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Old 08-20-2019, 02:01 PM
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Resume of world trade after a full scale nuclear war


How long would it take for world trade to start recover after a full scale nuclear war? For example, let's assume USSR and USA got into a war during eighties and of course dragged lots of other countries with them.

I find this interesting because it would have a huge effect for rebuilding efforts. I think I never saw any speculation about this. I am sure there are plans about this in some government safes.
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Old 08-20-2019, 03:20 PM
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I think what would happen in the short term is that the US and USSR would be absolutely devastated, and presumably so would Europe and other allied nations (Japan, Australia, China). The rest of the world would be struggling to get by with the effects of nuclear winter and the disruption of global trade.

In the medium term, I think we'd see a pretty serious realignment of global power, with southern hemisphere and southerly countries coming to the forefront, especially those with manufacturing and food surpluses. They'd lead the charge in re-establishing global trade I suspect. Meanwhile, the US/USSR/Europe/China would be rebuilding and/or the pieces would be realigning - I kind of doubt the USSR would have existed as a political entity after a nuclear war. It's entirely possible that the US would be more 19th century-style, in that the states would assume a MUCH larger role in governance, and the Federal government would be relatively feeble.
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Old 08-20-2019, 03:23 PM
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I suspect that the real answer is "never, or close enough to it." If we assume a "full scale nuclear war," as you posit in your post, it's probably also a safe assumption that a substantial portion of humanity will die immediately, with more dying in the following years due to fallout and climate change.

In such a scenario, how much of humanity would be left, and how much (if anything) would be left of societies, are huge questions, and I think it's debatable whether humanity (or the planet) would be able to rebound from such a war. Given that, re-establishment of world trade is probably way down the list of things that would happen.
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Old 08-20-2019, 04:33 PM
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10 years, if you go by the "optimistic assumptions" in On Thermonuclear War :/ Classic Dr Strangelove!
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Old 08-20-2019, 04:40 PM
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Seriously? It's back to primitive living, stone age style for the survivors.
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Old 08-20-2019, 04:43 PM
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How many nukes get smuggled to target inside freighters?

If the answer is "one or more", then no trade for 100 years.
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Old 08-20-2019, 04:46 PM
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Seriously? It's back to primitive living, stone age style for the survivors.
How about thinking about this again? Seriously.
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Old 08-20-2019, 04:52 PM
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10 years, if you go by the "optimistic assumptions" in On Thermonuclear War :/ Classic Dr Strangelove!
That might be interesting book to read. 10 years sounds quite a long time though. I would assume many somewhat developed countries survive without being bombed or badly irradiated. They would have an incentive to continue trading as soon as possible. Destroyed countries would be desperate to get food, oil and medicine, which they could trade for gold, machinery, art, weapons, specialists etc.

There might be also trade based on blackmail, as nuclear powers would still have some if their nukes left.
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Old 08-20-2019, 05:02 PM
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Part of the reasoning goes, sure, you are going to lose New York, Saint Petersburg, etc., maybe 50 to 100 of the largest cities in each country, but a fraction of the population and resources still survive, so you're not rebuilding from the Stone Age. Similarly, extrapolating to a global scale, not every country will be simultaneously and utterly devastated by ICBMs.

Disclaimer: global thermonuclear war is still not a good idea
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Old 08-20-2019, 06:09 PM
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Part of the reasoning goes, sure, you are going to lose New York, Saint Petersburg, etc., maybe 50 to 100 of the largest cities in each country, but a fraction of the population and resources still survive, so you're not rebuilding from the Stone Age. Similarly, extrapolating to a global scale, not every country will be simultaneously and utterly devastated by ICBMs.

Disclaimer: global thermonuclear war is still not a good idea
That's what people often don't realise about this topic. Even in USA countryside and small towns would be left physically pretty much intact.
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Old 08-20-2019, 06:28 PM
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That's what people often don't realise about this topic. Even in USA countryside and small towns would be left physically pretty much intact.

That is making an assumption that the USSR wouldn't carpet bomb the entire United States with nuclear weapons; I mean they had enough warheads to do it if they wanted.

Also the electromagnetic pulse generated by the weapons would probably damage areas beyond those directly physically affected by the nuclear explosions.

