US response to hypothetical nuke attack

Zev’s thread concerning the impact of a nuke detonation in NYC:
got me thinking.

What if Iraq, N. Korea, Al-Qaeda (sp?), or someone else for some reason or another had the desire and ability to set off a nuclear explosion in NYC, LA, or another large US city.

What do you anticipate the US response would be? Would the US “go postal” - scorching the earth, saying “Screw any pretense of multilateralism, we will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t happen to US again.”

Or would such a horrendous event lead to a more cooperative view of international relations?

Different scenario - how does the US react if Pakistan drops a bomb on Delhi?

Would we REALLY have to worry about anyone other than Russia and China?

Hopefully we will never need to find out. This may be too vague for meaningful discussion/debate. Or it may fit better in IMHO.

I think the result would be neither of the two you posit.

I think there would be a great rattling of sabres and outrage, and we’d essentially do nothing. No scorched earth, but certainly no flowering of international relations. Possibly it would drive us into some isolationism and closed borders.

That’s a shame, IMHO. I think the scorched earth plan is the appropriate response. Like a child who will push the boundaries until they get a smack on the butt, the terrorists will escalate until we make them fear to continue. While I’m sure my “brutality” is going to be widesly castigated, the most effective road to peace is a DISPROPORTIONATE response. The proportionate response theory we’ve used for decades now merely leads to slow escalation.

Only one we get the idea out there that “those guys are crazy, don’t mess with them or they’ll go apeshit on you” will this stop.

It’s the position we’re in right now… A lot of the anti-war-in-Iraq stuff I hear is basically “but if we bomb them, who knows what they’ll do next…”

As you said, this may be for the IMHO

but my WAG is

If a nuke explodes anywhere in the USA, the scenario would be a fast forward version of what happened after the WTC was destroyed.
*Emergency action will take place around the area and all affected areas.
*Martial law may be enacted temporarily all over the US and after a while in localized areas.
*Suspects will be rounded up and investigated
*After a firm and corroborated evidence is gathered and it does turn up that Iraq had a hand in it, I believe the US will bypass even the semblance of going thru the UN. It will invoke NATO powers and any nation that opposes will be told to go to hell backwards.
*I believe the US will still fight using regular ordinance but it will make a full show of bringing in tactical nuclear ordinances into the field. Any evidence of WMD being used will have dire consequences.
Second Scenario Re Pakistan.
*No tactical response from the US other than putting all armed forces on nuclear alert.

umm… not to pick nits, but we have, what, five carrier groups on-site in the Gulf now? I think there’s probably at least one or two nukes within striking distance of Iraq today…

So, what happens when a nuke goes off and only Osama takes the blame? Who do we go after then?

We don’t know where he is, nor do we know what country he is harboring in. Do we just take the next card off the top of the “deck of enemy countries”?
Personally, I think if a nuke went off here, it would spell the end for the fed government, or at least a major restructure. All this cost and loss of rights, just to prove that they can’t protect us. Plus, I bet Bush would shit is pants; I know I would.

We would crush our percieved enemies by any means necessary as long as we believe we can avoid mutually assured destruction. I can’t help but think that if it goes down like you said there will be alot of sand turned to glass.

The Pakistan/India situation is a most interesting one to consider. It doesn’t directly affect the US or a “close ally,” yet it’s opening the door for the nuclear genie again. It would be the first warhead detonated in aggression (even nuke tests designed to intimidate another country aren’t really “aggression”) since World War II. I think that the rest of the big nuclear powers would get together and immediately order them to stop, for varying reasons.

United States: “We have no interest in seeing World War III – unless we start it.” -Wade, from “Goldeneye.” The quote is humerous, but that doesn’t make the attitude wrong.

Russia: They may not be as much of a superpower anymore, but their reasons would probably be much the same as the US: “If anyone in the world nukes someone us, it’s gonna be us.”

China: They have a lot to lose, considering that border they share with India and all. A missplaced bomb would send up a nice nuclear cloud over the border. Besides, they want to be the biggest power in Asia. Two other countries having a nuclear war without them would be bad for their influence.

The UK and France would join in, being other members of the security council. They might not be as influencial as the first three, but they do indeed have nukes of their own. And, of course, England has large ties to India (not really good ones, though).

I suspect that India and Pakistan would suddenly become aware of the collective cold stare of the rest of the world, and the single warning of “Stop now.” The United States itself wouldn’t actually launch an invasion, but I suspect China would have no hesitation with a massive retaliation at whomever fired the next missile or launched the next bomber. Everyone sort of wins. The world orders them to stop but lets China do the dirty work, China gets a large bump in Asian influence (and saves its own territory from fallout), and the nuclear genie bottle is capped again. Really, all the big powers have to do is provide international pressure and tell China “Have fun if they don’t stop.”

