Biological or Nuclear?

I was reading an article this morning about nuclear winter and it got me thinking about how scared we all were back in the eighties about being nuked by the Russians. Anyway,the current worldwide political climate has me a bit concerned that there might be another world war in my lifetime.
So,my question is,which scenario would be more likely? a nuclear war or a biological one? this is assuming that this war were to happen in 2010. Should we worry more about a biological war or a nuclear war?

Depends who you think it is starting the war and why.

Terrorist organizations would have an easier time going biological than nuclear. It should be noted biological weapons are not easy…weaponizing them is a very difficult task. Still, more in reach I think than nukes for most.

For a state bio weapons could be covertly deployed. So, if they do not want to be identified as the attacker bio weapons might be better. Nukes tend to be more easily traceable…especially if lobbed by a missile than snuck in.

Problem with bio weapons they are fundamentally uncontrollable. So, there is a chance your bio attack on the US would also spread to your country and kill your citizens. Not good.

Frankly I think if anything it’ll be a nuke in the hands of terrorists. Even North Korea or Iran will not overtly start throwing nukes at the US. They keep them as their ace-in-the-hole. If they are about to go under they will threaten their use as a final trump card.

If it is terrorists it is not exactly WWIII.

Interesting. Thanks for the info.

No one particularly rational would ever take the US on in direct warfare, which limits you to guerrilla, terrorist, and offensive espionage tactics.

Guerillas are principally concerned with get-in-get-out and cause the most damage in a short period of time as they can with whatever they can carry on them. A biological weapon is probably going to be smaller and easier to carry. On the other hand, it’s not terribly useful against a military target. I suspect they’d just do neither.

Terrorists, on the other hand, plot to do single large acts and don’t care so much about getting out. They can carry larger equipment to at least some extent. But they’re generally acting as terrorists specifically because they don’t have a lot of support. As such, a biological weapon is far more easily achieved. A slow acting poison in the drinking water of some town, taking down a plane, a bomb in a skyscraper, etc. are all still easier to achieve technologically, and probably about as effective.

So it seems we have more to fear from a biological attack.
There seems to be much less concern about nuclear weapons now than there once was. I remember a news story some time ago about how Kim Jong Il had been testing nuclear weapons and this had me a tad concerned…I mean,he is not exactly a model of stability…but I also remember thinking that if he had,in a pique of anger,decided to lob a nuke at the US,it would likely be intercepted before it reached its’ target.
On a side note,does the US still have active nuclear weapons?

If I were going to nuke a US city, I’d drive the sucker in. Just sayin’.

First off, any currently realistic attack against the US of the scale that’s needed to escalate into all out “surrender or die” war will not use conventional weapons. There’s just no way any country could realistically invade or do prolonged bombing raids on the US mainland. So nukes or biological weapons it is.

A nuke or effective biological attack on the US by any identifiable country or region (that is, “real war” instead of terrorism) is gambling against large scale nuclear retaliation* - MAD is not dead, it’s just at the back burner, and aside from possibly Russia, no country I know has even the slightest chance of wiping out the US using nukes.

  • ETA: and the US has plenty of active nukes left for that, as far as I know.

Given this, and the imbalance of power around the world, I think all out world war is very unlikely. The only states with enough military might to make it happen are the US, Russia (probably) and China (maybe). None of those are interested provoking the US into that sort of conflict.

North Korea and Iran may have or get nuclear missiles, but again, they’d be completely destroyed if it ever came close to escalating to a world-war type scenario. The same pretty much goes for any other country that would deploy biological weapons.

This leaves terrorists.

So, my WAG is that biological weapons are more likely, for the reasons Sage Rat and Whack-a-Mole alluded to; they’re easier to get and the main threat (to the US, at least) is not going to be other states - at least not directly.

The only exception to this is some sort of escalation of aggression between allegiances like the ones leading up to WWI ending with the US on one side and China or Russia on the other. Seems currently unlikely.

Missed this part.

If you really wanted to deploy nukes or bio weapons in the US, there are more efficient ways than throwing a rocket over the horizon or even using bomber planes.

But, I’m highly skeptical that the US would be capable of intercepting even one ICBM.

One determined but brilliant nut with a lot of money could destroy all human life on earth using bio-weapons. The nut would also have to be suicidal, but it is not at all beyond the realm of possibility.

I think I will sleep easier knowing this…thanks,you all have been very informative.

But what if Madagascar closes its ports?

Seriously, I wouldn’t worry about either in terms of conventional war. I barely worry about one involving a terrorist attack, and that’s mostly because of the difficulty in obtaining the material.

I’m more worried about chemical attacks when it comes to terrorists. Groups like Aum Shinrikyo showed that things like sarin can be deployed relatively effectively.

While bio weapons could certainly cause a lot of damage I doubt they could wipe out life on earth.

Been awhile since I read up on this but you have a few issues with bio weapons. How quickly they are lethal and how easily they are transmitted. The really lethal stuff is pretty fast acting which limits transmission. The stuff that lingers quietly awhile to be transmitted then makes you sick tend to not be as lethal (can still be bad though).

Even if you managed to kill 3 billion people there would still be 3+ billion left. A horror to be sure but a long way from taking out the human race.

Unless you manage to make zombies?

Seriously though, if a terrorist is gonna release a bioweapon on the US and is willing to die while doing it, I doubt he’ll care too much if it spreads to his homeland. He’s here to make a point. So terrorists are far more likely to use BW then any government.

Regards, Babale.

Not all life, just human life. Teh White Plague by Frank Herbert. And I imagine that others have done it too.

Really? A group of ten people, several of whom were highly educated, co-ordinated an attacik on the worlds most crowded subway system at rush-hour and only managed to kill 12 people. They probably would’ve done better just tossing some pipe bombs into the crowd. I’d say its more of a demonstration of how difficult it is to use chemical or biological weapons effectively.

I did say relatively. They did it twice, killed 20 people in total, sickened a couple hundred, and shut down a ton of stuff. I agree, if you want to actually kill people, explosives are the way to go. But if you’re actually interested in terror and less interested in total body count, I’d think a gas attack would be effective.

Perhaps not entirely beyond the realm of possibility, but pretty damn near. Humanity has endured many, many plagues with high fatality rates and absolutely no effective treatment - until the 20th century, that was pretty much routine. It’s true that transportation is much better now, which facilitates the spread of disease - but our public health infrastructure is also much better. And perhaps more important: once plagues achieve a sufficient level of devestation, they tend to become self-limiting. Once enough people are dead, the transportation infrastructure starts to degrade - and spreading the disease to people who’ve not yet become infected becomes much more difficult.

Of course, one could imagine a wonder-bug with an HIV-like incubation period and Ebola-like lethality - but imagining doesn’t make it so, and no such bugs exist in nature so far as I know. So this wouldn’t even be modifying an existing bug, but creating a magical wonderbug from scratch. It seems very very very implausible.

A dirty bomb is possible. Throwing nuclear debris in a bomb will spread it around. But Iran certainly should prove no terrorist organization can build a bomb. They have been at it for years. They have oil money and still are not close to one. They have invested millions in purifying uranium and are at 20 percent. You need to get 90 for bomb grade.
Some government would have to make one and give it to them. Then they would have to Fedex it to the target.

HIV was this until we came up with modern anti-retroviral drugs. I’m old enough to remember when getting HIV was effectively a death sentence. Now, if a person with HIV lives in the developed world, they can have a normal or nearly normal life expectancy if they have access to anti-retroviral drugs.

That’s a problem with trying to wipe out humanity with something that has a long incubation period. That long incubation period gives people time to come up with a way of managing, if not curing, the disease.