I admit I could be wrong; there are too many variables involved to make a definitive prediction about what would happen after a full scale nuclear exchange.
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Old 08-20-2019, 06:49 PM
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That's what people often don't realise about this topic. Even in USA countryside and small towns would be left physically pretty much intact.
Physically intact, perhaps yes, but most places are very dependent on regular shipments of goods from elsewhere in the US and outside the US. That transportation system would be badly broken in the event of global thermonuclear war.
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Old 08-20-2019, 06:51 PM
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That is making an assumption that the USSR wouldn't carpet bomb the entire United States with nuclear weapons; I mean they had enough warheads to do it if they wanted.
Nope. 2013 figures show the Russians with ~8500 warheads, at least half not deployed. Even with those deployed, you are talking 3.797 million square miles of area in the USA. That's 1 warhead for every 446.7 square miles. For comparison, the city of Los Angeles is 503 square miles.

There is zero reason to carpet-bomb a target, and multiple targets would get multiple warheads. So there would be large swaths of the US totally untouched by nukes after a war. Whole states, even. It's not like the Russians are going to waste one on Alaska. Or Wisconsin.
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Old 08-20-2019, 06:59 PM
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Physically intact, perhaps yes, but most places are very dependent on regular shipments of goods from elsewhere in the US and outside the US. That transportation system would be badly broken in the event of global thermonuclear war.
It's true, most if the trucks would be broken, without fuel, without a driver, robbed or wouldn't have anything to transport. This has actually been researched a bit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK219185/

And yes, EMP would probably hit sparsely populated areas as well.
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Old 08-20-2019, 07:04 PM
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Nope. 2013 figures show the Russians with ~8500 warheads, at least half not deployed. Even with those deployed, you are talking 3.797 million square miles of area in the USA. That's 1 warhead for every 446.7 square miles. For comparison, the city of Los Angeles is 503 square miles.

There is zero reason to carpet-bomb a target, and multiple targets would get multiple warheads. So there would be large swaths of the US totally untouched by nukes after a war. Whole states, even. It's not like the Russians are going to waste one on Alaska. Or Wisconsin.
I admit I was wrong about that then.

Do you know if I was wrong about the electromagnetic pulses affecting areas beyond the initial nuclear blasts? Because I was always under the impression that a full scale nuclear exchange would knock out power for the entire lower 48.

Also wouldn't radioactive fallout get blown over most of the lower 48 as well?
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Old 08-20-2019, 07:07 PM
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Oh, yeah. EMP would be a bitch. Fallout would be trickier. Depends on prevailing winds, atmospheric patterns and blind luck.
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Old 08-20-2019, 10:17 PM
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One commodity that would be likely to be traded internationally and quite quickly after the event is food, especially grain, and it will be coming into the north. If North America is reduced to a population in the low dozens then its perhaps not an issue, but any large surviving number will have trouble sustaining itself once the tinned beets run out. With the prime wheat silo land also having been prime missile silo land, its likely that lots of North American agricultural land will be inoperable [perhaps not directly transferable, but watching Chernobyl showed just how bad things will be agriculturally just down-wind].

I'd expect more of the agricultural land in the global South to survive, and capacity for surplus production to remain. The question would be what a war-ravaged USA, Russia or China would have that was of any interest to the survivors in Australia, Kenya or Argentina.
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Old 08-20-2019, 10:38 PM
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Oh, weeks at least. Thousands of weeks. The first few hundred weeks the survivors will be too busy to try and secure food to make excess goods for the purpose of trade. A few hundred weeks in, some salvage items will likely be traded, but not likely transoceanic. It will be decades before trade returns to levels of the 1600’s.
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Old 08-20-2019, 10:54 PM
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The question is: how much government, and how much infrastructure, would be left? Would the people and the military left behind still swear allegiance to a government that got us into this mess? Would the road and rail infrastructure survive? Who is going to be shipping valuable food away?

Brazil and Argentina might make out okay, but the global supply chain is quite complex and will be in tatters. Not many new computers for them. But they'll have food at least.
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Old 08-21-2019, 01:29 AM
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How long did it take to go from small settlements to today?
About that long.
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Old 08-21-2019, 02:00 AM
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That might be interesting book to read. 10 years sounds quite a long time though. I would assume many somewhat developed countries survive without being bombed or badly irradiated. They would have an incentive to continue trading as soon as possible. Destroyed countries would be desperate to get food, oil and medicine, which they could trade for gold, machinery, art, weapons, specialists etc.

