Other than nuclear info, is there any info that represents an existential threat to the entire US?

I think a lot of what we fear as a country: instability, rebellion, overtaking by another military power, assassination of our leaders, are things whose importance are overstated in this day and age. They come from an earlier time when borders were more likely to change and when peace was only seen as the time between wars to gather up your strength and try again.

Before I go on, I should like to point out that I realize these kinds of fears may still be valid for smaller countries, but I don’t think they apply to larger and more stable first world countries such as the US.

So one of the things I’ve been thinking about is this: what exactly would represent an existential threat to the US, something that has the capability of destroy or severely wounding this country and changing it for the worse?

Of course, many things are things we cannot change or affect by ourselves to a great degree. Economic changes, the price of gas, worldwide inflation, an earthquake and tsunami in one of our biggest trading partners, etc. Those aren’t the things I’m looking for.

Nukes and nuclear technology seems to me to represent the biggest no-brainer of an existential threat. A small suitcase of it could level blocks. A rogue country could take out a major city with one missile.

That’s obvious, but are there anything else that really represent as big of a threat? I got the idea for this topic reading the many discussion topics on things like the Chinese military, or Mid-East terrorism, and I have to tell you, I just don’t feel it. I don’t care if China gets an aircraft carrier. So what? We have tons more, and with better technology and more experienced people piloting them. Plus, I completely rule out the possibility of a war with China in the next few decades. Its stupid, both sides would lose terribly, any victory would be Pyhrric.

And although terrorists changed the US on 9/11, its only made us stronger and more militaristic. Even of Al Qaeda crashed planes into a dozen buildings, the US can afford to lose a few thousand or tens of thousands of our citizens and survive. It would be horrific, of course, but it would not be an existential threat, which is one of the reasons why I thought our response was disproportionate (ie. we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq).

In this modern era, when the first world countries are less interested in conquering and taking colonies and more interested in establishing good relations and trade, I don’t see anything other than nukes that really represent a threat to the whole country. Therefore, I’m unworried if China spends more on their military. Who cares? They’re not a threat and we’re not going to war with them. Let Russia fall back into a sort of dictatorship, we’re not interested in fighting them either. They’ll be too busy trying to prevent the EU and NATO from taking their former eastern bloc countries.

I mentioned up in the first paragraph about instability, rebellion, and assassination. While unfortunate it may be for one of our leaders to get killed, this isn’t the era of monarchies anymore, there are no kings. If one leader falls we have clear succession to take their place, and so long as the next guy isn’t Palin, we’ll be fine. Hell, we survived Bush torturing brown people and leaking secret CIA operatives’ identities, we’ll survive an assassination or two. Rebellion might be the popular thing nowadays, especially with the Tea Baggers crying about paying too little in taxes compared to the higher amounts they paid under Reagan (oops, I mean they think we’re paying too much nowadays! :rolleyes: ), but nothing like the Civil War’s going to happen anytime soon.

So is there anything else I’m missing? We’re safe, other than if nukes fall into the wrong hands, right?

Zombie apocalypse.

Or, failing that, standard biological warfare, which - unlike zombies - is an actual possibility. I personally find that possibility more worrying than nuclear warfare.

Total economic collapse followed by mass riots?

Major pandemy with a high rate of lethality?

(not counting natural causes, like super-volcano eruptions, etc…)

Grey Goo: out-of-control self-replicating nano sized robots consuming all matter on Earth while building more of themselves…

Not sure why you’ve discounted that possibility? There’s an ever growing ideological schism in America, and the idea of states wanting to secede from the Union doesn’t seem impossible (or the idea that other states would fight against that)

Definitely biological warfare. Although, I’ve always wondered what would happen if someone blew up Yellowstone…

On a related note, can you still get a smallpox vaccine if you want one?

It’s okay, they’d have to stop when they ran out of IP addresses.

Short answer. My big worry is our country will “evolve” into a system that doesnt work. Look at all the places in the world where the government/society doesnt work and the place is either rather second rate or even a downright shithole and there is no obvious reason why that should be.

Many liberals think if we start leaning too far right, the country will go down the tubes. Conservatives think the opposite. Either may be right. Neither may be right. Both might be right in some way.

I think America is pretty great and pretty special and all in all things are going good and in generally trending up by almost any measure. But, IMO the worrysome part is you can’t really point to any ONE THING (or a handful of em) and say “THIS IS WHAT MAKES IT WORK” with any confidence. And, if you don’t really know what makes it work or is critical or whatever, you run the risk of tinkering with the wrong thing in the wrong way and things won’t work quite so well anymore. Then, once things start going downhill, you likely won’t know what you did wrong that screwed things up. But, now that things are worsening you’ll probably try even more changes to fix things. And, since you really don’t know what magic combination of things is right, there is a fair chance your fixes just make things even worse…and its a spiral down from there.

With biological weapons, you have a difficult time getting the right mix of something that spreads easily and is relatively hardy in the environment (like, say, the flu virus) versus something that is reliably fatal and difficult to treat (like, say, HIV).

