weapons, the question of delivery remains. In this day and age, it'd also be near impossible to bring them into the States. For all the times the terror alert went up, supposedly there've been actual threats. If that is indeed the case, I must applaud the U.S. security forces for jobs well done in neutralizing the threat. But the fact remains that the FBI or CIA or whoever can't check every single package coming into the U.S. and according to the laws of probability its only a matter of time before a slip up occurs.

hansel
01-01-2004, 02:15 PM
Perhaps you're asking the wrong question in the OP. You should be asking "what would terrorists gain by using a nuke?"

You mention The Sum Of All Fears, but the plot in the that book was to trick the US and the USSR into a war. Look at how mobilized the US and the world were after 9/11, when only 3,000 died (and not the tens of thousands who would die in a nuclear blast). Terrorists who are too successful are self-defeating because they give governments licence to use extreme measures that are basically unacceptable in peacetime.

The point of terrorism is to maintain a low intensity conflict that gradually saps the people's support of the government (or the government's commitment to something). Israel has, and will again, offer larger concessions to the Palestinians than they ever have before the 2nd Intifada began. If Arafat caused a nuke to explode in Tel Aviv, however, the world would watch quietly while Israel carpet bombed Ramalla and expelled everyone without a Jewish name from Israel.

[I have to say that the last scenario is one I hope to see in my darker moments: one side or the other going so far overboard that the world lines up behind the other side and just finishes it.]

Magiver
01-01-2004, 10:34 PM
Originally posted by pothead
You forgot Iraq. :rolleyes:

As for chemical and biological weapons, they have been used- just not on a stupendously large scale. In 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo, a religious cult in Japan, released toxic sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway system. 12 people died and more than 5000 were hospitalized.
You left out the cyanide gas attack at the WTC.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2800297.stm

Fortunately, it was destroyed in the explosion.

Not sure why you refered to the anthrax attack as a fiasco. It was anything but that. It could have been damn serious but it was contained. That threat still exists in different forms.