What do we do when Iran drops the big one on...

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Iran is indeed developing nuclear weapons (not a stretch) and that they possess the technology and resources to at least make a few Hiroshima-sized bombs (not a stretch).

Let’s also assume that, practical-minded souls that they are, they use the first bomb they make, on a) Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; b) New York or Washington; c) an uninhabited Canadian island, because their delivery system screws up somehow. In any case, we’re in a Tom Clancy novel so we can determine the origin of the bomb beyond a shadow of a doubt by delicately tasting the fallout. Do you think we would, in each case:

  1. Retaliate with a nonnuclear strike against strategic targets in Iran, including nuclear fabrication sites, missile sites, aircraft and airfields, etc and impose a strict quarantine on the country?
  2. Obliterate a civilian target to the extent that they would suffer at least as many casualties as their attack(s) had caused?
  3. Turn the country into a radioactive slagheap?
  4. Immediately forcefully demand that the U.N. frown at them?

I’m afraid that they might think that we would never do 2) or 3), even if they did devastate New York. And certainly, it’s unlikely we would do 2) or 3) if they blew up Tel Aviv (although Israel would probably do 3) all on its own in that event). So if they (rightly or wrongly) underestimated our resolve, they might make the Pearl Harbor-ish blunder of blowing up the Great Satan and damn the consequences.

How far do you think we would go to retaliate (in each scenario, above)? How far do you think they think we would go? Do we, in fact, have a credible deterrent? (Deterrents don’t work very well if your adversary is insane, for example.)

None of your four scenarios are all that realistic as sole responses, IMO.

Nuking another country is an act of war. The country that was attacked, and probably their allies, would immediately declare war right back and start doing whatever was necessary and practical to bring about Iran’s formal surrender. Doing that could conceivably involve all or none of the four options you put forward - it depends on whatever is deemed necessary and practical to win the war.

“Win” being defined as what? Destruction of their armed forces? Occupation of the country? The eliciting of a sincere promise before the U.N. to never, never do it again?

I doubt that the American people, after an attack on a major American city, would settle for any resolution that would leave Iran with the slightest capability of repeating the act. They would probably also want some kind of revenge, especially if there were a couple of million casualties.

I don’t see what options would exist that would accomplish that, that wouldn’t involve the total occupation of the country (Iraq writ large) or its near-total destruction (Hiroshima writ large). These both seem unacceptable, but I can’t imagine what else would work/satisfy the American people.

It’s wildly unlikely they’d use it for anything but deterrence.

One of these most likely. Either we pull a Japan and nuke cities one by one until they surrender; or we nuke their population centers and send in troops to grab their oil.

Yeah, right. :rolleyes: They only need to look at Iraq to see the kind of murderous thugs we are. They know quite well that we hate them, and that we’d massacre them if given an excuse.

The US response to an atomic attack on an ally is simple.

Complete destruction of their ability to ever wage war again.

In the first month we would drop in excess of 100 nukes and likely wipe out every ship and airplane bigger than a fishing boat or a kite. I’d expect a 90+% civilian casualty rate; over 70 million deaths if it were Iran.

There simply wouldn’t be a postwar period in that country.

As I posted in a comment on Yahoo!;

Article headline;

Iran: We can hit 35 US bases in ‘minutes’

My comment;

US: We can hit every town, bridge and crossroads in your entire country, and do it for years at a time. This is not the fight you are looking for.

“Murderous thugs”? Given the bloodshed our troops suffered, and the fact that we were actually trying to help those people and got blown up and shot for our trouble, it’s amazing that there weren’t hundreds of massacres like the one in Haditha. The Iranians, given their mindset, probably see us as mega-pussies as a result, given that their government casually slaughters its own people.

I don’t doubt that we hate them or that they know that we do, but I think we wouldn’t nuke them without the “excuse” of them inflicting a couple of million casualties on us. Also, would the probable deaths of half the Iranian population serve as a deterrent to the raving loonies running the place? I personally would like to see Iran disappear, but not at the cost of seeing an American city disappear as well.

No, we wouldn’t.

That would be viewed, correctly, by the rest of the world as an utterly unforgivable war crime.

Why do you want to see Iran disappear? Personally, I would love to see the Islamic Republic disappear, but I have no desire to see the nation of Iran disappear (which seems like a rather genocidal thing to want to see); I would just like to see the Iranian people have a government that’s not repressive of them or aggressive towards its neighbors. (Not to say that the Islamic Republic has necessarily always been the aggressor in its international relations.)

This comment shows rather jaw-dropping ignorance of both Iran and Iraq.