Now, I’m not saying the flu is harmless, but the majority of people who get it don’t die from it and once the CDC gets the new vaccine out (and it will) the show is mostly over. HIV, on the other hand, is the paradigmatic ‘evil virus’ in some respects but it doesn’t spread person-to-person very reliably (even if there is sex involved) and it doesn’t spread any other way at all, statistically speaking.

You’re right, I forgot about the bio weapons. I suppose you could also throw in chemical weapons, though that would need to be delivered over a much greater area for it to be as effective as the first two

I think we differ on the seeming severity of the problem. I see a lot of upset people, and I’ve mentioned on this board how insane the conservative extremist base seems to be, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet with open warfare and rebellion. That’s a huge line to cross

That’s interesting, I’ve never heard about that before though with small incremental changes, it could happen. I don’t know if it’ll be as debilitating as you describe, however, mainly because if its something that is so obviously bad, I hope and believe it would be caught and rectified before it becomes that big of a problem
Just throwing a question out there: would anyone consider a possible decrease in our military prowess, using whatever measures you want to use to judge it, an existential threat? The only countries with that power would be China, possible India in the futre owing to their large amount of people and know-how, or, a remote possibility, any of the first world European countries. My personal feelings are that its nice to be on top and as Americans we’re so used to being the strongest, but even if we fall to #2, its not that big of a deal. As long as there exists enough nukes to blow the world up a hundred times over, nobody’s going to be trying to take us over. We may not be able to project our power to the extent we do now, but since I think we project too much power already, a little pushback, to me, is a good thing

Rap Music.

Meh. The only people making noise about secession are on the lunatic fringe of the Tea Party right, and they’re too invested in the image of America (Fuck Yeah) to bother. They want to “fix*” the country, not split it. Aside from a few nutcases, I don’t see a movement to do this, and you’d need a large popular movement to get any kind of real secession movement going. Besides, you couldn’t get any kind of real secession without the Army splitting along regional lines like they did in 1860 and 1861, and I see no evidence of that.
*For some very far right values of “fix”.

I think it will take a while until you can build a nano machine that will be at the same time a computer and a micro-factory (I mean, the nanobot has to be able to pick up raw materials and somehow transform them into a new nanobot).

It can happen. In 1928 the Nazi Party got less than 3% of the vote in the German elections. By 1933 they were the largest party in the Reichstag. And that was before Hitler threw out the democratic process.

The incremental changes don’t need to be governmental.

All it takes is for one generation to choose to not raise their kids effectively and the next generation is pretty useless. At the extreme, humankind could completely forget how to read in only 100 years, and could be functionally illiterate in more like 50 years. I’m not suggesting anything that radical is taking place now, but it’s an eye-opening idea to consider.

The point being that what works is a complex & rather delicate combination of attitudes, formal systems (gov’t & private), expectations, habits, etc. Too much change in any of them and it works less well or quits working altogether.

When I was a kid pretty much everybody believed in Progress. Things always got better. And because you believed that there was a reason to work hard today. Because you were pretty assured that your share would also get better.

Contrast that with a country where most folks believe decline is inevitable. And they believe the game is crooked and even when / where things get better they personally won’t participate in the gains. Instead some nebulous (or specific) *them *will get all the gains.

Those two places have two very different futures even if their laws are identical.

So’s the idea of everyone in the New York City metropolitan area committing suicide within a three-week period. Doesn’t make it any more real.

I think my political views are 180 degrees opposite of yours. My greatest fear is that inept and misguided leaders will bankrupt us. How? By trying to micro-manage every aspect of our lives, from the foods we eat to the cars we drive and the light bulbs we read by. The quality of life (freedom) is no longer just eroding, it’s disappearing in large chunks. We are groped in the airport, veterans families aren’t allowed to pray in the Houston cemetary. If things continue on this course, no, the country won’t just disappear, the land will still exist. But the people who live here will have been herded into politically correct conformity and will be no more than sheep.

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
Benjamin Franklin

I don’t think its that bad. I think by comparing the regulations we have now with the good parts from the past, while omitting the bad, you get a too-rosy view of what should be, rather than what actually was.

I love that the FDA regulates and sets standards for food. I don’t think its micro-managing to say that the food we eat must be held to a certain standard. Yet every time we have a small scare in the food supply like the recent E. Coli thing, or the spinach from last year, or the tomatoes from before that, we the people react as a rule like “how could this happen here?” and demand action. If the government took no action, more people than you would be furious, and they would be furious because of a lack of action, not too much

As for airports, I don’t agree that its the right thing to do, but I see little we in this country can do to better protect us against terrorism. And before anyone says it, no, I don’t think its feasible for a country of this size to do what El Al does. Plus, we’re a lot more concerned about abuses in racial profiling than they are

So I disagree that we’re becoming too politically correct. I also don’t think you should judge the country on just freedom, or perceived freedom