There might be also trade based on blackmail, as nuclear powers would still have some if their nukes left.
These things don't seem like "world trade" to me. What you describe in your first paragraph is more like humanitarian aid, and your second paragraph sounds like war.
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Old 08-21-2019, 02:02 AM
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Brazil and Argentina might make out okay, but the global supply chain is quite complex and will be in tatters. Not many new computers for them. But they'll have food at least.
Intel has a factory in Costa Rica, that's some key computer components which could still be made if raw materials and designs stayed available. But the damage to communications and power infrastructure would be huge, and the immense majority of assembled items have parts made in 25 different countries, by companies whose servers (those things which, among other things, tell the more complicated machines how to do their jobs) in five yet-different countries…
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Old 08-21-2019, 04:27 AM
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Because I was always under the impression that a full scale nuclear exchange would knock out power for the entire lower 48.
Even without the EMP issue, a big threat to electricity is that power plants are prime targets in a strategic nuclear exchange. A power line touching a tree in Ohio knocked out power in New York City, so what's going to happen when all the major power plants are turned into fallout?

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Old 08-21-2019, 05:32 AM
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In the medium term, I think we'd see a pretty serious realignment of global power, with southern hemisphere and southerly countries coming to the forefront, especially those with manufacturing and food surpluses. They'd lead the charge in re-establishing global trade I suspect.
Beam Piper wrote about this in his 'Terro-Human Future History'. After WWIII, the countries that put things back together were Australia, South Africa and the nations of South America. So a lot of the characters have names derived from Afrikaans, Spanish and other traditions.

In terms of re-establishing global trade? There has to be a demand. It doesn't matter if there's an Intel plant in Costa Rica if no one wants those parts. It would be centuries before a complex supply chain could be established. Even if demand was magically there, most of the major deep-water ports would be gone and most of the demand for such would be gone.

Local trade would commence immediately, of course, both of newly produced items - food and clothing and such - and salvaged things. But that's pretty much county-to-county and not intercontinental.

These things happen in stages. First local trade of subsistence items. Then larger trade via trade routes of items of local plenty to local scarcity or novelty. Then larger chains with more complex items.

In short, it'd happen when there's a demand for it. No demand for iPhones? No trade in iPhones.
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Old 08-21-2019, 06:03 AM
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That's what people often don't realise about this topic. Even in USA countryside and small towns would be left physically pretty much intact.
This is true and underappreciated. But it's fairly immaterial. Every first-world city or town depends on global trade. All of the food and fuel comes from the global supply chain, so when the big one hits, those towns will die on the vine for lack of food and supplies. All that crappy stuff that used to ship from China? Definitely not coming anymore. Even trade with the next state over is going to be dicey.

"But what about farmers!", people say. Most farms nowadays are factories whose inputs include regular weekly infusions of fuel and advanced machinery, medicines, and food supplements. All these inputs will cease permanently after a nuclear war. In fact, farm equipment is increasingly as software-governed as your iPhone and will brick itself if it can't communicate with John Deere. There's no repairing or maintainance of equipment like that. We are all factory workers now. Farmers, as they now exist, will be every bit as irrelevant and disadvantaged in the new world as tax attorneys or airline pilots. Even the pre-firmware farm equipment needs fuel, tire, lubricants.

By the time anybody would be economically able to say 'Hey let's move back to Muncie, Indiana", it will have been a generation, probably two. The structures would be ruined, there'd be no supplies to fix them. The knowledge of how to run factories or utilities will have died out with the previous generation. Information in physical libraries will be hard to find; digital information will be gone or inaccessible.
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Old 08-21-2019, 08:18 AM
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I suspect that the real answer is "never, or close enough to it." If we assume a "full scale nuclear war," as you posit in your post, it's probably also a safe assumption that a substantial portion of humanity will die immediately, with more dying in the following years due to fallout and climate change.

In such a scenario, how much of humanity would be left, and how much (if anything) would be left of societies, are huge questions, and I think it's debatable whether humanity (or the planet) would be able to rebound from such a war. Given that, re-establishment of world trade is probably way down the list of things that would happen.
Fallout is primarily a localized phenomenon, at least in terms of deadly fallout. And it's hugely dependent on the height of the nuclear explosion- airbursts don't have significant fallout, as the only thing to be fallout is the bomb itself. Surface bursts are much worse, as they essentially incorporate a lot of ground into the explosion, irradiate it heavily, and then let it settle back somewhere else (fallout). Sub-surface bursts tend to contain most fallout.

At any rate, unless you're within several hundred miles of the burst, prompt fallout isn't an immediate issue, as it settles out relatively close to the burst. The main worry after that is stratospheric fallout, which is more along the lines of a cancer risk than an acute radiation sickness risk.

For example, if the Chinese were to drop a 5 mt warhead on FE Warren AFB (home of USAF Global Strike Command's 90th missile wing), the prompt fallout could reach as far as Santa Fe NM, Billings MT, Pierre SD, Lincoln NE, Dalhart TX or Salt Lake City UT. That's a long way, but that's both the maximum distance (1 rad/hr) and a big bomb (most are something like 800 kt, which is 16% as large). Using a more realistic bomb, the fallout plume only extends about as far as North Platte, NE or Pueblo, CO.

