Nuclear terror attack on US - how does the US respond if the bomb is known to be from Pakistan?

Isn’t this like Israel’s rumored “Sampson Strategy” whereby if Israel is about to be annihilated, it will nuke not only its adversaries but also a whole lot of neutrals and even allies besides?

Yes; nuclear war, or human society in general, is a zero-sum game. This is a lesson we’re finally learning from our Dear Leader.

Perhaps the 17th-century poet John Donne said it best. I’ve edited his poem to reflect modern English/American spelling and usage.

No man is an [del]Iland[/del] island, [del]i[/del]entire of itself[del]e[/del]; every man
is a p[del]e[/del]iece of the Continent, a part of the main[del]e[/del];
if [del]a[/del] Asia’s Clod be[del]e[/del] washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the [del]lesse[/del] greater, as well as if a [del]Promontorie[/del] city were, as
well as if [del]a Manor of thy friends[/del] any manner of aliens or of thine
[del]owne[/del] rivals were; any man
*’*s death [del]diminishes[/del] enriches me,
because I am in[del]volved[/del] contempt of [del]in[/del] Mankind[del]e[/del];
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls [del]for thee[/del] in glee.

I think some here are confusing what the US should do with what they would do.

If the US is attacked with a nuclear weapon then there absolutely will be a retaliatory attack, probably a nuclear one, regardless of whether it was an isolated terrorist group.
The majority of the american public would never forgive an administration that did anything less.
(And I know much of the public now is anti-war. But virtually everyone is going to be a hawk in the aftermath of millions dying.)

The target for attack would very much depend on who has the ear of the President at that time. All the states in the region would telling the US to go hit their rivals. It would not really matter about evidence. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 but it was decided it was a suitable enemy of the US.

Something similar would happen.

Iran would probably become a target given the US sides with their enemies, principally the Saudis. If Pakistan were to be the target, it would remove a regional threat to India. These countries are huge, with large populations and have the capacity to hit back. If not at the US directly, its allies in the region. If there is regional instability and the trade routes for Middle Eastern Oil and Gas are compromised, that would create a global economic crisis. It as happened before.

The wisdom and judgement of the US presidency would be very sorely tested in an emergency such as like this.

Surely Pakistans best strategy is to have smuggled more nukes into the US and hidden them. Or if they have not, at least claim to have done so.

I think a lot would depend on why Pakistan nuked Philly. If it was an act of the government, that’s one thing. In that case, their government would cease to exist - possibly not by nukes, but would cease nonetheless. If some semi-rogue faction within the government, what were they hoping to accomplish? In that case, we would expect thorough cooperation by the Pakistani government in removing that element. If the government needs help doing that, we will assist. If they don’t need help, they will get assistance anyway, IYSWIM.

If some terrorist group got hold of a Pakistani nuke, then much the same - the Pakistani government will be expected to hand over the leaders and as many of the prominent members as convenient, and we will take care of the others.

The operative sentiment would be this -

Let us hope that the Pakistani government would choose wisely.


I still don’t see how Russia or China “getting involved” would be a deterrent. Russia’s not going to say “Pakistan just nuked us, so now we’re going to nuke the US”. They’re going to go after the country that nuked them. It’s like the old joke of the hostage-taker holding a gun to his own head and saying “You’re next”.

That does kind of take the whole “cooperate” option off the table, which I thought was their best option. Bluffing about it sounds like the absolute worst option, particularly against President Trump.

Is the fact that Pakistan dropped the bomb known to the public at large, or just the powers that be?
If the latter, then I suspect that a story will be spun to direct public anger at whoever the enemy of the week is and, if the former, it is still possible to point fingers at “outside agitators” from said enemy of the week.

Right, right - there is nothing that the House of Representatives, the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, the Department of Defense, the officials of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and the MSM would like better than to assist in a cover up. Especially when Trump is President.


He said “spun.” Never said “*successfully *spun.”

I disagree.

The only recent event which we have to compare this to (and it’s not the best comparison I’ll conceed) is 9/11. And while there was anger and a desire to avenge those killed, there wasn’t an immediate bloodlust. I beleive the President stated that those who conducted the killings would be held accountable.

I think a similar statement would be made by the President, and that whould be suffieint in the immediate aftermath. There would have to be a reckoning in some short timeline, but I don’t think nuclear relatiation immediatly would be demanded.

It’s a different situation. 9-11 ceased to be repeatable as of a few hours later that day. But nukes are repeatable. If one of a nation’s nukes is used against us, the only rational response is to ensure that that nation ceases to be a nuclear nation. In fact, that’s true regardless of how that nation’s nukes came to be used against us; how it happened will just influence how it will happen that the nation loses its nuclear capability.

