Hypothetical scenario – Somehow a group of terrorists manages to obtain a nuclear weapon and detonate it in New York causing hundreds of thousands deaths and massive destruction. The identities of the terrorists are unknown, and the word from Osama bin Laden’s cave and all the usual suspects is denial of any responsibility.
If this had happened during the Cold War, the US would likely have retaliated against Moscow in kind. However, this is the War on Terror, and things aren’t quite as easy. We can’t just rush off and nuke Damascus, Tehran, and Islamabad.
Or can we? What would or should the US do in such a situation?
Chicago wouldn’t be Second City anymore?*
Oops-in GD-can’t be funny here.
Our economy would tank overnight-there would be rioting and pillaging for supplies (until Marshall law could be declared) and we would be retaliating militarily, I imagine.
*I am aware that LA is now second in size etc–tis a joke. <sigh>
First, all of the folks in the ‘heartland’ go mad, resulting in a massive military buildup, the ceding of any number of freedoms, and the political victory of whoever advocates kill 'em all (whoever they are) the loudest.
Then, people in the tri-state area, after catching their collective breaths, hugging their loved ones and mourning the dead, will go on about the business of living, and look on in bewilderment at the collective insanity of the rest of the country on their behalf.
You know, pretty much how it played out last time.
The impact to the global economy would be severe, but we’d recover eventually.
The US would retaliate. If those responsible were just a group of terrorists, then we would hunt them down and kill them (as we are with Al-Queda now). If these terrorists were supported by a government then we would be within our rights to respond to them using WMD’s.
An event of this size would be a big enough deal that the US politicians would get serious about border security. The military would be used at both borders at long last. Military spending in general would go up, as would recruitment for all branches of the service. Homeland security would have a lot of fallout. People would be fired both in that department and in the administration. George Bush’s approval ratings would soar. Liberals and anti-war folks would be further alienated from the rest of US society.
Controlling nukes and nuclear materials would be an even higher priority for the US and all governments.
i think that would be the beginning of the end for this country. i’d tip my hat, think to myself “well we had a pretty good run old girl, and it could have been a great run, but america, i think we should see other people.” and head for die Schweiz.
We can nuke Baghdad, Mecca, Medina, Marrakesh, Tehran, and most points in between. Most of the Middle East’s big cities might well be nuked. Most folks aren’t gonna want to bother to sort out the good from the bad any more. Frankly, the potential for this sort of response is probably the only thing saving us from getting nuked to date. Bin Laden doesn’t want to rule a desert sprinkled with sheets of molten glass where the cities used to be.
The logical thing to do would be to invade Iraq. Oh wait, we already did that…
Your hypothetical is a bit too much of a stretch. Setting off a nuke in NYC w/o leaving some kind of trail is just too far fetched. I don’t see why we wouldn’t do everything in our power to determine who originated the plan, and if credible evidence did arise that the group was backed by a government, I suspect we WOULD try to topple that government as we did in Afghanistan.
Nitpick: It’s “martial” law. As in Mars, the god of war.
Not a nitpick: In the most recent NYC problem, the Great Blackout, please note that there was very little rioting and pillaging. It was mostly people helping people, for the most part.
And what someone else said about Wall Street data is quite true. Sure, you’d lose a few business days while the backup plans were put into effect. The stock market was closed for, what, a week? after 9/11/2001. Today the backup and contingency plans are even more robust. Virtually any large NYC broker can re-establish itself elsewhere with a minimum of trouble. Some actually do so from time to time as a drill, and nobody outside the firms ever notices.
Terrorists getting and smuggling in a device big enough to level all of Manhattan strikes me as highly implausible, for various logistical and technical reasons. A “dirty bomb”, on the other hand, is not that unfeasible – but would certainly not cause “hundreds of thousands” of casualties.
In any case, nuking large tracts of land in retaliation strikes me as extremely foolhardy – even if you knew who was at fault, the global backlash at turning chunks of the planet into “sheets of molten glass” is probably not worth the cost. It’s not as if the US can’t overthrow governments without resorting to nukes.
And the first thing that’d be done after said hypothetical nuke leveled NYC would be for the rightie-tighties to find some way to blame it on the Clintons…
Certainly you’re not serious. Do you honestly believe even the Bush Administration would wage indiscriminate strategic nuclear war against the Middle East–against Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Kuwait, etc.?
“Sorting out the good from the bad” is precisely what the administration and military would attempt to do.
BTW, bin Laden would be pleased to see a kneejerk nuclear reaction on the US’s behalf. A US nuclear attack against the Middle East would create millions of rage-filled martyrs and be the greatest recruiting initiative imaginable. Bin Laden cares not a whit about the pain and suffering of the masses; they’re an expendable means to an end.
Lacking an identifiable attacker, we’d probably beat the hell out of the usual suspects, also taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities and pretty much doing whatever the hell the neo-cons thought appropriate–short of using nukes ourselves. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised at the use of a few tactical nukes, i.e. bunker busters.
This would constitute the clue that some people still need to help them realize that we are, in fact, at war with a group of people that would like to kill as many of us as possible. People like Senator Dick Durbin would not feel flush with patisan zeal as they stride to the well of the Senate to compare American soldiers to Nazis because they force prisoners to stay awake or turn down the thermostat to get them to talk. To Durbin and his ilk, it’s not the extremists who are kidnapping innocent people and sawing their heads off who are the bad guys. Heavens no. It’s the United States for having the gall to want to imprison those people that have already demonstrated the will and ability to attack us. Because a catastrophic attack hasn’t happened in almost four years and the shock has apparently worn off, folks on the left apparently feel emboldened to use terms like “gulag” and “concentration camp”. I wonder if Nick Berg would have liked the choice between being chained to the floor and subjected to loud rap music rather than have his head sawed off? But I guess the analogy doesn’t really fit, now does it? After all, Berg was targeted simply because of his nationality. The people in Guantanamo Bay were actually caught red-handed in direct conflict with US forces or were members of known terror cells.
It must be great to be able to tell each other that your ideas are much better than those who are actually in charge of and accountable for preventing terrorism. To be able to sit back and find fault and snipe from the sidelines without offering viable counter proposals. To congratulate each other on your moral superiority and your principled stances…right up to the point where the compatriot of one of the people you want to coddle succeeds in his effort to kill you and your family.
Human nature being what it is, mistakes have been made in the treatment of prisoners. They have been dealt with. And if any more come up, they will be dealt with again. But please don’t trot out the “you’ll make them hate us” argument when referencing prisoner maltreatment. They hate us anyway. They have for decades. If something isn’t the truth, they’ll make it up. Has the negative behavior hurt us? Sure. But so does the appearance of weakness when our own people seem to be questioning our resolve.
Why would you assume this scenario implausible? Many experts consider it likely in the next 10-15 years. The technical fine points of nuclear weapons making are well known. Fissile material is becoming commonplace. And NYC is hardly a fortress. Assembling a 15-20 kt device–or, rather, transporting an already procured tactical weapon–into NYC would be child’s play. Homeland Defense has already conceded as much in public speeches. Unless, of course, you’re talking a thermonuclear device. If so, I agree. For now.