So the real issue would be whatever short-term climactic changes the conflict would wreak- probably some degree of nuclear winter would be the primary concern. That would probably be severe, but I'm not so sure it would be so severe that it would collapse governments and civilization in untouched areas, like S. America, Africa and parts of Asia.

Last edited by bump; 08-21-2019 at 08:18 AM.
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Old 08-21-2019, 10:46 AM
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The key question is "how widespread a war"? In the USA-USSR scenario - would the Russians bomb South Africa? The Arabian oil fields? Mexican oil fields? Any and all of Europe, or just major military bases? Hydro power dams? How much infrastructure would remain? We seem fixated on "blow up the cities" but real warfare concentrates on major military targets, then production and transport centers key to military success. Russia obviously wants to ensure that the USA does not have the production capacity to ship large convoys of troops to Europe or rebuild a troop transport capability. Ditto for air attack vulnerability. Indeed, from Russia's point of view, leaving a site like Manhattan unscathed would perhaps created a restless starving distraction for the enemy.

Nowadays, taking out communication infrastructure would be a major target.

But then places like Venezuela, Indonesia and Nigeria would still have oil to supply the needs of a rebuilding world - and not every tanker would have been in a blown up port. Ditto container ships. The shortage would be probably be refineries for a while. But there are basic goods that need to be traded, and parts from out-of-commission machinery might be a hot item too.

The thing not considered is how the banking system would recover, particularly international banking. I assume the fed would be vaporized. What happens to assets and savings? A lot would have been invested in no longer existent companies' stocks and bonds. I assume the system would be rebuilt from the ground up.

I'm going to guess international trade would start as soon as communications were re-established; but slowly. the untouched areas of the world would see an opportunity to get into manufacturing goods they could not compete in beforehand, so building tech and expertise would take a few years. We may go backward to simpler tech for a while. People with high tech engineering experience would be in great demand.

You could write books on this stuff. Science fiction writers have.

(And many of those focussed on more mundane issues - like the breakdown of law and order in the absence of a strong central authority. OTOH, it occurs to me that in the absence of a complex legal system, summary justice and execution rather than feeding idle mouths in prison will mak a comeback - ie. feudal justice.).
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:21 AM
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The key question is "how widespread a war"? In the USA-USSR scenario - would the Russians bomb South Africa? The Arabian oil fields? Mexican oil fields? Any and all of Europe, or just major military bases? Hydro power dams? How much infrastructure would remain? We seem fixated on "blow up the cities" but real warfare concentrates on major military targets, then production and transport centers key to military success. Russia obviously wants to ensure that the USA does not have the production capacity to ship large convoys of troops to Europe or rebuild a troop transport capability. Ditto for air attack vulnerability. Indeed, from Russia's point of view, leaving a site like Manhattan unscathed would perhaps created a restless starving distraction for the enemy.
You also have to ask why the war started in the first place. These days it wouldn't be conflicting ideologies. It would be the drive for economic dominance. So there would be little reason to take out US cities/population. The oligarchs want them as customers/peons/exploitable workers. Killing them would be counter-productive. So the targets would be American nukes and command/control centers. Or maybe just a couple of "demonstration" strikes. Take out Long Beach and you cripple not only a key west coast port but some very large refineries as well. Put the nuke aboard a flag-of-convenience freighter and you even have deniability.

On the flip side, the Russians are screwed if we launch anything. They already don't have any decent ports. If we nuke the ones they have and take out their major pipelines, they freeze in the dark a lot quicker than we do.
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:27 AM
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Seriously? It's back to primitive living, stone age style for the survivors.
I'd think that we would go back to city states fairly soon. People of regions that were not that badly damaged would band together and defend themselves collectively against people wandering around looking to take what they could get.
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Old 08-21-2019, 11:45 AM
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How's trade going with Chernobyl these days?
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Old 08-21-2019, 12:01 PM
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I'd think that we would go back to city states fairly soon. People of regions that were not that badly damaged would band together and defend themselves collectively against people wandering around looking to take what they could get.
Whether society will resume functioning (organized cleanup/decontamination efforts, restoring communications and transport, utilities, food, markets, etc.) and how long reconstruction will take depends on the scale of the attack and on the postwar political environment, also on the extent of preparation and stockpiling before the war. People wandering around Mad Max-style sounds like a total breakdown; presumably (if still possible...) there would be an organized effort to shelter survivors and refugees coming from now-uninhabitable areas. (Ideally as many people as possible are evacuated before the missiles fly.) Cities- the small cities that survive- of course cannot exist independently and have to trade with relatively undamaged portions of the country or other parts of the world.
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Old 08-21-2019, 12:04 PM
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You also have to ask why the war started in the first place. These days it wouldn't be conflicting ideologies. It would be the drive for economic dominance. So there would be little reason to take out US cities/population.
Not exactly. Standard first-strike doctrine has always been counterforce (military targets). The point is to eliminate the enemy's ability to wage war. The second-strike strategy has always been countervalue (population/cultural centers). The point is to use your small remaining forces in the ugliest, most painful way possible.