-Psi Cop

I agree with X~Slayer(ALE)'s scenario, with one extension. If the source of the nuke was found to be a nation-state, or terrorist organization residing within a sympathetic nation-state, and such group was believed to have additional nukes or other WMDs available, then our response would almost certainly go beyond conventional weapons in an effort to insure that there would be no further detonations on American soil.

As for a nuke on American soil spelling the end of the federal government, I greatly doubt it. The hatred of the radical Islamists for the U.S. would not cease if we had a new form of government (unless we modeled our new society after the Taliban.) As horrific as the scenario is, in loss of life and disruption to the country it would not match the scale of other events which the government has endured, such as the Civil War.

I’m not sure China would be willing to invade come between two nations already sluggin nukes at each other.

If you really think about it, seriously consider what would actually happen, then one would realize that there are submarines, equiped with 108 tactical nukes each, sitting VERY near our enemies. Not some of them, ALL of them. Coming from a very thick naval background, I am not too worried about a tactical nuke striking our US soil. If the catastophy happened, each and every sub would be thrown into defcon-4 mode.

This is not something we see in movies or read about on the boards. This is an actual level of defense.

I shudder to think what would happen if our sub captains got the go-ahead…

I wouldn’t be so sure. First, as I mentioned, they share a border with India… they might very well get some of the action anyway. But I was thinking more of the fact that China has a much larger nuke arsenal than India and Pakistan combined… and doesn’t especially like either one. I think at that point, India and Pakistan would probably go conventional rather than face the likely destruction of both their militaries from a pissed-off more powerful nation.

The other option is, of course, the US might actually take a hand in it. Send in the B-2 bombers with the biggest conventional bombs and break open all known places where nukes are stored. Even Russian and Chinese radar nets would have a hard time locking onto the B-2s, I don’t think India or Pakistan would stand a chance.

By the way, to expand on the submarine issue… our Ohio Class submarines each have 24 missile tubes. I’m curious as to where you got that 108 figure. 108/24 yields 4.5 warheads per missile. I find it more likely that each missile has a consistent number of warheads, rather than alternating between four and five. Myself, I thought each missile had three warheads each, for a total of 72 warheads per sub. Unfortunately the fact file page on the Trident missiles doesn’t give an official number. Regardless, even 72 warheads times 18 submarines yields an “adequate” yield to take out whoever is irritating us.

-Psi Cop

North Korea just might be able to hit the United State’s west coast.

Okay, I’ll castigate you.

The disproportionate response will lead to much more terrorism, not less. How do you instill fear of your response in someone who’s willing to die (and who’s family is willing to see you die) for his aims? You’d see more suicide bombers, not less, when they realized that one bomb will not only kill bystanders, but will create more martyrs when the refugee camps get carpet-bombed.

Can sub Captains change the target on their missiles?

I think I said something like this in Zev’s thread over in GQ but my guess is this:

If the nuke is found to have been placed by middle eastern terrorists the President immediately hauls the ambassadors for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Libya and the desk guy for Iraq (whomever has that duty) and informs them that the tacit approval they show for such groups, even though useful for domestic political purposes in their countries, is no longer acceptable in any form. If they didn’t immediately begin rounding up, interrogating and then executing all islamic radicals within their borders then Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Tehran, Baghdad and other major cities die by fire.

Nothing is scarier than the most powerful country in the world scared off it’s ass. And that’s the situation we’d be in.

I would think that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan would actually increase China’s influence, as both of those countries would be seriously weakend.

What happens if no one claims responsbility for the bomb? How could we tell who did it? Would there be any forensic evidence left over, or would it all be vaporized? Assuming the answer to that question is yes, then what?

Nuking Mecca is the last thing one wants to do.
You think we are pissed off about the World Trade Center?

If we lose a single city to a nuke, there’ll probably be a measured response involving the total destruction of whatever nation is responsible. World opinion will be irrelevant – obviously SOMEONE has declared war on us, and we have a right to defend ourselves.

If terrorist are responsible, nations that are found to harbor a large number of citizens who support the terrorists responsible will be defined as allies of the terrorists and ordered to hand them over or get turned into a number of glassy spots surrounded by sand. (I’m looking at you, Saudi Arabia.) Any slightest hesitation will be cause for either nuking or carpet bombing.

If more than one city gets nuked, no telling what we’ll do, but it probably won’t be measured or pretty. I wonder if we have enough ordinance to do in the entire Muslim world? We might try.

Where would we buy gas?

Martial law may only exist if there is a complete breakdown in civilian authorities and rule of law within a specificied geographical/civilian authority area. Martial law may only be declared by the military commander in charge of such an area. Martial law cannot be declared by civilian authorities.

While martial law might be declared in the general area of the nuclear blast, it will not occur anywhere else. Any exceptions to this would be a result of civilian authority breakdown caused by after effects riots and civil disorder, local civilian authorities breakdown and the military is called in to restore order. Only then would the military commander declare martial law.

Getting back to the OP, Bush has already raised the bar stating any attack upon America with WMDs would be responded in kind.

Bush would use nukes.