I’d concur with that statement against a state actor who had the ability to launch additional or continued attacks against the US. But first we have to know who attacked us. So for this exercise, lets look at ICBMs because that would make the actor readilly apparent to the US. And lets take the UK, France and Isreal off the table. So would we go to full scale nuclear war with China, Russia and North Korea? I guess in that case we would.

But that wasn’t the OPs question. He seemed to ask (I’m not totally clear) if a non major nuclear power managed to get a bomb to Philly and detonated it, how would react. And first we’d have to figure out who it was, and during that time we’d try and figure why. And most likely, Pakistan wouldn’t have bombs in 10 major US cities, so the deterent effect may not be in play.

Actually although nuclear brinkmanship is the classic example zero sum game theory (thanks to the RAND corporation, Nash, Everett, etc). I don’t think it applies here, its not zero sum.

The US starts the game with -1000 points, but no one has +1000 points. The US can take unlimited points off Pakistan, but they don’t any points back when they do. Invading and occupying the fallout ravaged remains of Pakistan does not gain the US any strategic advantage. Likewise for Pakistan, though they can’t take any points off the US directly, they can take points off US allies (and anyone else within 2700 miles or so). That is the only card they have in the game, but it doesn’t gain them any points, its only a deterrent threat against other players .

I guess some non-zero sum variant of the dollar auction is the best game theory simulation of the OP. Also I bet its one someone at the pentagon has actual ran (though good luck explaining any of this to current POTUS)

Yeah you can bet the ultimatum that is sent to Pakistan, will include that they must allow the US to completely dismantle their nuclear capacity.

Another reason that whatever the civilian government says, the Pakistan military may not comply, whatever the repercussions might be.

I have been amazed by your in-depth knowledge and penetrating analysis of Pakistan, and it’s military, political and diplomatic policies so far in this thread, but that’s hogwash. Such an ultimatum will be turned down. Pretty much everyone in power of whatever persuasion would rather take their chances rather than get denuclearised and suffer a Ukraine or Libya fate, and that is exactly what awaits.

Americans are not to be trusted at the best of times, and this would not be the best of times, to put it mildly. Plus everything they have touched in the last decade and a half has turned to shit. See Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, Libiya.

The Americans can absolutely be trusted, they can be trusted to turn Pakistan into smoking ruin if Pakistan says no (most especially Americans after Philly has been turned into a smoking ruin). So there is a good chance the civilian government of Pakistan (or any other country without the ability to turn America into smoking ruin in return) will say yes.

Well, for one thing this would bring NATO into it due to the mutual defense aspects. I think several other countries as well. So it wouldn’t JUST be a US response. I’m not sure of the current relationship between the US and India wrt mutual defense treaties goes, but my guess is that if this indeed came from Pakistan (for some bizarre reason they chose to attack the US instead of India), I’m pretty sure India would probably want to be involved at some level as well.

As to what the US (et al) would do, it depends. Is there confirmation this was actually done by the Pakistani government? If so then the US and at a guess several of our allies would retaliate directly, almost certainly with tactical nuclear weapons, though we could use more conventional means too. If it’s not confirmed that it was in fact the Pakistani government then my guess is that rather extreme, say, pressure would be brought to bare on Pakistan to figure how how one of their nukes slipped the leash and who, exactly, was responsible. Whoever that was would then pretty much have a ton of brinks headed their way, but they would be conventional bricks (though ‘conventional’ can mean up to a FAE weapon, which is only better in that there wouldn’t be radiation fallout).

My guess is that if it was Pakistan then the US would be pushing for an all out invasion and complete regime change, perhaps threatening massive nuclear strikes (or conventional ones) unless and until the current regime folded…sort of like what happened in the run up with Saddam in GWII, electric boogaloo but with no one in doubt what the US would be willing to do. Whether the current Pakistani government would fold or not is open to debate, but the US would pretty much pull out all the stops to ensure they were put down.

As to what other countries would do, my WAG is there would be some VERY tense moments after the nuke destroys Philly, but that unless someone panics everyone would pretty much rush to assure the US that it wasn’t them, and what can we do to help figure out who it was (all while keeping their own forces at readiness levels to do something just in case while demonstrating that they aren’t even thinking about using them unless they are attacked).

I think Chronos is right that Pakistan would be denuclearized (or maybe denuclear-weaponized is a clearer statement, depending on how much they resist the idea). If one of your nukes blows up an American city, you don’t get to have nukes anymore.