AFAIK Russia has prioritized their retaliatory capabilities because they always expected the US to strike first. Point being - expect cities and people to be hit hard.

But again, it's not the weapons that will kill people so much as the attendant collapse of industry, transport, communications, agriculture, everything that modern civilization currently depends on.
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Old 08-21-2019, 12:05 PM
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How's trade going with Chernobyl these days?
It's a tourist attraction. There are accommodations available in Chernobyl City.
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Old 08-21-2019, 12:05 PM
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Read Clancy's "Sum of All Fears" for a very good primer on terrorist nuclear attacks. It's apparently possible to analyze the aftermath of an atomic blast and from the isotope mix determine exactly where the bomb was made, down to the reactor. And based on the USA taking over Afghanistan in retaliation for 4 airline attacks, don't underestimate a nuclear attack becoming a 2-for-1 retaliatory special very quickly. Then what? 2 more back, and then all out war? there's a reason why a nuclear attack is a Really Bad Idea. Much as assorted hawks would like to think so, there is no 100% effective protection against a conventional nuclear attack. Will antimissile countermeasures work? Who wants to find out the hard way? I don't see a single blast or a limited strike staying limited.

Unless the damage is MASSSIVE, I don't see especially the rural population liking the idea of small city states. Plus, remember the city-states of Italy and Germany crumbled in the face of technology - Venice famously surrendered without a shot when the first army arrived with canons that could reach 3 miles across the lagoon. Walled cities and castles failed in the face of artillery able to blow down the thickest walls; and city-states surrendered to nation-states with the capability to field much bigger armies and the money to make much more of more powerful artillery.

the untouched areas or continents will assess what they need to carry on, build the factories to supply the missing pieces of tech, and then begin selling those to areas that cannot do so as quickly. A new axis of industrial states will dominate.

There may be a period of mass starvation, riots, and civil unrest across areas hardest hit, especially if one nuclear strategy is to take out critical infrastructure but not population. Destroy power to the upper east coast area, and see how well people survive. take out refineries. Take out transportation hubs. take out telecommunications. However, the infrastructure is so widespread that it is difficult to truly hamstring these services.

For example, one bridge failure in Nipigon cut Canadian road travel in two. There are probably too many bridges across the Mississippi to effectively cut the USA in tow. How many mountain passes need to be closed to cut off the west coast? Too many. How many power plants in the NYC or LA environs? Can you get them all? Plus, many people have solar power for their house. They need only connect cell towers to get communication back in some places (If people can charge their phones). the internet and its routing tech was specifically designed to be robust in the face of multiple connection failures.

but then, how susceptible are some of these to EMP from nuclear blasts? A more nasty attack would simply EMP the entire USA and Europe. Try getting by without power, communications, banking - or Twitter...

And so much of our infrastructure is dependent on electronics. Probably water and sewage are all electronically controlled nowadays. Traffic lights, gas pumps (and payment) banking, payrolls,

Last edited by md2000; 08-21-2019 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 08-21-2019, 12:22 PM
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Oh, weeks at least. Thousands of weeks. The first few hundred weeks the survivors will be too busy to try and secure food to make excess goods for the purpose of trade. A few hundred weeks in, some salvage items will likely be traded, but not likely transoceanic. It will be decades before trade returns to levels of the 1600’s.
International and transoceanic trade requires some kind of global economy. Without payment of some sort trade falls apart. Good will only goes so far. Ocean and island states, even if they were not directly involved in the war, will fall apart. Indonesia, Micronesia, Guam, Japan, Hawaii, Caribbean islands, etc. are carrying too many people to support without the constant stream of ocean going supply ships. Even a year or two of this supply being cut off will be devastating. The natural production of food cannot even begin to support the populations there. Indonesia may have oil, but they are all going to starve before the trade can be resumed.