Had it been up to the Iranians, far, far worse would have been done to Iraq.

We hate them and they hate us.

Should do? No frigging clue.

Would do? As unpopular as Iraq occupation got, it’s hard to imagine us not doing pretty much the same thing with Iran.

I wonder if there is some way we could covertly catalyze an Arab Spring there as a preventative measure.

You are correct; I should differentiate between the nation and the homicidal theocratic wack jobs running it. It is apparent that the Iranian people do want to leave the 11th century once and for all and live in a country with rule of law and self-determination. I would have loved to see that happen during the recent revolt.

What the Iranian people seem not to comprehend, though, is that you can’t replace one medieval theocracy with another and expect things to change. Religion has to be shoved to the back of the bus, i.e., separated completely from government, for any kind of freedom to occur. This, the Iranian people seem unwilling to contemplate, as the recent revolutionaries just wanted to replace one imam with another.

Given that we had a golden opportunity to do so recently and ignored it, I’m afraid not. The revolution was well under way when it got stopped by a mass slaughter. We did nothing, zippo, de nada, zilch. The UN made frowny faces.

I think 3 is really the only option here. Nuking Japan is still paying dividends in street cred. Something like 3 on Iran would get people off our ass until we have no more ass to care about.

I don’t want to sound like I’m defending a Der Trihs rant, but “the other guys would have been even worse!” isn’t exactly a strong defense. America was flat-out wrong with the Iraq invasion and occupation, and the fact that Iran would’ve been wronger if it were them doesn’t make what the USA did any better.

Back on topic; if Iran launched a nuke, I expect America and its allies would would destroy the Iranian government in response. I guess it’s possible that we’d nuke suspected launch sites, and I’m quite sure we’d not care very much about civilian casualties, but we wouldn’t specifically target civilians. Once the Islamic Republic were destroyed, and anyone in the government still alive prosecuted at a Nuremburg style trial, the USA and allies would “permanently” occupy what was left of Iran, and violently squish any uprisings. That would be the status quo in Iran for several decades at least.

As a disclaimer, I don’t think Iran would launch a nuke, and I’m against any sort of violence meant to prevent them from getting one. I’m all for diplomatic pressure and sanctions, though.

Here’s something I’ve wondered about potential nuclear strikes such as on Iran. It’s not only Iranians there. There are embassies, many if not most belonging to allies of ours. NGOs and UN agencies etc. Would we give them a head’s up to get out? And if so, wouldn’t that clue the Iranian government that something big was about to happen if foreigners, especially ones who were citizens of our allied countries, started leaving en masse? Or would we just vaporize them all and try to smooth it over later with Paris or Bern?

I can’t imagine a country not withdrawing their diplomats and closing their embassy immediately upon learning of a nuclear attack from Iran.

All right, let’s take these one by one.

Just to be clear, they don’t yet, although the general assumption is they probably will in the near future.

To be even more clear, Iran is not trying to build a launch system that could reach reach the United States, and there is absolutely no reason to think that they ever will have such a system. Even if they did, the leadership of Iran is not insane and is unlikely to magically become insane in the foreseeable future, so they would not use such a system — not on the US, not on Israel, not on anybody with a nuclear response capacity.

In the (magically hypothetical) case of an Iranian nuclear attack on the United States, the US would completely eliminate Iran’s capacity to attack, defend, or even govern. That’s not quite as vicious as “turn it to glass”, but it would still include targeting all major governmental centres, and that would mean nuking major population centres. Israel could and would do pretty much the same thing. And yes, Iran knows this, and no, they’re never going to try it. The point of having nuclear weapons for Iran is that it would deter other countries from invading them (i.e. the US) or attacking them (a pretty long list). The US and friends probably aren’t terribly enthusiastic about invading or attacking Iran anyway, but having that extra security blanket would let Iran assert itself more, and Iran’s neighbours and the US (quite reasonably) don’t want that. The “Crazy mullahs will nuke New York!” line is just a better soundbite than “We don’t want them to have the same security we do!”, even though the latter position, like I said, is perfectly reasonable.

Okay, there is that. But I was thinking more in the event we ever feel the need to launch a first strike ourselves, say to eliminate their weapons facilities because we had irrefutable evidence of their imminent strike.

The idea that an Iranian nuclear attack on US (or Israeli) soil would end in anything other than complete occupation of Iran by the US and it’s allies is idiocy. Implying that the current White House would do nothing is perhaps worse.

We have a rather large contingent of political leaders that think we should invade Iran now, when we aren’t even 100% sure they’re attempting make a bomb, much less use one.