Even Alaska relies upon the inland waterway from Seattle to supply most of their product needs.

So we need to expect no oceanic trade for several years. Very limited overland trade between other distinct geographical areas, and the death of all cities until the overland supply resumes. It takes a lot of semi truck loads, each and every day to keep a city alive, and they won't last a week without it.
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Old 08-21-2019, 12:43 PM
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Yes, the main question is money. how does that work now? Someone somewhere keeps a ledger of who owes whom; I had heard that the US Fed does that now, which is why so many foreign banks are hesitant to cross the US government in things like sanctions against foreign states. If they have to start from scratch, then expect the same gradual emergence of international banking as in renaissance times - a merchant in country A establishes a relation with a local bank (or trusted partner) in B. it ships goods to B, receives payment in B, buys material to ship back to A. To switch from gold to electrons, one needs confidence that the currency (as represented by ledger entries in banks) is stable. Keep in mind, this is nothing that has not happened before. Goods went from one end of the Silk Road to the other without an international banking system.

There will be trade immediately, but it may take a decade or two to reach the level pre-war, and there will be a massive realignment in areas with nothing to trade or too much population.

I do wonder about more third-world countries like Indonesia - there may be a massive starvation and riots in a few big cites, but the rural population has been producing mor than enough for its own support. the problem may become civil unrest, and invasion of the countryside from the cities. Local constabulary may start to run out of bullets and be reduced to machetes and spears. This may encourage lawless elements, and nothing stifles trade like the threat of robbery or piracy.

As I said, there's enough material here to fill a lot of books.
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Old 08-21-2019, 12:48 PM
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This requires a bit too much speculation for GQ. It seems to me that there is enough debate here to give GD a shot.

Moving thread from GQ to GD.
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Old 08-21-2019, 04:24 PM
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Not exactly. Standard first-strike doctrine has always been counterforce (military targets). The point is to eliminate the enemy's ability to wage war. The second-strike strategy has always been countervalue (population/cultural centers). The point is to use your small remaining forces in the ugliest, most painful way possible.
I always understood the counterforce/countervalue distinction to be somewhat moot except when discussing literal counterforce (i.e. nuking missile silos in Montana, N. Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska) targeting.

I mean, if you're going for war-making infrastructure, does it really matter if you nuke the Wayside Yard in Houston, the Port of Houston, the refineries in La Porte, Texas City and Baytown, and the Wyman-Gordon steel forging plant in NW Houston/Cypress, and the area's Natl. Guard armories versus just nuking the city itself?
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Old 08-21-2019, 04:48 PM
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I mean, if you're going for war-making infrastructure, does it really matter if you nuke the Wayside Yard in Houston, the Port of Houston, the refineries in La Porte, Texas City and Baytown, and the Wyman-Gordon steel forging plant in NW Houston/Cypress, and the area's Natl. Guard armories versus just nuking the city itself?
Counterforce is what it says, targeting enemy forces. Specifically, weapons systems and formations.

Targeting ports and steelworks is not counterforce. It's on the strategic end of countervalue. Targeting population centers is punitive countervalue targeting.

Here is a map of the 2000 warhead scenario vs the 500 warhead scenario. 2000 is first-strike, which targets military forces. The 500-warhead strike is after the enemy assets are all launched against you, you have few remaining assets, so you're going to be a dick and target the people.
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Old 08-21-2019, 05:34 PM
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This thread got me thinking that first year after a nuclear war is going to be completely devastating for the United States when all the natural disasters that occur regularly now happen in the aftermath. I mean think of these scenarios:

1. A category 4 hurricane barrels through Louisiana and The Gulf Coast destroying thousands of homes.

2. The annual tornadoes plummet small towns throughout the Great Plains and Midwest.

3. The West annual wildfires run unimpeded and burn up even more small towns.

4. Earthquakes rock what is left of South California and destroy even more buildings than the nuclear blasts did.

With the health infrastructure damaged there are also bound to numerous disease outbreaks and even more people dying.

It would be a hellish nightmare all around.
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Old 08-22-2019, 08:17 AM
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Counterforce is what it says, targeting enemy forces. Specifically, weapons systems and formations.

Targeting ports and steelworks is not counterforce. It's on the strategic end of countervalue. Targeting population centers is punitive countervalue targeting.

Here is a map of the 2000 warhead scenario vs the 500 warhead scenario. 2000 is first-strike, which targets military forces. The 500-warhead strike is after the enemy assets are all launched against you, you have few remaining assets, so you're going to be a dick and target the people.
Sure, but the 2000 warhead scenario hits a lot of targets that aren't military targets. For example, just like in my example, they hit no less than six targets in the greater Houston area in the 2000 warhead scenario- the Wyman-Gordon steel forging plant, the Sealy truck plant, and a whole raft of targets near the Ship Channel/Port.

Either way, the city is screwed, regardless of whether they deliberately target civilians or not. Same thing for Denver, Amarillo, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, etc... Most any city of size is out of luck under the 2000 warhead plan. Only a small handful of smaller cities miss being targeted under the 500 warhead plan but are under the 2000 warhead plan- for example, North Platte, NE (huge UP railyard).
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Old 08-22-2019, 09:17 AM
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2000 warheads does not mean 2000 targets. To allow for failures, anti-missile systems, and bad aim, the key targets would probably have half a dozen or more separate warheads aimed at them. Missile silos, for example, were allegedly hardened enough that a miss by an appreciable part of a mile would be ineffective. (The John le Carre novel "The Russia House" was based on the speculation, what if the Russians were lying about the accuracy of their missiles?) Plus, The Soviets had most of Europe to deal with too. The problem with any limited response is to be sure you don't end up with bombs taking out your missile capability before you can use it. This leads to the fear that any attack would very quickly escalate to full power, rather than waiting to see what happened. Not to mention any allies - should they target Australia? New Zealand? Taiwan? What about China - would it see a weakened USSR as an opportunity? If you're going under, should you drag down everyone else?
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Old 08-22-2019, 09:25 AM
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Sure, but the 2000 warhead scenario hits a lot of targets that aren't military targets. For example, just like in my example, they hit no less than six targets in the greater Houston area in the 2000 warhead scenario- the Wyman-Gordon steel forging plant, the Sealy truck plant, and a whole raft of targets near the Ship Channel/Port. Either way, the city is screwed, regardless of whether they deliberately target civilians or not.
Well - first thing to consider, the 2000-warhead scenario is going to have smaller warheads. They're trying to destroy specific small areas and structures. They need better targeting and they get better targeting. They are definitely going to leave a mark but they're not going to wipe out the entire Houston metro population.

If you live in Houston under the 2000 warhead scenario, you as a civilian are probably getting killed in the counterforce scenario. But at least in your final moments you can be comforted by the knowledge that it's nothing personal.

Quote:
Same thing for Denver, Amarillo, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, etc... Most any city of size is out of luck under the 2000 warhead plan. Only a small handful of smaller cities miss being targeted under the 500 warhead plan but are under the 2000 warhead plan- for example, North Platte, NE (huge UP railyard).
It may become more clear if you look at the locations targeted under 500 warheads that aren't targeted under the 2000 warhead plan. I may have messed up the link; here it is again. Look for the purple triangles that don't have black dots in or around them, and vice versa. There's a lot of overlap, but there are also a lot of disjoint areas as well.
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Old 08-22-2019, 11:22 AM
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I may have messed up the link; here it is again.
I'm getting a 403 message for both of those links. Could you post a link with a different URL or a search term? I'm really interested in seeing that map.

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This thread got me thinking that first year after a nuclear war is going to be completely devastating for the United States when all the natural disasters that occur regularly now happen in the aftermath. I mean think of these scenarios:

1. A category 4 hurricane barrels through Louisiana and The Gulf Coast destroying thousands of homes.

2. The annual tornadoes plummet small towns throughout the Great Plains and Midwest.

3. The West annual wildfires run unimpeded and burn up even more small towns.

4. Earthquakes rock what is left of South California and destroy even more buildings than the nuclear blasts did.

With the health infrastructure damaged there are also bound to numerous disease outbreaks and even more people dying.

It would be a hellish nightmare all around.
I might be wrong, but I think that most of those places would be destroyed by the nuclear exchange or deserted by people fleeing fallout.
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Old 08-22-2019, 12:54 PM
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I'm getting a 403 message for both of those links. Could you post a link with a different URL or a search term? I'm really interested in seeing that map.



I might be wrong, but I think that most of those places would be destroyed by the nuclear exchange or deserted by people fleeing fallout.
My main point is the natural disasters that occur now are going to be more devastating after a nuclear exchange because there will be less infrastructure remaining to help with disaster relief.

Also the first winter after the exchange will incredible harsh on survivors because they will have less of means of keeping themselves warm during cold spells. Not to mention if the "nuclear winter" scenario makes winters even harsher than they are. We will probably see people migrating south if they are unable to keep warm through the winters.
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Old 08-22-2019, 02:00 PM
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Well - first thing to consider, the 2000-warhead scenario is going to have smaller warheads. They're trying to destroy specific small areas and structures. They need better targeting and they get better targeting. They are definitely going to leave a mark but they're not going to wipe out the entire Houston metro population.

If you live in Houston under the 2000 warhead scenario, you as a civilian are probably getting killed in the counterforce scenario. But at least in your final moments you can be comforted by the knowledge that it's nothing personal.
That's my point- in most large cities, it doesn't matter whether it's a counterforce or countervalue scenario- you're doomed either way because most big cities have enough counterforce scenario targets to largely destroy them or kill a lot of people through fallout.

If you're in a smaller city, it really matters how large your city is and/or whether there's a military or economic target in it.

Which is why dinky North Platte, NE is only nuked on the counterforce scenario, while Lubbock, TX is only nuked on the countervalue one.
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Old 08-22-2019, 02:49 PM
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I'm getting a 403 message for both of those links. Could you post a link with a different URL or a search term? I'm really interested in seeing that map.
Finally found a good one, here it is.
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Old 08-22-2019, 10:57 PM
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Intel has a factory in Costa Rica, that's some key computer components which could still be made if raw materials and designs stayed available. But the damage to communications and power infrastructure would be huge, and the immense majority of assembled items have parts made in 25 different countries, by companies whose servers (those things which, among other things, tell the more complicated machines how to do their jobs) in five yet-different countries…
When I worked for Intel, the chips we made in Arizona or New Mexico or Oregon were packaged in Malaysia and then sent back. The chips we made at TSMC got packaged in a totally different part of Taiwan. That's just the IC that I bet most people assume gets made in one factory. And the equipment that is used to to the fab and the testing and the packaging comes from and is maintained by yet other people.
When you build boards and systems the supply chain is a lot more complex. I bet you can't get discrete components list resistors and capacitors which are made in the US anymore.

I made servers. Maybe 25 countries, but a lot more than 25 companies, including the fact that the components have plenty of sub-components. Hell, everyone has sand, the raw component of chips, but that ain't going to get you much without a billion dollar fab.
We tried to do second sourcing, so we weren't dependent on just one company, but if both your sources get blown up, game over.
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Old 08-23-2019, 03:03 AM
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As much as people get a hard on for a post apocalyptic mad max world, in reality humans are very good at getting organized. We had a trade area covering millions of square miles in the bronze age. And we have bounced back from plagues, world wars, and plagues happening during world wars.

The question therefore just comes down to how liveable the earth is after the war e.g. how much of the earth remains heavily irradiated, what's the climate like etc.

Because if we're talking about an earth more or less as liveable as it is now, with anything more than, say, 10% its current population, the answer IMO is that global trade will resume basically instantly. And getting all the way back to online shopping and vast cities will happen within a generation or two. Because we would not be starting from zero, science and technology -wise.

This is not to say nuclear war is no big deal -- the "if the earth is still liveable" thing is a big if.
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Old 08-23-2019, 05:57 AM
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As much as people get a hard on for a post apocalyptic mad max world, in reality humans are very good at getting organized. We had a trade area covering millions of square miles in the bronze age. And we have bounced back from plagues, world wars, and plagues happening during world wars
The problem here is that the ancient trade networks you mentioned build on top of a continuum of earlier, smaller societies. I read somewhere that prior to 1800, 99% of every person ever born made their living off subsistence farming. So whatever plague or calamity happens, you're starting in a better place (a group of farmers rather than tax attorneys), and reaching a lower peak standard (a feudal society driven by farming). That is not the case today.

It would be a space-age civilization being returned instantaneously back to the stone age, but without stone age life skills. There would be no Mad Max. Nobody would be driving vehicles. People would mostly be clawing roots out of the ground and starving because they only know how to buy food, and nobody has any to sell.

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Because if we're talking about an earth more or less as liveable as it is now, with anything more than, say, 10% its current population, the answer IMO is that global trade will resume basically instantly.
Not happening. I think you do not appreciate the global supply chain coordination needed simply to repair a car or run a container ship. And knowledge of sailing-ship technology isn't a widespread thing now.

Quote:
And getting all the way back to online shopping and vast cities will happen within a generation or two. Because we would not be starting from zero, science and technology -wise.
If everybody is reduced to foraging for food and trying to farm, and spends just one generation doing that, then all tech skills are gone in a generation. Most of the tech infrastructure needed to use those skills is damaged or destroyed.

I could see places like Africa and South America bouncing back... places where much of the population still practice subsistence farming or small-scale mercantile farming. But most places... including the rural US that fancies themselves farmers and cowboys... possess only skills that are useful if there's a global supply chain.
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